In my role as CEO of NAFSA, and given my prior role leading diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts on a college campus, I am compelled to speak about the passage of legislation in several states that prohibits funding for DEI efforts at publicly funded higher education institutions. These actions are an assault on the core values we hold as international educators, including supporting academic freedom and fostering connections across divides.
I believe the best response is concrete action, and it starts with each of us doing our part. We each have the ability to take meaningful action to engender support and create change. I am asking everyone in the international education community to:
- Be an ally to our DEI colleagues. That means intentionally asking those who are at the forefront of these assaults how the international education community on campus can support their work. In other words, how can you help center their voices?
- Educate yourself on DEI issues (critical race theory, most importantly) and be sure to understand the breadth and depth of the DEI work related to these efforts that is taking place on your campus/workplace. Fully grasp how much value these initiatives contribute brings to our collective work as educators in educating the next generation of leaders.
- Build real bridges between the international education and DEI efforts on your campus. This is essential if we are to advance our shared goals of preparing global citizens who can effectively address the challenges of our time and of creating institutions fully committed to social justice. DEI and international education are not in conflict; in fact, they very much have a symbiotic relationship. We have a shared mission and vision with our DEI colleagues and must come together to collaborate more.
Guided by our values, NAFSA as an organization commits to doing the same work we are it is asking our members to do. We will educate ourselves and reach out to our colleagues at the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), PEN America, and other partner organizations to determine best approaches for working together and effectively advocating for our shared objectives.
In my past role leading DEI efforts on campus while wearing my international education hat, I was often struck by how little most people understood both these areas and by the misinformation and assumptions often made about them. Siloes were prevalent. We can do better. We must.