Thurston County Higher Ed Presidents Issue Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Steps

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This summer, our three institutions – The Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, and Saint Martin’s University – are preparing for a fall like no other. While uncertainties around the impact of the coronavirus weigh heavily on our fall planning, our institutions are also actively engaged in campus-wide discussions around what needs to change in higher education to further the fight against systemic racism. 

As leaders of Thurston County’s three higher education institutions, we are aware of the promise of higher education as a transformative force in society. However, we are also aware of the problematic history of higher education institutions in this country in perpetuating racial inequity and our own institutions’ complicity in maintaining the status quo.

To break this cycle, we must take real and meaningful action, within our campuses and with our greater community, to achieve the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion that our institutions advocate. 

By working together we know we can do more and do better as agents of positive change.

President George Bridges, The Evergreen State College

President Timothy Stokes, South Puget Sound Community College 

President Roy Heynderickx, Saint Martin’s University

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The Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, and Saint Martin’s University jointly pledge to do the following:

  1. First and foremost we acknowledge that Black lives matter, Black minds matter, and that what we are all witnessing is the inevitable outcome of 400 years of oppression and violence against Black communities in America.
  2. We acknowledge the historical and continued presence of systemic racism within higher education that have disproportionately impacted both access and academic success of Black students as well as employment and advancement opportunities for Black staff and faculty. We also acknowledge that we have the power and ability to break down systemic barriers within our institutions and we have already begun that work.
  3. While our institutions have different visions and missions, we share a common goal of preparing our students to be citizens and community leaders who can engage in meaningful and critical conversations and move solutions forward. Furthermore, we want alumni who are prepared to live and lead with diversity, equity, and inclusion as a framework that guides all that they do in our community.
  4. While we engage in this large scale work to change our institutions and identify and breakdown structural barriers for all oppressed social groups, the focus in this moment needs to be on our Black students, staff, and faculty and here are some things we can do right now: 
    1. Improve access for Black students – going deeper than simply acceptance, this includes academic, social, and financial solutions;
    2. Create spaces for our Black and Black-identifying students to create and sustain community with one another and faculty or staff of color on our individual campuses and collectively as a higher education community;
    3. Integrate Black history and contributions into our curriculum in arts, sciences, and technical classes and programs;
    4. Create intentional opportunities for our Black and Black-identifying students to build connections throughout our local community, including with organizations and employers who are considered leaders in our area.

It is our responsibility as institutions with power and privilege in our community to listen to Black voices, amplify (or elevate) those voices and learn how to better use our resources to support their goals and needs. These are critical first steps that will help elevate other marginalized voices and other voices of color. We will aim to use our collective skills in anti-racist and anti-oppression education to promote community awareness and racial healing through a range of coordinated programming, workshops, and opportunities for learning about the historical legacies and contemporary manifestations of racial injustices, and to work together to imagine a world beyond racial hierarchies.