ACPA – College Student Educators International expresses our profound sadness and alarm on the ongoing threats to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within U.S. Higher Education.
ACPA is committed to this work and to reinforcing the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. Our position statement on Social Justice, as well as our Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization, are guiding principles for our work and why we must speak up with what is happening.
Ongoing attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion are creating a harmful pattern. The latest actions of banning state funding in Florida for higher education programs and services focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, join efforts in other states to establish this dangerous pattern, such as refusing to allow the discussion of gender and identity because they are seen as “divisive concepts” in South Dakota, changing the hiring practices in Texas to not allowing questions on diversity, equity and inclusion experience to gender identity and expression with bills forbidding the use of pronouns in Arkansas and hostile bills across multiple states targeting trans individuals in their desire to have gender-affirming care and access to services.
These attacks have real world implications on the daily work and learning that takes place within Higher Education. This is not only affecting the lived experiences of students, but also affecting the well-being of faculty and staff on a professional and personal level. Educators and professionals are being forced to decide between being their authentic selves with the incongruent values of an educational system being imposed upon them. They are also being asked to manage educating students with only part of the context and information.
Those attacking diversity, equity and inclusion peddle a false narrative that DEI education leads to discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination. This is false and goes against the very nature of the work. We in higher education do not use diversity to discriminate, they do not exclude but rather focus on equity and fairness, and it is about breaking down the barriers of indoctrination and systemic oppression so that we can focus on inclusion.
Diversity, equity and inclusion further enhances and builds community and places where individuals can be valued for their identities and beliefs. In Higher Education learning and development occur on a daily basis. Beyond lived experiences, research shows the benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion in preparing students to tackle real-world challenges in our global society (Wolfe & Fletcher, 2013; Smith, D. 2020). DEI efforts are critical in the efforts to enhance student success.
ACPA will continue to provide professional development to our members and will continue to raise awareness for the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. For our members that do this work, we acknowledge your efforts and are in solidarity with you. We will not be silenced in our efforts to ensure that those that pursue higher education, can experience an environment where they can feel welcomed and supported.
ACPA will work in collaboration with other higher education associations to continue to advocate for the needs of students, faculty and staff within higher education institutions in affected states.
As ACPA approaches its 100th anniversary, we reflect on our association’s purpose. In 1924, we were founded to create greater inclusion and diversity in higher education spaces that were exclusive to or dominated by men. It was a gathering of women higher education officials that wanted to engage and organize that led to the founding of ACPA. Over the last 100 years, we have grown to be even more diverse and inclusive in our approach and focus. We will continue to advocate for the diversity, equity and inclusion values that are central to our mission and our Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization.
Wolfe, B. L., & Fletcher, J. (2013). Estimating benefits from university-level diversity (No. w18812). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Smith, D. G. (2020). Diversity’s promise for higher education: Making it work. JHU Press.