Months have now passed since we witnessed in horror the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, learned about the tragic killing of Breonna Taylor, and watched the horrific video footage of the murder of George Floyd. Mere weeks ago, as national attention was focused intensely on these unjust killings, a police officer fatally shot Rayshard Brooks after he was found asleep in his car outside of a restaurant. Reports and recordings of African American people being threatened or intimidated by authorities, and by average people alike, for no other reason than for trying to live their lives, or simply engaging in everyday responsibilities or pleasures afforded all people in a free society, persist despite protests. We acknowledge all those affected, afflicted, or harmed without just cause or reason, especially the Black community, which has borne the brunt of these unjust actions repeatedly over our nation’s history.
These shameful acts have given rise to the current social uprising in the form of countless protests around the nation calling for change, and again forced us to confront the difficult truths that systemic racism and injustice remain all too frequent occurrences in our society.
What We Stand For
ACCT unequivocally condemns police brutality and systemic racism. We stand with all who protest racism, an inequitable system of justice, and social and economic inequalities of all kinds. We stand with those proposing reforms geared toward achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion not only at the colleges we represent, but in all aspects of American life. We believe change must happen and we will play an active role in making that happen.
As the international association of community college governing boards, ACCT represents more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond. Our colleges serve an estimated 11.8 million students every year, and ACCT and the community college sector take tremendous pride in our diversity, equity, and inclusion values and practices. ACCT’s members encompass the smallest rural colleges and the largest urban institutions, among them Historically Black Colleges, Minority-Serving Institutions, and American Indian tribal colleges, all operating in the interests of their students and not-for-profit. Diversity is one of ACCT’s core values. We believe in the promotion of respect and acceptance of diverse individuals and awareness and educational opportunity for underrepresented populations. We believe in and we participate in taking active measures to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at our institutions and through the work of our institutions in their communities.
We applaud and celebrate our boards and presidents on their efforts to double down to help students succeed, persist, and maintain connectivity to their colleges — especially for students of color and others who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, resulting economic downturn and historic rates of unemployment. These efforts have taken on increased urgency.
Rethinking What Works
Statements can be powerful — but only focused actions will achieve real and meaningful change that ensures that Black Americans, and thus every human being in this nation, receives equal justice and opportunities to become fully enfranchised in our great society.
ACCT has much to be proud of in these regards. For example:
- Our executive search services intentionally bring diverse college executive candidates from broad walks of life, from far and wide, into contact with boards. In many cases, these placements help to introduce diverse points of view among leadership even at colleges whose areas may not yet have become as diverse as they are certain to become in coming years.
- Our board retreat services emphasize greater awareness of and help to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion as primary interests of all community colleges.
- Our national advocacy efforts focus on our values, and ACCT proudly advocates in the interests of Historically Black Colleges, Minority-Serving Institutions, tribal colleges, and we have advocated boldly in the interests of Dreamers’ rights to access higher education.
- We require hotels throughout the nation to abide by our commitment to diversity in our contracts for large national conferences, incentivizing them to standardize such commitments with all clients.
- Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee continually identifies areas that need improvement and advises our leadership on how we can and must move the needle forward for people of color and others.
- We benefit tremendously from the insights of our diverse Board of Directors, committee members and our Association staff.
- And, of course, we strive to demonstrate our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through all of our content, including welcoming underrepresented voices to share insights with our membership through events, publications, webinars, podcasts and other venues, developing and disseminating equity policy guides to member boards and college CEOs, and more.
And yet, this is not enough. We commit to do better.
In the coming months, we plan to reexamine issues of equity through our actions, programs, and services.
Among many other services, our colleges train and prepare thousands of public-safety personnel, including police and first responders. Many colleges are looking at their curricula and investigating how they can redouble efforts to include implicit bias and sensitivity training around issues of racism, and particularly with an eye toward preventing excessive force. We applaud these efforts and believe they are vital to ensuring trust and transparency between our first responders and our communities that depend upon them. ACCT will strive to add value to its membership by highlighting best practices in this regard via multiple platforms, including webinars and live sessions when available. As we collaborate on these reforms, ACCT will not hesitate to speak out against any abuses of power or unjust treatment of any marginalized population.
Further, we commit to using our many platforms to advance discussions on the national current state of affairs in an effort to increase multi-cultural awareness and sensitivity, and we will more deeply engage our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to review board best practices to identify at-risk student populations and how to better serve them.
As an employer, ACCT recommits to sustaining a workplace that values diversity, multi-culturalism, compassion and embracing the value of differences.
Finally, in recent months, many American people have come to understand that they had been unaware of the prevalence of events such as the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo and so many others. No one can know what they do not know. We at ACCT pledge to look and to listen, to see and to hear, and to learn and to share. The commitments stated here are small steps forward. We will continually seek opportunities to grow, to become better, and to bring others along as we do this. There is much that we do not yet know.
We pledge action, engagement, and dialogue to help forge a society faithful to our creed and values — a society that works for every person. ACCT is a nationally representative organization that advocates nationwide community college interests at the federal level. At the same time, we are an association of locally elected and appointed officials who have deep ties to veritably every community throughout the nation, and who have power to make great change from the roots of their communities.
Our mission as we move forward is to develop synergy at the national and local levels, and through our determined and noble membership to create real, lasting change to acknowledge and respect all people in the United States as welcome and equal in the same way that the nation’s community colleges always have respected and welcome all people equally.
Dawn Erlandson, Chair, ACCT Board of Directors
J. Noah Brown, ACCT President and CEO