ACPA – College Student Educators International (ACPA) continues to be dismayed by the ongoing and systematic efforts to delegitimize the value and importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within Higher Education.  The latest example reflects the absurdity of the fear mongering surrounding DEI with the elimination of not only DEI offices at the University of Florida but the firing of individuals that did this important work. The fact that these individuals were dismissed without cause in order to comply with state law sends a chilling message.

As ACPA celebrates our 100th anniversary in 2024, the United States faces what may be the most politically divisive and harmful series of elections in the country’s history. As an Association whose values and vision statements are rooted in social justice as evidenced in our Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization, we have a responsibility to defend the critical and important equity and inclusion work that is taking place within higher education. We call on our higher education and student affairs association partners to do the same and to use our collective voices and positionality to advocate for what we know to be just, right, and inclusive.

At this moment, higher education leaders can no longer remain silent, and the timing is critical in order to speak up to advocate for, protect, and solidify our collective efforts. Even knowing the detriment that speaking out will cause. We are reminded of the famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Over the past year, ACPA has been monitoring and advocating within the U.S. national landscape and has issued the following public statements: 2023 DEI Statement, 2023 Florida Bill Statement, and 2023 SCOTUS Affirmative Action statement We have not only made statements but done some work in the past year to help those folks losing funding or support to remain connected, including approving a number of complimentary memberships for individuals in US states with discriminatory laws and actions, offering webinars, and co-hosting the 2023 Presidential Symposium on this topic with ASHE.

In engaging with our members, it is becoming increasingly clear that they are exhausted by the constant attacks and forced to be reactive in their response to the changing dynamics. Our faculty colleagues also feel threatened by the attacks limiting their ability to engage in classroom discussions.  All of this is having a direct impact on minoritized students’ support and development on campus. 

Our colleagues who do the critical DEI work on campuses, do so in the spirit of community and in fostering welcoming environments for ALL students. We demand responses from lawmakers and politicians as to how the development of community can be misconstrued as divisive.

We understand that we are living in extraordinary times with increased polarization, lack of civility and engagement and a lack of willingness to understand one another.  It is through the important work of DEI that we can tackle these issues and sadly, DEI is being used to divide higher education. 

The students, faculty, staff and administrators that work within higher education represent the very fabric of this country and of the entire world. The identities that they each hold are critical to how they navigate spaces both inside and outside of higher education.  By attacking the importance and value of DEI, these identities are being devalued and minimized. If we value the important role that community plays on our respective campuses, if we value individuals being their authentic selves, then the attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion are misguided.

We realize that these attacks are having an emotional and physical toll on our colleagues that take immense pride in their advocacy work for students, faculty and staff. This advocacy is vital in providing the necessary support for students in their personal and academic success. No one should lose their job for the support that they provide to students.

Please join us at the upcoming ACPA24 Convention, where we will be offering the following session – Public Policy Updates: The Climate and Landscape of Higher Education, will be held on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, 3:45 PM-4:45 PM CT. This will provide an opportunity for members to dialogue around these and other related policy topics.

We realize as an Association, we might be criticized for this more direct and more vocal stance. Nonetheless, we are committed to speaking up for what is right for our membership and for the students, faculty, staff and other colleagues served by our members. We are committed to providing our members with support, resources and tools to manage during this time. We welcome your ideas, thoughts and suggestions on additional steps that we can take to help make a difference at https://form.jotform.com/240634072111038 

Because these attacks are political, the most important thing each of us can do, if we have that right, is to vote. We must vote in every local, primary, state, national, school board, and judicial election that we can possibly access. We can no longer make the assumption that our voices and votes do not matter. The attacks on higher education and diversity, equity, and inclusion are happening at all levels of politics, and we can make a difference collectively through our individual voices and votes.  

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