SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Oct. 18, 2023) – The Equity Avengers co-signed an agreement to resist anti-DEI legislation, in coalition with more than 60 other higher education leaders and organizations across the country. See the coalition’s statement, below:
It’s up to us, and we must work together in new ways
Higher education and its mission to build a democratic, prosperous, and equitable society is under attack. In legislatures and courtrooms across the country, attempts to ban books, impose educational gag orders, limit what can be taught and by whom, and defund and discredit diversity, equity, and inclusion work in colleges and universities pose a monumental threat to the nation’s future.
Vigorously defending American higher education and the principles foundational to it requires moving beyond the strong statements made by individual associations, administrators, faculty, and staff, over the past year toward collective action grounded in coalition building.
As Presidents and higher education association leaders, we believe that attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion through governmental overreach threaten the very mission of higher education and the democratic ideals of our country. Indeed, limiting what can be taught and learned about history, race, gender, sexuality, and each other marginalizes our citizens and limits our potential as a country.
Higher education seeks truth, even the most uncomfortable truth
At the very core of higher education’s effectiveness is the free exchange of ideas and the unfettered pursuit of the truth. Citizens’ understanding of our past, our current moment, and our future depends on the inclusion of minoritized peoples’ histories. Therefore, external curricular revision that erases inconvenient truths in response to partisan pressure is antithetical to higher education’s public purpose and counter to the very notion of a free republic.
Research, scholarship, and data demonstrate that our collective search for a more perfect union is far from complete. Education’s mission, especially in our democratic society, demands that we elevate issues of inequality, that we search for understanding, and that we give voice to those that lack power in the marketplace of ideas.
Higher education has slowly and surely increased access to all citizens, and we will continue to do so
We assert that higher education is committed to the success of our students and to serving as a compass for the employees and the communities we serve. Our value extends beyond catalyzing economic mobility and includes fostering a well-informed citizenry characterized by an open pursuit of knowledge and social uplift for all. The active marginalization of specific identities from education or the curriculum thwarts these objectives and the promises of higher education for all.
The academic commitment to democracy is especially true of our nation’s community colleges, where many of our coalition members are proud to lead and serve. Community colleges were founded on an agenda of access, a lofty democratic ideal articulated by the 1947 Truman Commission: access to higher education promises to have an impact on unequal distribution of opportunity in this country. Commitment to diverse and equitable practices among our nation’s community colleges and those institutions committed to access isn’t a fad or a flaw: it’s rooted in a methodological approach to provide access and opportunity for all, while advancing the democratic ideals of our country.
Higher education connects equity to a broader purpose
Business and industry leaders have already underscored that recent political attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion are profoundly out of step with their needs and vision. Talent and workforce development, in particular, demand diversity, equity, and inclusion. As higher education leaders, we interact and partner with large corporations and small businesses every day. It is our mission to advance prosperity in our communities. When we work with industries and organizations on workforce development strategies, discussion is always about how we can help companies attract a diverse and skilled workforce. Indeed, colleges are not alone in suggesting that companies need to cultivate diversity in their workforce. Enterprises of every size—from small family-run businesses to multinational corporations—ask us how we can help them build and retain diversity in their workforce. Attempts to redefine or delegitimize efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion are deeply out of touch with the priorities of our private sector employers and partners. More than workforce development, diversity and equity are essential to America’s growth and continued prosperity.
Higher education works for all Americans
Our goal is to underscore that coalitions with one another are forming and will continue to build in fluid and important ways. Statements by college leaders and single associations have served their own purposes, but our strength will be in reaching outside of our traditional circles. This statement itself is a result of a coalition of concerned leaders. We encourage more communication, action, and coalitions to build among those of us in higher education and its stakeholders in order to remain strong in the face of a wave of attacks against diversity, equity, and inclusion. The threat is real and targets higher education’s very purpose. Working beyond our traditional lanes, we can defeat efforts to interfere with our institutions’ role in the creation of an equitable and democratic society. In the process, we shall safeguard academic freedom and institutional autonomy. We call on citizens and higher education leaders across the country to join in building coalitions at the local, regional, state, and national levels in order to preserve the foundational qualities of higher education and its link to the American promises of democracy and freedom for all.
- Achieving the Dream
- Alliance for Innovation and Transformation
- American Association of Colleges and Universities
- American Association of University Professors
- Campus Compact
- College Promise
- Education for All
- Equity Avengers
- National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education
- Amit B. Singh, President, Edmonds College
- Amy Morrison, President, Lake Washington Institute of Technology
- Bob Mohrbacher, President, Centralia College
- Brandy Johnson, President, Michigan Community College Association
- Chad Emerson Hickox, President, Walla Walla Community College
- Colleen Simpson, President, Front Range Community College
- Eric Murray, President, Cascadia College
- Chad Emerson Hickox, President, Walla Walla Community College
- Chio Flores, President, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom
- Chris Reber, President, Hudson Community College
- David May, President, Bellevue College
- David Potash, President, Wilbur Wright College
- David Wain Coon, Superintendent/President, College of Marin
- Deidra Peaslee, President, Saint Paul College
- Donald Generals, President, Community College of Philadelphia
- George Boggs, Superintendent/ President Emeritus, Palomar College, President and CEO Emeritus, American Association of Community Colleges
- Glenn Cerny, President, Schoolcraft College
- Ivan Harrell III, President, Tacoma Community College
- Jane Fernandes, President, Antioch College
- Jim Sawyer, President, Macomb Community College
- Joe Garcia, Chancellor of the Colorado Community College System
- John Selmon, President, Muskegon Community College
- Joyce Loveday, President, Clover Park Technical College
- Julie A. Manley White, District Chancellor and CEO, Pierce College
- Kathi Hiyane-Brown, President, Whatcom Community College
- Keith Curry, President, Compton Community College
- Kojo Quartey, President, Monroe County Community College
- Kristin Clark, Chancellor, West Hills Community College District
- Liz Murphy, CEO, CampusWorks
- Jenni Martin, Acting President, Spokane Community College
- Jermaine F. Williams, President, Montgomery College
- John J. “Ski” Sygielski, President & CEO, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
- Lisa Jones, President of Colorado Northwestern Community College
- Matthew Campbell, President, Pierce College Puyallup
- Matthew Wetstein, Superintendent/President, Cabrillo College
- Mike Cioce, President, Rowan College at Burlington County
- Mike Gavin, President, Delta College
- Mike Gorman, President, Salem Community College
- Mordecai Brownlee, President of Community College of Aurora
- Nerita Hughes, President, Bay College
- Pat McGuire, Trinity Washington University
- Paul Francis, Executive Director, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
- Rhonda Epper, President, Trinidad State College
- Rebekah S. Woods, President, Columbia Basin College
- Rufus Glasper, Chancellor Emeritus, Maricopa Community College
- Stephanie Fujii, President, Arapahoe Community College
- Steve Robinson, President, Lansing Community College
- Suzy Ames, President, Peninsula College
- Suzanne Johnson, President, Green River College
- Tammeil Gilkerson, President Evergreen Valley College
- Thomas P. Leary, President, Luzerne County Community College
- Tim Stokes, President, South Puget Sound Community College
About the Equity Avengers
The Equity Avengers are community college presidents, Dr. Keith Curry of Compton College, Dr. Tammeil Gilkerson of Evergreen Valley College, and President Emerita Dr. Pamela Luster of San Diego Mesa College. The Equity Avengers have made it their mission to lead the charge for a more equitable higher education landscape, increasing access for those historically marginalized by academia.
The Equity Avengers host the popular #EquityChat on Wednesday evenings on Twitter and are regularly invited to speak at state and national conferences to share their vision. The College Futures Foundation has generously supported the Equity Avengers’ mission through a grant, allowing them to support and develop leaders who act and drive large-scale change toward achieving racial equity in higher education nationwide.
#EquityChat is held weekly on Wednesday evenings from 5 – 6 p.m. on the X platform from September through June. Follow the Equity Avengers on Twitter @EquityAvengers or LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/equity-
To learn more about the Equity Avengers, visit equityavengers.com.