Read CAS President Ralph Johnson's updates for the month of June.
As we survey the social and political landscapes in America, it is apparent that we have a myriad of challenges that must be addressed within the sphere of higher education that have been precipitated by the onslaught of attacks on the diversity, equity and inclusion work that has been our intentional focus for several years. We all are aware of the states that have rolled back some of the DEI gains made and even worse, have passed legislation that strictly prohibits its advancement. These laws have severely dampened strides toward a more equitable and socially just society and will have far-reaching negative impacts on higher education access for years to come.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in two professional development opportunities in May as CAS President. One was the Council of Higher Education Management Associations (CHEMA) meeting. It was a very powerful and beneficial experience. As we listened to one of the presenters discuss the major challenges facing higher education, a question was raised about what is happening in the states that have recently passed or are considering anti-DEI legislation and whether this might be a long -term battle. The presenter gave insightful responses, but the one thing I found to be most profound was her dismay that the leaders within higher education remain awkwardly silent. She further expounded, noting that there was a time when the leaders of our major institutions of higher education would provide voice and speak truth to power relative to the challenges in society. Her question still haunts me – “Where are those voices that should be passionately opposing what is happening in Florida, Texas and other states?” Where is the leadership? In a sad realization, it has become painfully obvious that they too have been silenced out of fear of political backlash and threat of losing jobs and much worse, state funded universities losing the funds to operate. Consider New College in Florida.
Ironically, the second professional development activity I participated in was the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE), during which I joined two other CAS Governing Board colleagues to present an invited session about using CAS to advance DEI work, particularly as it relates to student learning, development and success. As we engaged with our colleagues from across higher education, the concerns were repeated as many of them have direct responsibility for DEI work on their respective campuses. The prevailing sentiment was there are daunting challenges to DEI and that we must be creative about how to press on with the mission we embrace. My question to us all, dear colleagues, is what should CAS do to fight these attacks and to continue its efforts to create more equitable and just learning environments in which our students can thrive? What should CAS do to rally to the call and provide vision, voice and leadership within this, our sphere of influence? These questions are not rhetorical, but ones that I hope we will answer. The time is now!
Ralph Johnson, Ph.D.
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.