"Without Inclusion, There Is No True Excellence," AAC&U Board of Directors Affirms in New Statement on "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence"
AAC&U Board of Directors Statement Issued in Support of Expanded AAC&U Mission Presents Vision for Inclusive Excellence in Higher Education
Washington, DC—The Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released today an official statement on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence.” This statement explains AAC&U’s vision of inclusive excellence in light of its recently expanded mission statement and in support of AAC&U’s ongoing work on liberal education, inclusive excellence, and student success.
As of January 2013, AAC&U’s mission is “to make liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice in higher education.”
The revised mission statement reaffirms AAC&U’s nearly one-hundred year commitment to the aims and outcomes of an engaged and public-spirited liberal education as the best preparation for work, life, and citizenship. The new mission statement underscores its commitment to make access to liberal education inclusive rather than exclusive.
By approving its new mission statement, releasing a new set of strategic goals, and releasing this new statement, AAC&U seeks to focus with new urgency on helping higher education provide a liberal and liberating education for all college students, including and especially those students from groups historically underserved by the American educational system at all levels.
The new statement on inclusive excellence is a companion to AAC&U’s existing Board Statement on Liberal Education.
“The AAC&U Board of Directors believes it is essential especially at this particular moment in the history of American higher education to affirm that every college student deserves an education that provides the full array of learning outcomes essential for success,” said Mildred García, president of California State University, Fullerton and chair of AAC&U’s Board. “As our nation faces unprecedented demographic shifts and a complex and challenging economic, legal, and regulatory environment, it is more important than ever that every higher education institution redouble its efforts to ensure that all students learn with and from diverse peers and graduate ready to lead in a diverse and globally connected world.”
The statement notes that “to make excellence inclusive, our society must break free of earlier views that an excellent liberal education should be reserved for the few….Increasing college access and degree completion for all is necessary but insufficient to foster the growth of an educated citizenry for our globally engaged democracy.”
“AAC&U is pushing back, forcefully and comprehensively, against a U.S. policy trend that reserves a horizon-expanding liberal education for the fortunate, while guiding far too many first-generation and minority students to narrowly conceived job training and certificate programs,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “As employers say emphatically, graduates who are locked into mental cubicles by narrow training will quickly be left behind in this fast-changing economy. Moreover, college students are citizens, either in our own democracy or another society. They all need and deserve an education that prepares them simultaneously for knowledgeable civic participation and for career opportunity beyond the first job.”
By issuing this statement, the AAC&U Board of Directors continues AAC&U’s long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and student success—a commitment affirmed in the plan of action launched in January as part of the association’s new strategic plan. After many years of working on issues of curricular change and enacting effective diverse learning environments, AAC&U is committed to a wide array of projects designed to help institutions fulfill their commitment to “making excellence inclusive.”
As the statement makes clear, “Making excellence inclusive means attending both to the demographic diversity of the student body and also to the need for nurturing climates and cultures so that all students have a chance to succeed.” The statement affirms that “Making excellence inclusive is a fundamentally democratic ideal. It expresses our confidence in the liberating power of education.”