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A Message from Carol Geary Schneider on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence

Thursday, November 12, 2015

With a mission to advance liberal education and inclusive excellence, AAC&U is strongly committed to helping our members succeed in the long-term work of educating and graduating students—from all backgrounds—who will be both prepared and inspired to work for a more just and equitable democracy in the United States and for the expansion of human dignity and opportunity around the world.  AAC&U's Board of Directors has affirmed its commitment to diversity and equity as educational priorities in an official statement: "In embracing a diversity of ideas and experiences, liberal education likewise embraces a diversity of people, for the opportunity to learn with and from diverse peers is also a critical element of educational excellence. This commitment to diversity and equity in all their forms is what we mean by inclusive excellence."

Today, students of color are leading protests across US higher education, mobilizing to highlight and resist the persistence of discriminatory actions on campus and in society. These students, together with many faculty, staff, and students from all backgrounds, are rightly calling for new commitment and comprehensive action to ensure that higher education will provide inclusive, respectful, and supportive environments for learners from communities that are today—and that have always been—systemically underserved, not just in higher education, but at all levels of the United States educational system.  Many protestors also are asking that higher education take action in working to redress the deepening divides that now characterize our democracy.

That work begins with a searching look at where we are now, both as a society and in our own institutions, and with a commitment to reversing the corrosive legacies of discrimination, marginalization, stigmatization, and violence in our society.  These legacies disfigure democracy.  And too often they work, insidiously and counterproductively, to create limiting rather than supportive climates for deep learning on campus.

As educational leaders mobilize to address these questions in their own institutional contexts, we recommend the following resources as catalysts for self-study and productive change. Mindful that higher learning necessarily deals—by definition—with difficult and often contested societal questions, we particularly call attention to the AAC&U Board of Directors official statement on "Academic Freedom and Educational Responsibility."

Recommended resources:

America's Unmet Promise: The Imperative for Equity in Higher Education

Step Up & Lead for Equity: What Higher Education Can Do to Reverse Our Deepening Divides

Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence: A Campus Guide for Self-Study and Planning

Academic Freedom and Educational Responsibility

A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy’s Future (especially chapters IV and V)

The Drama of Diversity and Democracy: Higher Education and American Commitments
(Second Edition 2011)

AAC&U's 2016 Annual Meeting explores directly the question "Land of Opportunity–But for Whom?"  We hope all our members will join us for this searching consideration of what educators can do, together with our students, to reverse this nation's deepening divides.