Statement to ATD Network: We Can Do More

Colleagues: 

We are reeling from witnessing the horrible and inhumane actions of the last few weeks, resulting in the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, further exposing the deep and systemic racism in this country. Achieving the Dream condemns these actions as racially motivated violence that should not be tolerated.

Since Thursday evening, protests have rippled through cities and communities where students, faculty, and staff in our Achieving the Dream Network learn, teach, serve, live, and influence. If community colleges are indeed “America’s institutions of the moment,” as James Fallows suggested to us in his recent DREAM plenary address, our time to act is now.

Achieving the Dream community colleges have long championed equity in their student success efforts, and consistent with ATD’s equity statement, are committed to dismantling the barriers to student access and success that exist in our own structures and policies shaped by the effects of structural racism.

We can do more.

The roots of inequality, of course, are fully visible in our communities and to us in other ways. The pandemic has laid bare health and economic inequalities and surfaced anti-Asian bigotry and hatred. COVID-19 is hitting Native Americans with particular force. One in four Americans has applied for unemployment benefits, unequally touching women of color. The pandemic has exposed to all of us in tangible ways, beyond disaggregated data points, the vulnerabilities of the students and citizens in our communities who need us the most.

There is a moral arc to our student success work, that community colleges, especially our Achieving the Dream colleges, must be proactive to lead forward. As leaders, we have a responsibility to affect change in a meaningful way in the communities we serve. That leadership begins with deep and difficult self-reflection examining our own prejudices and understanding our own white privilege. It moves, then, to what our colleague Lynn Pasqueralla, President of AACU, calls an “honest assessment of, and genuine reckoning with, the structural barriers and hidden biases that pervade our own colleges and organizations.”

This call to action requires a unified voice and vision. Achieving the Dream stands ready to provide you with the supports you need to center, amplify and elevate your racial equity work. Achieving the Dream is also committed to furthering our internal work around racial equity to further break down barriers and hidden biases that influence our organization’s ability to fulfill our mission.

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