- Higher Education Webinar: Disability Inclusion on Campus and in International AffairsAshley Holben, interim manager and project specialist with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange and executive specialist to the chief executive officer at Mobility International USA, leads the conversation on disability inclusion on campus and in international affairs. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/Academic if you’d like to share it with your colleagues. You can enable the closed captioning by clicking on the icon on your laptop or on your iPad in the “More” button. If you click on that you can show captions. So I encourage you to do that. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Ashley Holben with us today to discuss disability inclusion on campus and in international affairs. Ms. Holben is interim manager and project specialist with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, and executive specialist to the CEO at Mobility International USA. In these roles, she develops initiatives and resources to increase participation and inclusion of students with disabilities in international exchange. So, Ashley, thanks very much for being with us. Let’s just get right to it. If you could discuss and share with us the importance of disability inclusion in higher education institutions and international affairs, and share what you have found to be some of the best practices to do so on college campuses. HOLBEN: Certainly. Well, thank you so much, Irina, and thanks so much to the entire CFR team for putting this topic on the agenda of this webinar series. It’s such a fantastic opportunity to discuss an often misunderstood topic but a very prominent community, which is people with disabilities in higher education. And so really appreciate all of those who are joining today to tune in, and welcome. And, you know, the CFR team shared with me the roster of folks who were planning to attend and one thing that really stood out to me is kind of the really wide breadth of expertise and departments represented and positions represented. So it’s really encouraging to see so many different types of leadership wanting to discuss this further and wanting to share practices. So I’m looking forward to doing that today and I really hope to hear from some of those who are tuning in with your expertise and observations and activities as well, and I am delighted to share some—just observations of my own in this role at the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE). As Irina said, this is a project that’s housed at Mobility International USA since 1995. But we’re sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, really, in order to promote the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange between the U.S. and other countries, and that is to say kind of to the end we provide tips and strategies for people with disabilities and international program staff on how to prepare for an inclusive international exchange. So, before I kind of dive in, I just wanted to define these terms a little bit because it’s not always clear what we mean by international exchange. But, basically, we’re talking about everything from study abroad, teach abroad, volunteering, research, professional visitor exchanges. Also, cultural like arts, sports programs. So try to picture a U.S. college student going abroad for a semester or an international student coming to the U.S., a Peace Corps volunteer, Fulbright scholars, and so on. And we’re—the genesis of this project is really because people with disabilities are taking advantage of these same opportunities as nondisabled people in order to advance their educational/career goals, their personal goals. And that kind of brings me to kind of another definition—a loose definition—that people often wonder, well, what do you mean by people with disabilities, and by that that includes people with physical or mobility disabilities, sensory disabilities, chronic health conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities. That includes mental health disabilities, neurodiversity learning disabilities. And then keep in mind that disabilities can be apparent or nonapparent. And then also somebody’s disability might be apparent certain times and not others—for example, if they use assistive devices on some days but don’t need them on other days. So one topic that I really—is close to our hearts in our world is this theme of disability as diversity, and I saw on the roster—I was really excited to see that there were some folks who registered who are, for example, the director of diversity and inclusion, DEI specialists, and so on, and it’s so encouraging to see that higher education is really embracing this diversity, equity, and inclusion, implementing DEI strategies kind of throughout all areas of higher ed. And so, with this in mind it’s really vital to recognize that disability is part of diversity and not separate from it. Too often folks want to separate the two. Or, disability is an aspect of diversity that can get overlooked in diversity initiatives, we find, too often. So that inclusion of people with disabilities is really fundamental to be able to—and acting on that commitment to diversity at the institutional level. And then, for many, disability is an important facet of their identity, connecting someone to a larger disability community—for instance, disability pride, disability culture, history, and more. So it’s really important to keep that in mind in any discussion related to DEI. And just as important, many people with disabilities have identities in addition to their disability identity. So, for example, a person with a disability can also be a person of color, a first-generation college student, LGBTQ, an immigrant. And so one thing that we find often when we’re talking to people with disabilities about their experience is, there was so much focus on my disability that we completely forgot—(laughs)—to talk about these other aspects of myself that are important to me. So I think that’s definitely a good lesson. If anyone out there is more interested in this topic of disability intersectionality, I want to just kind of do a little plug for a publication that I’m really excited about that we put forth last year on Intersections Abroad, which I’m holding up to the screen. I think it might be blurred out, unfortunately, but—(laughs)—oh, here we go. FASKIANOS: It’s a little blurry but we’ll— HOLBEN: It’s a little blurry. FASKIANOS: (Inaudible)—anyway. HOLBEN: But it’s Intersections Abroad: “Travelers with disabilities explore identity and diversity through a lens of international exchange.” So it’s a series of travelers’ stories, interviews with people with different types of disabilities including people who are blind or have chronic health conditions or who are on the autism spectrum but who also want to describe what their study abroad experiences in different countries was like as a person of color or as someone with a religious identity or someone who brings all these unique experiences to their international exchange experience itself. For those of you who—I know we have a lot of different folks joining the call. On the higher education campus, people with disabilities not only includes students but also faculty, staff, administrators, campus leaders, visitors, and institutions often have dedicated staff or offices to support individual level disability accommodations and also to promote disability access more broadly across campus. So I noticed some folks who registered for this event come from, for example, Office of Student Accessibility, Office of Disability Services, Office of Student Support and Success. We had—I saw an access and accommodations coordinator, an ADA compliance coordinator. So these are all some examples of the types of folks who are working to help promote access at the—in higher education. You can also find counseling centers, tutoring centers. There are a growing number of campuses that are providing services tailored for students on the autism spectrum and also those that are tailored for students with intellectual disabilities, which is really interesting. And if you want to learn more about that I encourage you to check out the organization Think College. But in addition to campus accessibility and disability support services you’re going to find other entities that help promote disability community, disability history, disability rights, representation and visibility. For example, student groups led by and for students with disabilities. I saw one of the registrants—there were a couple of registrants on this event who are representing the Harvard Law School Project on Disability to, as they describe, use their learning in comparative and international law to advance understanding regarding disability law, policy, and education around the world. So it’s really exciting to see just kind of all the different ways in which higher education can support and promote disability access and inclusion in different ways in representation. Another topic that we are really passionate about at the NCDE is disability-inclusive campus internationalization, especially when it comes to the international exchange aspect of internationalization. So take education abroad, for instance. For the most part, I think a huge bulk of our resources relate to students—college students with disabilities who study abroad. That’s a big chunk of our resources, and we get a lot of questions about that from international exchange administrators and international study abroad advisors and coordinators about how can we provide some support to these students who want to study abroad who might have some specific disability-related accommodations they might need abroad, or everything from how can we attract students with disabilities to participate in our programs, and so on. So you’re going to find a lot of those types of resources in our library. But, education abroad that can also encompass faculty with disabilities leading trips abroad, and it’s really exciting to be able to connect with some faculty with disabilities who can share some of their stories with us about arranging these types of exchange programs. And the programs that they’re leading may or may not have a disability theme, depending on what their scholarly background is. However, I’ve observed that some education abroad curricula does include disability-related themes. So one example is at California State University in Northridge. One of their faculty led an exchange program called “Black Deaf Activism: Culture and Education in South Africa,” bringing together a lot of students from their campus who identify either as deaf, as Black, or both, and more. So that was really exciting to follow their journey through South Africa, again, with those different lenses. And then, of course, people with disabilities working in the international exchange field—in the international education field as advisors, administrators, and more, and that’s always something that we get really excited about at the Clearinghouse. We kind of proselytize a little bit to people with disabilities about, oh, have you thought about entering a career in international education so that we can see more disability representation and leadership within that field. A lot of students with disabilities are—and without disabilities are kind of blown away in a good way to see some of that disability representation in the kind of leadership level of that field and so that’s something that we try to encourage in some different ways that I’ll get to a little later. And then on the flip side of education abroad we also want to see disability-inclusive campus internationalization in the form of international student recruitment, so welcoming international students and scholars with disabilities to U.S. higher education, and that comprises another large segment of the resources housed at NCDE. So for those of you who advise international students and scholars on your campus or who are connected to the recruiting side to bring students with disabilities to the U.S., or bring international students to us, ESL offices and instructors. We want to work with them to make sure that they’re aware of the international students with disabilities. These are fantastic opportunities for them, too, and but they also might have some different cultural expectations related to disability. They might be used to a different type of system of accessibility and accommodations or a lack thereof. And, most recently we’ve talked to a lot of international students who are expressing an interest in connecting with other students with disabilities during their stay in the U.S., whether it’s other American students or other international students with disabilities. And so one thing that we’re excited to do in the near future is think of some ways that maybe we can help facilitate these types of connections on kind of a peer-mentor type model. Another focus of campus internationalization can be offering coursework on international disability rights. One prominent example in my mind is the University of Oregon’s “Global Perspectives on Disability” course because it’s co-taught by MIUSA’s own CEO, Susan Sygall, who is a woman with a disability, and what’s interesting is that that course is cross listed on campus with international studies, special education, and disability studies. So, you know, disability is such a cross-cutting issue. There’s really no topic or department or educational focus that doesn’t—that can’t touch upon disability, inclusion, and access. And so the “Global Perspectives on Disability” course at the U of O is one that’s been running for several years and it’s fantastic. We’re able to bring some guest presenters who are often disabled women leaders from countries around the world to share about their experiences in disability rights, disability policy, movement building, and so on. And then, one last example I’ll share, but not to say the last one, is access to foreign language learning and ESL and really ensuring that, you know, those are so vital to promoting campus internationalization and often they’re linked to these international exchange experiences, education abroad, and so on. But, sometimes we hear from people with disabilities that they were discouraged from taking a foreign language class because of assumptions about what they’re able to do. So, for example, like a person who is deaf, there might be some assumptions that they can’t participate in a foreign language class. And so, we would really promote any person with a disability to see if learning a foreign language is something that would help further their goals, personal, career wise, or otherwise. And so, I do want to hear your—all of your questions and your—not just questions but also just sharing from your experiences. But before we do that, I do want to just say a little bit about NCDE resources so that you’re aware of what we have in our library. That is to say they all touch on this crossover of disability inclusion in international exchange and include everything from tips for recruiting people with disabilities in international exchange programs, disability-specific tips for international travel. So, if your wheelchair gets broken when you’re abroad, what might you do? Or, what are some different types of accommodations that a blind student might use or someone with dyslexia might use? Best practices from various U.S. higher education institutions. And I think that’s going to really appeal to the folks who are on this webinar today. We have—just like we’ve been able to interview international exchange alumni, students who’ve come back from their experiences abroad, and others, we’ve also really relied on higher ed professionals to share their best practices with us because, really, our resource is a compendium of expertise from the field. And so I would really encourage anyone here who maybe they have a best practice to share from their own campus that they’re working on and we would love to be able to add that as a resource to be able to share with our broader community. So if that’s of interest please get in touch. We also offer sample disability accommodation forms and questionnaires, which is really handy for those out there who are wanting to start a conversation around disability access but maybe don’t know the—don’t have the vocabulary or don’t have the language. These are kind of helpful guides that can help you take those next steps. And then, finally, one thing that I am really excited to share because this is a new—relatively new initiative on our part is we’ve started hosting an access to exchange externship for—and this is a resource you can share with your students—this is for students with disabilities, recent graduates and others, who want to use their experiences to further the mission to promote disability inclusion in international exchange. So they’re tasked with coming up with some kind of either a webinar or event or a country guide, some kind of resource that can help further this mission. And so some of them have created resources for peers like prospective study abroad students with disabilities or for the folks who are working in the international education field so that they can be more cognizant of—you know, from a disabled person’s point of view what are the supports needed or what can they be doing. And then our seminar—access to exchange seminar is for people with disabilities who have not had any international exchange experiences and, you know, or maybe it’s a little intimidating to take that first step, and so our seminar is really just trying to break it down and make it feel a little bit more comfortable to ask questions and help try to just instill some confidence in future international exchange participants with disabilities. So, well, let me stop there for the time being and let me put it to all of you. What I’d like to know is, given, again, just this very—all of the different types of departments and expertise that you’re all bringing with you today what are some of your own experiences, observations, activities, around disability inclusion on your campus and in international affairs. So I’d really like to hear from you all and I wonder if anyone would like to start. FASKIANOS: Great. Great. Thank you, Ashley. This is terrific and, yes, we want to go to everybody on the call. You can click the raised hand icon on your screen to ask a question, and on an iPad or tablet click the more button to access the raised hand feature, and when I call on you, you can accept the unmute prompt. Please state your name and affiliation followed by your question. You can also write your question in the Q&A box. If you do that, please say who you are. And we do have our first written question from Pearl Robinson, who is an associate professor at Tufts University: Does the Peace Corps offer opportunities for people with disabilities? HOLBEN: Thank you for that question. Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Absolutely. The Peace Corps encourages people with disabilities to participate in—as volunteers and, indeed, we have seen so many returned Peace Corps volunteers with disabilities come back and share their experiences. I think I referred earlier to a person who was discouraged from learning a language because she’s deaf, and she often shares, she really pushed back against that, insisted she wants to learn French and one of the happy results of her advocating for herself to be able to pursue French despite being discouraged from doing so is it enabled her to be able to serve in the Peace Corps in Francophone Cameroon, which was a life-changing event for her. And, actually, I know that there is an upcoming webinar that’s going to be hosted by a Peace Corps staff on volunteers with disabilities that will feature a number of returned Peace Corps volunteers. And so if that—I think that is coming up pretty soon. So I’ll share that information with Pearl individually or unless other people are interested I can share with you, Irina. But also the Peace Corps also has opportunities for shorter-term programs for folks with unique expertise and who have a specific area of specialized focus. And so we recently interviewed someone who took part in that program—it’s called Peace Corps Response—which worked out really well for her because she has some chronic health conditions and mobility disabilities that made that format work quite well for her. But, yes, we have lots of returned Peace Corps stories on our website about people with different types of disabilities who served and it’s really fun to read their stories and just really eye-opening as well. FASKIANOS: Great. So we have another question from Deena Mansour with the Mansfield Center: We’ve appreciated using some of your resources on our State Department exchanges. Could you speak to some of the most important ways you prepared others in a cohort, a predeparture orientation to support a colleague with disabilities, given that many countries have less—far less exposure and support than we have had in the U.S.? HOLBEN: Mmm hmm. Yeah. I would say—and that’s fantastic that you’re working with—being able to implement State Department exchanges as well. We’re really excited by any time we can provide resources related to, for instance, the Global UGRAD program or the Mandela Fellowship or Fulbright, whatever it might be. And then, as for predeparture orientations, this has been a topic that we’ve explored both in terms of international students coming to the U.S., which we just kind of put—created some new resources for that. But it sounds like what you’re asking is for folks going abroad—maybe coming from the U.S. and going abroad. I think it’s just really important that people with disabilities who are preparing to go abroad are—have a chance to research a bit about the country’s disability rights—not only disability rights laws but disability culture and context. We really encourage folks to try to do outreach to a disability-led organization, if possible, and some people who’ve been able to do that it’s led to a really fruitful relationship and really enhanced their experience to be able to meet with local people with disabilities who can share kind of the real experience on the ground, what it might be like. I think a lot of people are also—maybe aren’t prepared for just the feeling of kind of being—standing out and others are unprepared for—well, just to use an example from our Intersections Abroad publication that I shared earlier, one student who studied abroad who is blind, she really thought that people would only be interested in her blindness and only have questions about her blindness, and she was really surprised that when she arrived people had wanted to know about other things about her, too. And so I think just allowing some room for all aspects of yourself there can be really beneficial. It’s something that sounds simple but people might forget. And so kind of evaluating different identities that you have, what you want to get out of the experience. But it sounds like what you’re asking about is kind of more just on-the-ground—those logistics, those environmental barriers. And you can’t foresee all of them, but I think just one thing that’s really helpful is just getting an idea of, how do people in that destination approach disability access because, if you call a hotel or something like that and you say is this going to be disability accessible, I really encourage just trying to get a little bit more specific, because they might say yes because their idea of disability access is having some burly people lift you up over some stairs, whereas that might not be at all your idea of accessibility. And so some of these things you’re not going to know until you arrive. But if you can connect with another—a person with a similar disability who has traveled abroad or someone who has gone to the place where you’re going that can really be helpful, or talking to locals with disabilities. And then our resource library, that’s one of the things that, I think—I really hope is helpful to folks planning their trips abroad is to be able to read about the experiences of other travelers and kind of the types of things unexpected that they encountered during their travels that might help other folks just get into that mindset of what might be on the horizon. FASKIANOS: There’s a question from Kwaku Obosu-Mensah at Lorain County Community College: Do students with disabilities need special insurance to travel abroad in an exchange program? HOLBEN: That’s a great—thanks for that question. Not always. Some students who have maybe chronic health conditions have been able—sometimes their study abroad program, for instance, has been able to negotiate, like, a group rate of health insurance for—for example, if it’s a group of students who are going abroad, in case there’s some additional coverage needed related to preexisting conditions or disabilities. However, we’re also seeing a best practice in the form of international exchange departments and offices budgeting for some funds to be able to provide for students with disabilities in those instances where something’s not going to be covered by. It’s kind of an extenuating circumstance, whether it’s related to getting access to health care, kind of an emergency fund, or being able to help pay for some private transportation when the local public transportation is not accessible, to use a couple of examples. So I think you’re going to have to—it’s really important to check with the insurance company and find out what their policies are around that but also to consider negotiating what they’re able to cover to be as inclusive as possible. And that’s not always going to be able to happen in that way, in which case those contingency funds are going to help supplement whatever the insurance is not able to. FASKIANOS: Great. And people can also raise their hand and ask their questions and share best practices. But I will have another question—written question—from Kimberly Pace, University of Alaska Anchorage, which goes along with Kwaku’s question, which was—you just answered about health care for students—faculty with disabilities when engaged in study abroad programs. So it’d be great if you could elaborate on that. HOLBEN: So, with health care, I guess just some additional considerations related to health includes mental health. Some folks with chronic health conditions might need to just get some—do some extra preparation—not only chronic health conditions but other types of disabilities. People with disabilities planning to go abroad will sometimes need to just take some extra steps for preparation, for example, those who are taking medications in the U.S. Certain types of ADHD medications in the U.S. are not legal in certain countries where people study abroad, and so trying to get information about what types of health care you’re able to receive abroad, what types of prescriptions you’re able to bring into the country abroad, working with your health care professionals about whether or not to adjust any medications prior to travel, and then where are you going to be able to access medical supplies in case yours get depleted or are lost or stolen or break—you know, where to go if your mobility equipment breaks. And we do have some tip sheets kind of on these different types of disability topics related to, what happens if you get into this dilemma, how can you try to, for example, keep your mobility equipment or your medications—how do you travel with those things in such a way that kind of helps mitigate some of the risks of having things break or confiscated or flagged or whatever it might be. So it’s not, like, a simple answer but it’s absolutely really important predeparture. Part of the —it’s part of the research. It’s part of the process for going abroad and, unfortunately, it typically means building in some extra time for planning to go abroad. So we always encourage students with disabilities, even if you think you might possibly go abroad at some point in your college career it’s not too early to start planning for it now and start looking into some of these questions, and some of the guides that we have on our website are helpful just for thinking through what those questions might be because, as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. And people will often think, well, I’ve got that taken care of, no problem. But they’re only considering it from a home environment perspective and not really thinking about how, well, is the host city infrastructure going to be able to support this accessibility software that I use or whatever it might be. So not just in terms of health care but other types of accommodations as well. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Can you elaborate on the difference between access and inclusion? I think it would be helpful to give those. HOLBEN: Well, I don’t think there needs to be a broad difference. But one thing that I would want to emphasize is, there’s—on one hand, we’re talking about disability inclusion and how can we make sure that—they’re really—they go hand in hand. Inclusion is how can people with disabilities access these—all of the same programs, all of the same services—really, just kind of everything that nondisabled people can access and—but I think inclusion is not quite the full picture. It’s not really enough. And so what we would say is how can we go beyond inclusion—the inclusion piece—which is just making sure can you participate to sometimes you have to kind of take the first step to get people with disabilities to see these things as belonging to them or see these—sometimes people will self-select out of things because they’ve grown up with these messages that this isn’t for them, or they have to wait until it’s a special disability-focused program or activity for them to participate. And so one message that we tell people with disabilities is to kind of think of it as an infiltration where you’re, like, find these nondisability-focused activities and if you want to be part of it then be part of it. But on the flip side, we’re also thinking a lot about reverse infiltration, which is the folks that are managing different projects and opportunities and activities sometimes you might have to go out of your way a little bit to invite in people from the disability community, meet them where they are, really make sure that they are expected, anticipated. So it’s not really just enough to say, well, we wouldn’t turn a person with a disability away so that makes us inclusive but, really, how can you be more proactive and intentional in your strategy to make sure that disability is represented. So I think that that would be one distinction. And then, furthermore, beyond just disability inclusion—are they participating—then I think another important step to look at is disability leadership, and so that’s kind of where—why I say we get really excited when people with disabilities are entering leadership positions in higher education, whether that’s working in the study abroad office or as faculty leaders and others who are taking part in these decision-making roles and, how can we create kind of a pipeline for people with disabilities to become leaders in these different areas and be that kind of next generation of leadership. So I would keep that at the forefront as well. FASKIANOS: Great. HOLBEN: And, you know— FASKIANOS: Uh-huh. HOLBEN: Oh, go ahead. FASKIANOS: Oh, I was just going to call on Kimberly Pace. She raised her hand. HOLBEN: Oh, perfect. Yes. Looking forward to hear Kimberly. FASKIANOS: From the University of Alaska Anchorage. Q: That’s brilliant. Oh, I’m just so appreciative of this forum, and thank you both so much. As a person with a physical disability it never occurred to me as a college student to ever go—even ask the question about study abroad and I—certainly, you’re blowing my mind that there are resources to allow students to do this. I teach international relations and comparative politics, and I am just beyond giddy that there—(laughter)—are options for students because that’s something that, personally, I, you know, never got to experience and never, certainly, was encouraged to do that. So I’m very excited. I just want to say thank you very much for the information. So thank you. HOLBEN: We’re right there with you, Kimberly, as far as the giddy factor. And, you know, thank you so much for sharing that experience because, actually, that is—I think that inclusive, that welcoming, encouraging messaging is so important and we kind of go into detail about that on one of our tip sheets about inclusive recruitment. But even just something as simple as a message on an opportunity that says people with disabilities encouraged to apply, you never know who that’s going to make all the difference in the world to and one prime example is our organization, Mobility International USA, might not exist if our CEO, who is a wheelchair rider, hadn’t done her Rotary exchange program in Australia, which kind of spawned this idea of what Mobility International USA should be, and what led her to participate in that Rotary exchange program was seeing just a simple ad in the newspaper that said people with disabilities encouraged to apply. And who was responsible for putting in that little line? We’re not sure. But it kind of led to this chain of events that kind of brought us to where we are here. And, you know, there are so many folks in the field in higher education who are—they don’t have all the answers and they don’t have a lot of—they might not have personal experience with disability. But I think if they can help be a champion, an ally, and be kind of someone who says, well, let’s figure this out, or let’s see what’s possible and not shut it down, I think that that’s often what has led to all of these amazing outcomes and impact stories from the folks who have shared their experiences with us on our website and then who knows how many more are out there. So, sounds simple, but it can have an important impact. FASKIANOS: So we have a written question from Mark Scheinbaum, who’s at the Florida International University: What updates or guidance do you have for students with de jure and/or de facto comfort pets that are needed for completion of usual and customary academic tasks? HOLBEN: If you can leave the questions up a little longer. Then I can— FASKIANOS: Oh, sure. Sure. Sorry. HOLBEN: That’s OK. FASKIANOS: I’ll put it back. HOLBEN: Well, I would just, first of all, make sure that you’re familiarizing yourself with the distinction between—you kind of use two different terms here. So there are comfort animals or emotional support animals, and then there are service animals, which are trained to do a specific service. Comfort animals and emotional support animals aren’t necessarily trained to perform a specific service related to a disability-related accommodation whereas a service animal is. So maybe that service is helping to detect the onset of an epileptic seizure, or the service is being able to help the person open doors or pick up items from the floor, or, of course, sight dogs for folks who are blind or visually impaired, for mobility. And so, anyway, that’s going to be a really key distinction for whether or not it’s going to be appropriate to have a service animal or an emotional support animal in a higher education setting, and especially that becomes more complicated when you’re talking about going abroad to another country where you’re also considering factors—not just the laws but also the cultural factors whether dogs are welcome in every restaurant or if it’s an animal that’s very taboo and you don’t keep them as pets, let alone travel around with them. And so all of those questions are going to come into play. We do have some tip sheets on our website that go into more detail around some preparation for bringing animals abroad, what you should know related to quarantine, vaccinations, and things like that. So search for animals on the MIUSA website to access some of those tips. FASKIANOS: Great, and we’ll send out links to that section, Ashley, after this so people can access it easier. HOLBEN: Oh, great. Yeah. FASKIANOS: So another written question from Erin Reed, and I will leave it up so you can see it— HOLBEN: Oh, thanks. FASKIANOS:—who’s the student services and admissions advisor/DSO at California State University San Marcos: What are your suggestions for a university study abroad program that is not made aware of a student’s disability prior to the student’s arrival? HOLBEN: I think my number-one suggestion would be rather than waiting for one student to participate start thinking about it now what are some ways we can build in some inclusive practices into our programming. So one thing that some programs might do is, well, maybe people aren’t disclosing their disability because we’re not giving them the opportunity to do so. So including questions in some of those post-acceptance forums that ask how can we make this program—how can we help set you up for success in this program. Might also ask specifically, including related to disability accommodations so that folks know that—I think it’s really important for prospective students or otherwise to just know that they’re being anticipated, that someone is thinking, yes, like, we’re totally expecting that at some point some students with disabilities will participate in this program. And I think that that can be—really signal to students, OK, this—we’re coming from a place that or we’re going to be interacting with folks who are anticipating me and, even if they don’t know all the answers to my questions they’re not going to shut me down. So I think that some of those types of—whether it’s just amending some of your forms or putting information on your program website, having inclusive images such as if there are images of people with apparent disabilities participating in the program, seeing themselves reflected in those images can be just as important as an inclusive written message. Let me go back to that question. Sorry. It went away again. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: If you click on the answered question. HOLBEN: I got it. Yeah. FASKIANOS: OK. And then I have two more written questions. Everybody’s sending in their questions at the end here. (Laughs.) HOLBEN: But just also, going back to Erin Reed’s question, if the program—it sounds like, we didn’t know that there was a student with a disability planning to arrive. Now we—we have this—these things that we need to figure out in the meantime. One more thing I’ll just say about how to maybe avoid that situation is working with—oh, this is so important—collaborating with the disability services office and other similar services on the campus to be able to arrange some kind of system. So a lot of institutions—for example, their study abroad offices will share a list of all of the students who are enrolled in study abroad for that upcoming semester and they’ll share it with the disability services office so that they can kind of go through and say, oh, well, we recognize—and this is all just privately on the disability services side to protect the students’ privacy—but they will kind of flag, oh, this is a student that we work with. And so what they might then do is connect with that student directly and say, hey, we learned that you’re going abroad—do you want to talk about some of the questions you might have or is there anything that we can do to support you and can we—are you comfortable with inviting those—the international advisors into this conversation so that we can just kind of put everything out in the open and we can figure out all the best ways to support the—that student. So, I would say, that’s so important that we used to at NCDE pay people to take each other to lunch from the study abroad office and the disability services office because too often we heard, oh, yeah, they’re just right across the—you know, their office is literally right over there. I can see them from our office. But we’ve never talked to them or—and we don’t really know what they do. So I think just to have it breaking some of that ice early on and not waiting for the time when there’s a student with a disability there but just kind of building that into your process, and that can also be helpful for collecting data as well. The Institute for International Education has an annual Open Door survey that provides data and statistics around who is participating in an international exchange and they’ve started including a question—some questions related to disability so that, hopefully, over time we can kind of see is disability—are people with disabilities being represented in international exchange in greater numbers, what types of disabilities do they have, and so on. So working with the disability support office is one great way to also collect that type of information too, which is going to really help the field and, hopefully, help more people with disabilities to be able to participate in international exchange. FASKIANOS: So we have a question from Andrew Moran from London Metropolitan University: In the U.K. inclusion is not just about access or being in a classroom. It is also about inclusive assessment methods. I wonder if you have any resources—if you know of any resources that suggest assessment methods that would allow neurodiverse or physically disabled students to fully engage and not be excluded. They’ve done away with exams because you can’t rely on an elevator to work to get to an exam room, let alone the barriers in the exam might pose for neurodiverse students. And he’s leading a working group on allowing students to choose, create their own assessment method to enable greater diversity and meet students’ needs but always looking for new ideas. HOLBEN: Oh, that’s really interesting. Thanks so much for sharing that, Andrew, and for sharing the example at your own institution as well. And I would love to hear other folks respond to this, too. As far as—one, again, I would really encourage you to check out Think College as a prospective resource for—especially just because you mention neurodiverse students. So Think College operates at different campuses right now—for now, I think, only in the U.S. Perhaps their network is growing beyond that as well. But it’s kind of this network of professionals who work with—to try to get students not only with intellectual disabilities but also those who are neurodiverse, including those who are on the autism spectrum. And so they are really a fantastic source of expertise for everything from inclusive education or specialized support and accommodations and pedagogy. So I think that they would be probably the ones to connect with about this question in particular. But if other folks have other ideas in response to Andrew, I’m sure we’d all appreciate it. And maybe while we’re thinking of that, we’ll check out this next one. FASKIANOS: Right. McKennah Andrews with the Mansfield Center: We have a blind participant on an upcoming international program taking place here in the U.S., and MIUSA’s resources have been so valuable. Can we touch on the topic of personal assistants? What advice or testimonies might you have regarding engaging with personal assistants during a program? HOLBEN: Yes, absolutely. So personal assistants can look like a couple—many different things, actually. You might even—since you mentioned having a blind participant, this might not be what you meant but some—for some folks who are blind they may have had some sighted guides during their exchange programs abroad. So that’s another example where a student who—or a person who is used to one type of access accommodation or assistive devices or technology in their home environment might have to look into some different ones for their host environment. So we’ve known some people who are really—have great cane skills for orientation and mobility and strong independent mobility skills in their home environment but have felt more comfortable having the program help arrange a sighted guide for them when they’re going to, perhaps, countries where—or environments that are a little more chaotic or where, for whatever reason, their usual skills might not work out. Or, again, if that person uses a service dog in—or service animal in their home environment and that wouldn’t really be feasible in the home environment then having that kind of human guide or a personal assistant might be one method that they look into. Personal assistants might also provide everyday living services—you know, feeding or using the bathroom or just getting ready throughout the day, assisting with lifting and transferring, and that’s going to—might—again, as somebody who—we’ve seen some instances where people in the U.S. who don’t use personal assistant services might opt for that when they’re going to a place where, you know, they might need to be lifted more often because the infrastructure is not as—going to be as smooth or not as accessible. And so we’ve seen different situations where sometimes they are—the personal assistant in question is someone they’ve worked with a long time in the U.S. Sometimes it might be a peer who attends their school. Sometimes it’s a parent who travels. I’ve definitely seen all kind of different types of—oh, and also a local person that’s hired in the country to provide personal assistant care. So it’s really interesting just to kind of be aware of all of the different ways that that might look and check out—again, we have a specific tip sheet about that—actually, a series related to personal assistant services. So, yes, we can talk about personal assistant services and we have kind of a suite of resources related to that so there’s a lot that can be said. So thanks for bringing that up. FASKIANOS: Terrific. We are almost out of time, and I did see that there was a raised hand from Justice Chuckwu— HOLBEN: Fantastic. Let’s hear from Justice. FASKIANOS: —disability rights, Oregon. He lowered his hand but—oh, there we go. And if you can ask it quickly and unmute yourself that would be great. HOLBEN: I think we’ve met before, Justice. Hello. HOLBEN: Oh, hi. There’s Justice. Q: Hello. HOLBEN: Hello. Q: Yeah, I think we met a couple times. Yeah. So my name is Justice and, yeah, I’m so much appreciative of this program. And I always have a simple question and the question is how do we—how do we unify orientation for international students with disabilities, given the fact that they come from different backgrounds and most times there are just maybe one or two or three in one university or one college and may not be able to really understand the environment early enough. Maybe by the time they would get to understand the environment they might be getting to the mid-semester. So my question is, is there a way to kind of unify the orientation, especially since we now have online—things could be done online to unify the orientation to make sure that students—international students with disabilities are not left behind. HOLBEN: Mmm hmm. Yes. Thank you, Justice. And, actually, it was your bringing that to light that kind of got—we started incorporating that question into some of our resources and, in fact, you helped contribute to one of our webinars on this very topic of support for international students with disabilities coming to different campuses in which you kind of described that feeling of how do I connect with other people with disabilities, especially other international students with disabilities, who might be able to share in some of these experiences so I don’t feel so alone in this. And I really—that really sparked a lot of ideas but one of which is, might there be some kind of opportunity for a student group of international students with disabilities but bringing together students from different campuses to be able to share their experiences. And so that’s something that we at the NCDE are exploring more. But as for existing resources, in addition to the webinar that Justice contributed to we also added some others related to just sharing some best practices from our—MIUSA leads an orientation for high school exchange students with disabilities who are arriving to the U.S. for a State Department-funded scholarship program and we—as part of this orientation we incorporate information about your rights as a person with disabilities while you’re in the U.S. and how to advocate for yourself if there’s something that you need but aren’t getting, how to fully participate in all of the opportunities while you’re there. So I think that those are the—some of the same messages that could be really beneficial to folks entering U.S. higher education from different parts of the world and just learning about U.S. disability culture and those steps for taking advantage of all of the resources available to you. So, yeah, you’re absolutely right, Justice. There’s more work to be done, and I think folks like you who are voicing kind of those needs—those firsthand gaps that you’ve identified is kind of one of the first steps in helping to build out some of these resources. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Well, we are out of time. In fact, we’re a little over. HOLBEN: Oh. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: So, Ashley Holben, thank you so much for doing this. We really appreciate it, and to all of you for your questions and comments. Again, we will be sending out a link to this webinar transcript as well as to the resources that Ashley mentioned. So stay tuned for that. Our next Higher Education Webinar will be on Wednesday, February 22, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time with Jeremi Suri, who will lead a conversation on teaching the history of American democracy. And just please do follow us at @CFR_Academic and visit CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for research and analysis on global issues. Ashley, again, thank you very much for doing this. We appreciate it. HOLBEN: Thank you. Thank you for—to everyone who attended for your time and thanks to CFR for getting this on the agenda. I really appreciate it also. FASKIANOS: Great. We look forward to everybody continuing to participate in this Higher Education Webinar series. Have a good rest of your day. (END)
- Higher Education Webinar: Affirmative ActionMike Hoa Nguyen, assistant professor of education, faculty affiliate at the Institute for Human Development and Social Change, and faculty affiliate at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University, leads the conversation on affirmative action. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, Vice President of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Mike Hoa Nguyen with us to discuss affirmative action. Dr. Nguyen is assistant professor of education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He’s also a faculty affiliate at NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and a faculty affiliate at NYU’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change. Additionally, Dr. Nguyen is a principal investigator of the Minority Serving Institutions Data Project. And prior to coming to NYU he was at the University of Denver. He has extensive professional experience in the federal government and has managed multiple complex, long-term intergovernmental projects and initiatives, focusing on postsecondary education and the judiciary and has published his work widely, including in Educational Researcher, The Journal of Higher Education, and The Review of Higher Education. So Mike, thanks very much for being with us today to talk about affirmative action. Could you give us an overview of where we are, the history of affirmative action, where we are now, and examples of criteria that are used by different institutions? NGUYEN: Well, hello. And thank you so much, Irina. And also thank you to the Council on Foreign Relations for having me here today. It’s a real honor. And thank you to many of you who are joining us today out of your busy schedules. I’m sure that many of you have been following the news for Harvard and UNC. And, of course, those cases were just heard at the Supreme Court about a month ago, on Halloween. And so today thank you for those questions. I’d love to be able to spend a little bit of time talking about the history of sort of what led us to this point. I also recognize that many joining us are also experts on this topic. So I really look forward to the conversation after my initial remarks. And so affirmative action, I think, as Philip Rubio has written, comes from centuries-old English legal concept of equity, right, or the administration of justice according to what is fair in a particular situation, as opposed to rigidly following a set of rules. It’s defined by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1977 as a term that is a broad—a term, in a broad sense, that encompasses any measure beyond a simple termination of discriminatory practice adopted to correct for past or present discrimination or to prevent discrimination from recurring in the future. Academics have defined affirmative action simply as something more than passive nondiscrimination, right. It means various organizations must act positively, affirmatively, and aggressively to remove all barriers, however informal or subtle, that prevent access by minorities and women to their rightful places in the employment and educational institutions of the United States. And certainly one of the earliest appearances of this term, affirmative action, in government documents came when President Kennedy, in his 1961 executive order, where he wrote that the mandate stated that government contractors, specifically those that were receiving federal dollars to, quote, take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and employees are treated during employment without regard of their race, creed, color, or national origin. Certainly President Kennedy created a committee on equal employment opportunity to make recommendations for this. And then later on President Johnson later expressed—I’m sorry—expanded on President Kennedy’s approach to take a sort of more active antiracist posture, which he signaled in a commencement speech at Howard University. In the decades following, of course, political-legal attacks have rolled back on how affirmative action can be implemented and for what purposes. So in admissions practices at U.S. colleges and universities today, really they can only consider race as one of many factors through a holistic process or holistic practices if so-called race-neutral approaches to admissions policies have fallen short in allowing for a campus to enroll a racially diverse class in order to achieve or reap the benefits of diversity, the educational benefits of diversity. Federal case law established by the courts have affirmed and reaffirmed that colleges may only consider race as one of many factors for the purposes of obtaining the educational benefits in diversity. So starting with the Bakke decision in the late 1970s, the Court limited the consideration of race in admissions and replaced the rationale for the use of race, specifically the rationale which was addressing historic and ongoing racism or systemic and racial oppression, instead in favor of the diversity rationale. So, in other words, if a college or university wishes to use race in their admissions, they can only do so with the intention of enhancing the educational benefits of all students. It may not legally use race as a part of their admissions process for the purpose of acknowledging historical or contemporary racism as barriers to equity in college access. If we fast-forward to something more recent, the two cases out of Michigan, the Grutter and Gratz case, what we saw there were really—significant part of the discussions of these two cases were really informed and conversations really about the educational benefits of diversity. That was really a key aspect of those cases. Lawsuits challenging the use of race in college admissions after those two cases now can sort of be traced to Edward Blum, a conservative activist, and his organization, Students for Fair Admission, or SFFA. So Blum has really dedicated his life to establishing what he calls a colorblind American society by filing lawsuits with the goal of dismantling laws and policies seeking to advance racial justice. This includes redistricting, voting rights, and, of course, affirmative action. So in 2000—in the 2000s, he recruited Abigail Fisher to challenge the University of Texas in their admissions program. The Court, the Supreme Court, ultimately ruled in favor of Texas in the second Fisher case—Fisher II, as we call it. And so that’s actually where we saw Ed Blum alter his tactics. In this case he established SFFA, where he then purposefully recruited Asian Americans as plaintiffs in order to sue Harvard and UNC. So the cases now at Harvard—are now certainly at the Supreme Court. But one sort of less-known case that hasn’t got a whole lot of attention, actually, was—that was sort of on the parallel track, actually originated from the U.S. Department of Justice more recently, during the Trump administration, which launched an investigation into Yale’s admissions practices, which also focus on Asian Americans. And this was around 2018, so not too long ago. And certainly Asian Americans have been engaged in affirmative action debate since the 1970s. But these lawsuits have really placed them front and center in sort of our national debate. And so I think it’s really important to also note that while empirical research demonstrates and shows that the majority of Asian Americans are actually in support of affirmative action, a very vocal minority of Asian Americans are certainly opposed to race-conscious admissions and are part of these lawsuit efforts. But interestingly enough, they’ve received a large and disproportionate share of media attention and sort of—I stress this only because I think popular press and media have done a not-so-great job at reporting on this. And their framing, I think, sometimes relies on old stereotypes, harmful stereotypes, about Asian Americans, and written in a way that starts with an assumption that all Asian Americans are opposed to affirmative action when, again, empirical research and national polls show that that’s certainly not the case, right, and much more complex than that. But anyway, so back to what I was saying earlier, in sort of the waning months of the Trump administration the Department of Justice used those investigations into Yale to file a lawsuit charging that Yale in its admissions practices discriminates against Asian Americans. This lawsuit, the DOJ lawsuit, was dropped in February of 2021 when President Biden took office. So in response to that, SFFA submitted its own lawsuit to Yale based upon similar lines of reasoning. So I think what’s—why bring this up? One, because it doesn’t get a lot of attention. But two, I think it’s a really interesting and curious example. So in the Yale case, as well as in the previous DOJ complaint, Ed Blum notes specifically that they exclude Cambodian Americans, Hmong Americans, Laotian Americans, and Vietnamese Americans from the lawsuit, and thus from his definition of what and who counts as Asian American. I think this intentional exclusion of specific Southeast Asian American groups in Yale, but including them in Harvard, is a really interesting and curious note. I’ve written in the past that, sort of at the practical level, it’s a bit—it’s not a bit—it’s a lot misleading. It’s manipulative and advances a bit of a false narrative about Asian Americans. And I think it engages in what we call sort of a racial project to overtly reclassify the Asian American racial category, relying again on old stereotypes about Asian American academic achievement. But it also sort of counters state-based racial and ethnic classifications used by the Census Bureau, used by the Department of Education, used by OMB, right. It does not consider how Southeast Asian Americans have been and are racialized, as well as how they’ve built pan-ethnic Asian American coalitions along within and with other Asian American subgroups. So the implications of this sort of intentional racialized action, I think, are threefold. First, this process, sort of trying to redefine who is Asian American and who isn’t, demonstrates that SFFA cannot effectively argue that race-conscious admissions harms Asian Americans. They wouldn’t be excluded if that was the case. Second, it illustrates that Ed Blum and his crusade for sort of race—not using race in college admissions is actually really not focused on advancing justice for Asian Americans, as he claims. And then finally, I think that this maneuver, if realized, will really disenfranchise educational access and opportunity for many Asian Americans, including Southeast Asian Americans and other communities of color. Of course, this case hasn’t received a lot of attention, given that we just heard from Harvard and UNC at the Supreme Court about a month ago. But I think it provides some really important considerations regarding the upcoming Supreme Court decision. Nonetheless the decision for Harvard and UNC, we’re all sort of on pins and needles until we hear about it in spring and summer. And I was there in Washington for it, and so what I’d actually like to do is actually share some interesting notes and items that sort of struck out to me during the oral arguments. So I think in both cases we heard the justices ask many questions regarding the twenty-five-year sunset of using race in college admissions, right, something that Justice O’Connor wrote in the Michigan case. I think the solicitor general, Solicitor General Prelogar’s response at the conclusion of the case was really insightful. She said—and I’m sort of paraphrasing here about why we—in addressing some of the questions about that twenty-five-year sunset, she basically said that society hasn’t made enough progress yet. The arc of progress is slower than what the Grutter court had imagined. And so we just suddenly don’t hit 2028—that’s twenty-five years from the decision—and then, snap, race is not used in college admissions anymore. There was also a lot of discussion regarding proxy approaches to so-called race-neutral admissions, right, yet still being able to maintain some or similar levels of racial diversity. I think what we know from a lot of empirical research out there is that there’s really no good proxy variables for race. Certainly Texas has its 10 percent plan, which really only works to a certain extent and does not actually work well for, say, private schools that draw students from across all fifty states and the territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific. And again, as the solicitor general stated, it doesn’t work well for the service academies either, for really similar reasons. I do think the line of questioning from the chief justice again related to what sounded like a carveout exemption for our U.S. military schools, our service academies. What’s really interesting, and might be of actually specific interest for the CFR community, of course, our service academies practice affirmative action and are in support of it. And this was also argued in an amicus brief written by retired generals and admirals. And they argued that race-conscious admissions is necessary to build a diverse officer corps at both the service academies as well as ROTC programs at various universities across the country, which, in their words, they say builds a more cohesive, collaborative, and effective fighting unit, especially, quote, given recent international conflicts and humanitarian crises which require our military to perform civil functions and call for heightened cultural awareness and sensitivity in religious issues. And so, to a certain extent, I think that same line of logic can also be extended to, for example, our diplomatic corps, and certainly many corporations. We also saw briefs from the field of medicine, from science and research, have all written in support of race-conscious admissions, along the same sort of pipeline issues as their companies and organizations. And they argue that their work benefits from a highly educated, diverse workforce. But what was interesting, was that there wasn’t much discussion about Asian Americans. It was only brought up sort of a handful of times, despite the fact that certainly that’s sort of the origin story of the sets of lawsuits. And perhaps—to me perhaps this is simply an indication that the case was really never about Asian Americans from the beginning. And certainly the finding from the district court shows that Asian Americans are not discriminated in this process at Harvard. And so we will all sort of see how the Court rules next year, if they uphold precedent or not, and if they do not, how narrow or how broad they will go. Justice Barrett did have an interesting question in the UNC part of the case about affinity groups and affinity housing on campus. So, for example, my undergraduate alma mater, UC Berkeley, has this for several groups. They have affinity housing for Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, women in STEM, the LGBTQ+ community, Latinx students, among many, many others, actually. So I think a possible area of concern is if they go broad, will we see a ban on these types of race-based practices on campus? Would that impact sort of thinking about recruitment efforts? So these so-called race-neutral approaches, sort of recruitment and outreach services for particular communities. Or would that impact something like HBCUs and tribal colleges, HSIs and AANAPISIs, or other MSIs? How does that all fit in, right? I think that line of questioning sort of sparked a bit of concern from folks and my colleagues. But I think, though, in conversation, we don’t think the Court has really any appetite to go that far. And I’m certainly inclined to agree. But end of the day, that line of questioning was rather curious. And so, with that, I thank you for letting me share some of my thinking and about what’s going on. And I would really love to be able to engage in conversation with all of you. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you so much. And we’d love to hear now from you all questions and comments, and if you could share how things are happening on your campuses. Please raise—click on the raised-hand icon on your screen to ask a question. If you’re on an iPad or tablet, you can click the More button to access the raised-hand feature. I’ll call on you, and then accept the unmute prompt, state your name and affiliation, followed by your question. You can also submit a written question in the Q&A box or vote for questions that have been written there. And if you do write your question, it would be great if you could write who you are. I’m going to go first to a raised hand, Morton Holbrook. And there you go. Q: I’m there, yeah. Morton Holbrook from Kentucky Wesleyan College in Kentucky. Thanks, Professor Nguyen. Sort of a two-part question here. One is, how do you reconcile apparent public support for affirmative action with the number of states, I think ten or twelve states, that have banned affirmative action? Are their legislators just out of touch with their people, or what? And the second part is, a recent article in the Washington Post about UC Berkeley’s experience, where the number of African American students simply plummeted down to about 3 percent, and at the same time that campus is still very diverse in other respects. Have you made a study of all the states that have banned affirmative action? Have they all had that same result with regard to African Americans? Or where does that stand? Thank you. NGUYEN: Thank you. Thank you for the really excellent question. I think it’s about—I think you’re right—around nine, ten or so states that have banned affirmative action. You know, I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m really just familiar with the bans that were instituted both in California and in Michigan, and those were through state referendums, right, and not necessarily legislature. So in this case, this is the people voting for it. And so I think that’s a really tough nut to crack about how do you reconcile these bans at the state level versus sort of what we see at the national level. And so I think this is sort of the big challenge that advocates for racial equity are facing in places like California. They actually tried to repeal this in California recently, in the last decade. And again, that failed. And so I think part of the issue here is there’s a whole lot of misinformation out there. I think that’s one key issue. I sort of said in my opening remarks there that, at least in some of the popular media pieces today about these cases, the way Asian Americans are sort of understood and written about is really not aligned with a lot of the rich empirical research out there that shows quite the contrary, as well as sort of historical research that shows quite the contrary. And so I think there’s a lot of public opinion being formulated as well as, again, just sort of misinformation about the topic that might be leading folks to think one way or another. To your second question about UC Berkeley, my alma mater, you’re right. After that Prop 209 ban, you saw a huge decline in undergraduate enrollment, specifically of African American students. And so Berkeley has been trying every which way to figure out a race—a so-called race-neutral approach in order to increase those numbers. And I think they are trying to—they are really trying to figure it out. And I think that’s why UC Berkeley, UCLA, other institutions submitted amicus briefs in support of Harvard, in support of UNC, because they know that there are not a lot—when you can’t use race, that’s a result that you end up with. And that’s because there are just not good proxy variables for race. SES or economic status is often talked about a lot. That again isn’t a good variable. Geography can—to a certain extent can be used. All these can sort of certainly be used in some combination. But again, they do not serve well as proxy variables. And I think that’s why we see those numbers at Berkeley. And I think that’s why Berkeley was so invested in this case and why all those campus leaders submitted amicus briefs in support of Harvard and UNC. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question or first written question from Darko Spasevski, who’s at the University of Skopje, North Macedonia: Do you think that in order to have successful affirmative actions in the higher education this process should be followed by affirmative actions in the workplace? Are the benefits—if the affirmative actions are only promoted at the level of higher education but are not at the same time continuing at the workplace? I guess it would be the opposite. Is it—you know, basically, should affirmative action be promoted in the workplace as well— NGUYEN: Yeah, I think— FASKIANOS: —once you get past the higher education? NGUYEN: Got it. Yeah, I think I understand that question. Actually, this was something that came up during this recent Supreme Court case. Again, the solicitor general was talking about specifically the briefs from the retired generals and admirals, as well as from various executives and corporations, talking about how affirmative action is so important at the university level because then it helps build a pipeline to recruit folks to work at those organizations or serve in the military, as well as that it trains all students, right, and lets them access and achieve the benefits of diversity and use that in their future employment, which research from areas of management show that that increases work productivity. It increases their bottom line, et cetera, et cetera. And so actually, in that argument, the—I think it was Justice Alito that asked, are you now arguing for this in the private sector, in corporations? And the solicitor general quickly said no, no. The context of this lawsuit is specifically or the position of the United States is specifically just focused here on higher education. And I think that certainly is relevant for this conversation today, as well as sort of my own area of expertise. But I think my colleagues in the areas of management and a lot of that work shows, I think, similar types of results that, when you have diverse workforces, when you have folks who can reap the benefits of diversity interactions, interracial interactions, then there are certainly a lot of benefits that come from that, in addition to creativity, work efficiency, so many things. And so, again, I’m not here to sort of put a position down regarding affirmative action in professional settings, only because that’s not my area of expertise. But certainly other areas of research have pointed in similar directions as what’s sort of shown in the higher-education literature. FASKIANOS: (Off mic) Renteln? And let’s see if you can unmute yourself. If you click on the unmute prompt, you should be able to ask your question. Not working? Maybe not. OK, so I will read it. So— Q: Is it working now? FASKIANOS: It is, Alison. Go ahead. Q: Thank you. I’m sorry. It’s just usually it shows me when I’m teaching. Thank you for a really interesting, incisive analysis; really enjoyed it. I wanted to ask about whether it’s realistic to be able to implement policies that are, quote, race-neutral, unquote, given that people’s surnames convey sometimes identities, ethnic and religious identities, and also activities that people participated in in professional associations. And when people have references or letters of recommendation, information about background comes out. So I’m wondering if you think that this debate really reflects a kind of polarization, a kind of symbolitics, and whether, while some worry about the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decisions, this is really something that’s more symbolic than something that could actually be implemented if the universities continue to be committed to affirmative action. NGUYEN: Really great question. Thank you so much for asking it. This was actually a big chunk of the conversation during oral arguments for both at UNC and both at Harvard, right. The justices were asking, so how do you—if you don’t—and this was sort of the whole part about when they were talking about checking the box, checking sort of your racial category during the application process. And so they asked, if you get rid of that, what happens when students write about their experiences in their personal statements or, as you said, recommenders in their letters in about that? And so this was where it got really, really—I think the lawyers had a really hard time disentangling it, because for people of color, certainly a lot of their experiences, their racialized experiences, are inextricably linked to their race and their identity. And so removing that is, at an operationalized level, pretty hard to do and pretty impossible, right. So they actually had some interesting examples, like one—and so they’re asking hypotheticals. Both lawyers—both the justices on all the various spectrum of the Court were asking sort of pointed questions. Where I think one justice asked, so can you talk about—can you talk about your family’s experiences, particularly if your ancestors were slaves in the United States? And so the lawyers—this is the lawyer for SFFA saying that would not—we cannot use that. They cannot be used in admissions, because that is linked to their race. But can you—so another justice asked, can you talk about if, you know, your family immigrated to the United States? Can you—how do you talk about that? Can you talk about that? And the lawyers said, well, that would be permissible then, because that doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to a racial group or a racial category. So again, it’s very—I think what they were trying to tease out was how do you—what do you actually—what would actually be the way to restrict that, right? And so I guess, depending on how the justices decide this case, my assumption is or my hope is, depending on whatever way they go, they’re going to—they will, one way or another, define or sort of place limits if they do end up removing the use of race. But I completely agree with you. Operationally, that’s not an easy thing to do, right? And when do you decide what fits and what doesn’t fit? And that will be the—that will be a big, big struggle I think universities will face if the courts ban the use of race in college admissions. FASKIANOS: Let me just add that Alison Dundes Renteln is a professor of political science at the University of Southern California. So I’m going to go to the next written question, from Clemente Abrokwaa at Penn State University: Do you think affirmative action should be redefined to reflect current social-demographic groups and needs? NGUYEN: Oh, that’s such a fun question, and particularly for someone who studies race and racial formation in the United States. And so I—you know, this is—this is an interesting one. I think—I think sort of the way we think about—at least folks in my profession think about race versus sort of the way—the way it’s currently accounted for in—by state-based classifications/definitions, those tend to be a little bit behind, right? That’s normal and natural. But I think what we’ve seen in the United States over time is race has—or, racial classifications and categories have changed over time and continue to evolve, right? The Census—the Census Bureau has an advisory group to help them think through this when they collect this data. And so—and so I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have a good answer for you, actually. But I think—I think that certainly, given the fact that racial categories do shift and change over time and the meaning ascribed to them, we certainly need to take a—if we continue using approaches for—race- or ethnic-based approaches in college admissions, that’s something that absolutely needs to be considered, right? But at the same time, it also means, as we think about sort of the future and what does that look like—and maybe, for example, here we’re talking about folks who are—who identify as mixed race. But at the same time, we need to look historically, too, right? So we don’t want to—the historical definitions and the way people would self-identify historically. And so I think—I think, certainly, the answer, then, would be—would be both, right? But what a fun question. Thanks for that question. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the moderator prerogative here and ask you about: How does affirmative action in higher education in the United States relate to, you know, relations abroad? NGUYEN: Yeah. Well— FASKIANOS: Have you looked at that connection? NGUYEN: Sure. I think—I think that—I think that’s really, really interesting. So something that we wrote in our amicus brief particularly regarding—it was sort of in response to SFFA’s brief and their claim, which was about sort of why Asian Americans here were so exceptional in their—in their academic achievements. I think that’s a—tends to be a big stereotype, model minority stereotype. That is how Asian Americans are racialized. So one thing that we sort of wrote in our brief was this actually is really connected to a certain extent, right—for some Asian American groups in the United States, that’s linked to U.S. foreign policy and U.S. immigration policy about who from Asia is allowed to immigrate to the United States, what their sort of educational background and requirements are. And so I think when we think about the arguments being made in this lawsuit and the way Asian Americans are discussed, certainly one key aspect there is certainly connected to historic U.S. foreign policy, particularly around—as well as immigration policy, particularly around the 1965 Immigration Act. So certainly they are connected and they’re linked. And something that we—that I wish more people could—more people would read our brief, I guess, and get a good understanding of, sort of to add to the complexity of this lawsuit. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go back to Morton Holbrook. Q: Yes. Still here at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Speaking of amicus briefs, what do you think of the Catholic college brief from Georgetown University? Here we have a Court that’s been very partial towards religious beliefs, and they’re arguing that their religious beliefs requires them to seek diversity in college admissions. How do you think they’ll fare in that argument? NGUYEN: Yeah. This was also brought up in—during oral arguments. I can’t remember if it was during the UNC part or the Harvard part. And I’ll be completely honest with you, I haven’t read that brief yet. There’s just so many and I wasn’t able to read them all. But this was a really interesting—really interesting point that was sort of raised in the courts. And I don’t—I don’t—I don’t have a good answer for you, to be completely honest. I’m not sure how they’re going to, particularly given that these—that this Court seems to be very much in favor of religious liberty, right, how they would account for that amicus brief from the Catholic institutions. And so that will be an interesting one to watch and to see—to see how it’s framed, and certainly it would be interesting if they played an outsized role in the justices’ decision-making here. But great question. Great point to raise and something I’ll add to my reading list for this weekend. FASKIANOS: So Alison Renteln came back with a question following on mine: Why are numerical quotas acceptable in other countries like India but not in the United States? NGUYEN: Yeah. Great, great question there. You know, also in other places like in Brazil. And so we, in fact, used to use numerical quotas before the Bakke decision. It was the Bakke decision, University of California v. Bakke, that eliminated the use of racial quotas, also eliminated the use of what I said earlier about sort of the rationales for why we can practice race-conscious admissions, which was it cannot be used to address historic racism or ongoing racism. In fact, the only rationale for why we can use affirmative action today as a—as a factor of many factors, is in order to—for universities to build campus environments—diverse campus environments of which there are benefits to diversity, the educational benefits of diversity that flows for all students. And so, yeah, it was the—it was the Supreme Court in the late 1970s that restricted the use of quotas among many other—many other rationales for the practice of race-conscious admissions. Thank you for that question. FASKIANOS: Great. And I’m going to go to next to raised hand from Emily Drew. Q: Great. Thank you. I’m listening in from Oregon, where I’m a sociologist. Thank you for all of these smart comments. My question is a little bit thinking out loud. What do you think about—it feels like there are some perils and dangers, but I’m hoping you’ll reframe that for me, of some racialized groups like indigenous people saying, well, we’re not a race anyway—we’re tribes, we’re nations—so that they’re not subject to the ban on race-conscious practices, which, it’s true, they’re a tribe. They’re also a racialized group. And so I’m struggling with groups kind of finding a political way around the ban or the potential ban that’s coming, but then where does that leave us in terms of, you know, each group, like, take care of your own kind of thing? Can you just react a little bit to that? NGUYEN: Yeah. Thanks for that really wonderful question. Fascinating point about, yeah, the way to say: We’re not a racial group. We’re sovereign nations or sovereign tribes. I think what we’re going to see, depending on how the courts go, are folks trying—schools potentially trying a whole host of different approaches to increase diversity on their campuses if they’re not allowed to use some of these racial categories like they’ve been doing already, in a holistic approach. And so, yeah, that might be a fascinating way for indigenous communities to advance forward. I will say, though, there was one point, again, in the—during oral arguments where they started talking about sort of generational connections to racial categories. And so they’re saying if it’s my grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents, right, so sort of talking almost about, like—at least the way I interpreted it, as sort of thinking about connecting one to a race via blood quantum. And so when does that—when does that expire, right? And so is it—is it—if you’re one-sixteenth Native American, is that—does that count? So there was a short line of questioning about that, and I think the—I think the lawyer tried to draw a line in the sand about, like, at what point do you not go—what point does it count and when does it not count. And I think that’s actually a bit of a misstep, primarily because that should be determined by the sovereign nation, by the tribe, about who gets to identify as that—as a member of that nation or that tribe and how they—I think—you know, I think, talking to indigenous scholars, they would say it’s about how you engage in and how you live in it, rather than—rather than if it’s just a percentage. So, again, those will be the tensions, I think, that will—that already exist, I should say, regardless of the Court decision. But a fascinating point about states sort of exercising indigenous law there to see if that would be a way to counter that. Certainly, I should—I should have said at the top of this I’m not trained as a lawyer. And so I have no idea how that would be sort of litigated out, but certainly I imagine all different entities will find ways to move through this without—in various legal fashions. And I was talking to a colleague earlier today about this and he said something about at the end of the day this might be something that, if Congress decided to take up, they may—this would be an opportunity for Congress to take up, to maybe develop a narrow path for institutions. But certainly it’s—the courts seem to be the favored way for us to talk about affirmative action. FASKIANOS: There’s a written question from John Francis, who is a research professor of political science at the University of Utah: If the Court were to strike down affirmative action, would state universities give much more attention to geographic recruitment within their respective states and encourage private foundations to raise scholarship funds to support students of color who live in those areas? NGUYEN: Great, great question there. And I think that would be one of many things that universities are doing. We’re seeing schools where the states have banned affirmative action do things like this, in Michigan and certainly in California. But to a certain extent, it actually doesn’t work—I guess in California’s context—that well. I think, if I’m not mistaken, the head of admissions for UC Berkeley said in one of many panels—he’s wonderful, by the way—on one of many panels, like, that doesn’t work very well in the California context because only so many schools have sort of that large concentration of African American students and for them to sort of go there and recruit out of that. So it’s not a—the sort of geographic distribution is not so easy and clean cut as—I think as one would normally perceive. And so it actually develops a big, big challenge for state institutions, particularly state flagship institutions, in particular geographic contexts. Now, I don’t know if that’s the case, say, in other parts of the country. But certainly within the UC system, that seems to be a prevailing argument. And I think more than ever now, everyone has been looking to the UC system for insight on what they—on how to approach this if the courts decide next year to ban the use of race. I should also admit that—or, not admit, but proudly declare that I’m a product of the UC system. All of my postsecondary education is from those schools. And so I know that this has been a constant and ongoing conversation within the UC system, and I imagine that will be the case for schools both public and private across the country. But I think part of that calculation then requires institutions to think about not just from private donors, but really from state legislatures as well as the institutions themselves have to really think about how they want to dedicate resources to achieving diversity if they don’t—if they’re unable to use race. I think a tremendous amount of resources. So, to a certain extent, it’s going to make institutions put their money where their mouth is. And so we’ll see if that—this will all be interesting areas to investigate, depending on how the courts decide come next year. FASKIANOS: There’s a raised hand or there was a raised hand from Jeff Goldsmith. I don’t know if you still have a question. Q: Yeah. So I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I might want to pose this question, but I was struck by—sorry, this is Jeff Goldsmith from Columbia University. I was struck by the line of questioning that you mentioned from Justice Barrett about affinity housing and your thoughts about how narrow or far-reaching a decision striking down affirmative action might be. And I guess it seems like there is the potential for at least some gray area. And you know, we run things like summer research programs that are intended to bolster diversity. There are in some cases—you just sort of mentioned the scholarship opportunities focused on increasing the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds. And I guess I’m just sort of curious if you have any speculation about how narrow or far-reaching a decision might be. NGUYEN: Thanks for that question. Yeah. So I think this was—we—prior to the—to oral arguments, people had sort of talked about this a little bit. Would this be consequential? And I—in fact, the day before—the day before oral arguments, I was on a different panel and I sort of brought this up. And actually, a federal judge in the audience came up to me afterwards and said, you know, I don’t think the Court’s got a lot of appetite for that. And I said, hey, I completely agree with you, but certainly, you know, we’ve—in recent times we’ve seen the Court do more interesting things, I guess, if you’ll—if I can use a euphemism. And so—and so, it almost feels like everything’s on the table, right? But I think, generally speaking, I’m inclined to agree that if the courts strike down race-conscious admissions, they will do it in a very narrow and highly-tailored way. That was my feeling going in. That was my feeling on October 30, right? Then, on Halloween—October 31—while listening to the—to the oral arguments, you had that very short exchange between Justice Barrett, specifically during the UNC case, ask about affinity groups and affinity housing, and it felt like it sort of came out of left field. And not—and so I think that raised some curiosity for all of us about what—about why that was a line of questioning. But nonetheless, I think at least my—I’ve never been a gambling person, but if I were I would say that if they do strike it down that I think the justices wholesale don’t—I don’t think they would have a large appetite to do something so broad and sweeping like that. At least that’s my hope, if that’s the direction we’re moving in. But I guess that’s why I said earlier that we’re sort of all on pins and needles about that. And if that is struck down, then I think that’s got a lot of consequences for scholarships, recruitment programs, summer bridge programs, potentially minority-serving institutions, and all of the above. So, yeah, I—again, it seems like that’s a big reshaping of postsecondary education, not just in admissions but sort of the way they operate overall. And I don’t know if that would happen so quickly overnight like that. But that, at least, is my hope. FASKIANOS: (Off mic.) There you go. Q: (Laughs.) Thank you so much for your talk. Clemente Abrokwaa from Penn State University. And my question is, right now there is a push for diversity, equity, and inclusion in many areas. How is that different from affirmative action? NGUYEN: Well, great question. And actually, that’s a really difficult one for me to answer only because I think if we were to go and ask ten people on the street what did we mean by diversity, equity, and inclusion, everyone would give you sort of a very different and potentially narrow or a very broad definition of what it means, right? But I think with respect to affirmative action, particularly in a higher-education context, it is specifically about college admissions, specifically about admissions and how do you review college admissions. And in this case here, there is a very narrow way in which it can—it can be used for race—in this case for race, that it’s got to be narrowly tailored, that it can only be a factor among a factor in a broad holistic approach, that you can’t use quotas, that it can’t be based on rectifying previous or historical racism, and that the only utility for it is that it is used to create learning environments where there are educational benefits that flow from diversity and the interactions of diversity. Versus, I think, broader conversations about DEI, while of course centered on admissions, right, which is sort of one of many dimensions in which you achieve DEI, right? We like to think that—and I’m going to be sort of citing a scholar, Sylvia Hurtado, out of UCLA, who argues that, admissions help contribute to one dimension, which is the composition of a university, the sort of just overall demographics and numbers of that university. But there are many other dimensions that are important in order to create learning environments in which we can achieve DEI-related issues. That means that we have to look at the institution and the way it’s acted historically and contemporarily. We have to look at behavioral interactions between people on a university. There are psychological dimensions, among many others. And so that’s how I think about it. I think that’s how at least my area of scholarship and in our academic discipline we think about it and for folks who study education think about it. And so hopefully that answers your question. And, yeah, hopefully that answers your question. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question from Alison Renteln: What policies appear to be the best practices to increase diversity at universities, including disability? And what are the best practices from other countries? NGUYEN: Oh, wow, that’s a really good question. So we—you know, I think—I think a lot of other countries use quotas. Brazil might be sort of the example that most folks think about when they think about the way affirmative action’s practiced abroad. And certainly that’s not something that we can do here in the United States. So that’s—that—really, really important consideration. Sort of other practices that I think that are—that are not sort of the ones that are narrowly tailored by the courts are what I said earlier about sort of what the UC system has to really do and has to really grapple with, right, are using every sort of—everything that they can think of under the sun to go out and try to do outreach and recruit and build those pipelines throughout the entire education system. There’s been some work by some wonderful folks in our field—Dominique Baker, Mike Bastedo—who looked at even sort of just a random sampling, if you were able to do a lottery system, and that has actually found that that doesn’t actually increase diversity either, and so—racial diversity either. And so I think that’s—so, again, this all points to how crucial affirmative action is in being able to use race in order to achieve compositional diversity on a college campus, and that other proxy variables just don’t even come close to being able to help estimate that. And so, yeah, that’s—I should also note that really, we’re only talking about a dozen or so schools. Oh, I’m sorry, more than a dozen, but a handful of schools that this is really a big issue for. Most schools in the United States don’t necessarily—are not at this level of selectivity where it becomes a big issue of concern for the national public. Nearly half of all of our college-going students are at community college, which tend to be open-access institutions. And so something also to keep in mind when we talk about affirmative action. FASKIANOS: Thanks. We only have a few minutes left. Can you talk a little bit more about the work of NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools? NGUYEN: Yeah. So I’m a faculty affiliate there, and maybe I’ll preface by saying I’m new to NYU. I just came here from the University of Denver, and so I’m still learning about every wonderful thing that Metro Center is doing. It’s led by a wonderful faculty member here named Fabienne Doucet and really focused on sort of a handful of pillars—certainly research on education, but also a real big tie for communities. So real direct engagement with schools, school systems in order to advance justice in those schools. And so they have a lot of contracts with school districts and public entities, as well as nonprofit groups that come in and work as an incubator there on a host of issues. And so I think the work there is really exciting and really interesting. It tends to be—and I should say also very expansive. So the whole sort of K-12 system, as well as postsecondary. And I think that’s the role that I’m looking to play there, is to help contribute to and expand their work in the postsecondary education space. FASKIANOS: Great. And maybe a few words about your other—you have many, many hats. NGUYEN: Oh. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: NYU’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change. NGUYEN: Yeah. They do some really wonderful, interesting work. And it’s really, actually, a center and a space for faculty to come in and run a lot of their research projects, including my own, which is the MSI Data Project, where we are looking at all the various different types of minority-serving institutions in the United States, how they change over time, and how the federal government thinks about them and accounts for them, as well as how do the schools themselves think about them, all with the goal here in order to work with students of colors and give them access and opportunity. I should say, depending on how you count them, MSIs enroll a huge and significant proportion of all students of color, almost half, in the country, despite making up such a small percentage, about 20 percent, of all college and universities. And so this is—certainly when we talk about affirmative action, we—I think a lot of folks center it around racial justice or social justice. I think sort of the other side of the same coin here are schools like minority-serving institutions which enroll and provide access to and graduate a really significant proportion and number of students of color and certainly an area that we need to bring a lot more attention to when we talk about issues of race and education. FASKIANOS: OK, I’m going to take one—try to sneak in one last question from John Francis, who’s raised his hand. You get the last one, John. Q: OK, can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. Q: Oh, that’s great. So my question is—has a certain irony to it, but there’s been a great deal of discussion of late that men are not succeeding in college, but that women are, and that certainly should be encouraged, but also there should be ways to find perhaps even changing when people start out in elementary school how that may be shifted to help men later on. And in this discussion, when we’re looking at that issue and it’s gaining some latitude, some strength, should we think about that as a possible consideration that universities should have greater latitude in making decisions to reflect the current set of demographic issues, be it race or gender or others? Has this argument come to play any kind of role? NGUYEN: Great question and a good last one, and if I can be completely honest, not an area that I’m—gender-based issues are not an area that I’ve done a whole lot of work in, if really any work, but I will attempt to answer your question as best as I can here, which is, I think—and sort of connected to sort of the larger conversation and question that we had that someone posed earlier about sort of the complexity and changing nature of racial and ethnic categories and what does that mean, and how do universities address that? And I think this is again where it requires universities to have some flexibility and nimbleness and autonomy to be able to address a lot of these issues, including what you’re talking about, John, depending on the context and the times in which we are in. You know, certainly one big area also connected to—for men in postsecondary education is sort of the huge gap we see for men of color from particular groups, and really we see foundations, we see the Obama administration really play—invest in this work. So, John, from what it sounds like, it sounds like I agree with you here about—that universities need flexibility and autonomy to be able to address these issues. Now, that may—at the same time, we don’t want to dismiss the fact that the experiences of women in postsecondary education—while certainly we see numbers increasing in enrollment in a lot of aspects, in certain disciplines we see a sharp decline; we see—in STEM and engineering fields, in the way those disciplines may be organized to sort of push out women. And so I think, again, this is why it requires some nimbleness and some autonomy from the universities to be able to design approaches to support students of different types of diversity on their campuses, in particular areas, disciplines, and majors. And so I think that’s the—I think that’s the challenge, is that we need to be a lot more intentional and think more precisely and run our analyses in ways that make sense for particular intersectional groups on campus and in the areas of which they’re studying. So yeah, I think that’s the—one of the big challenges that universities are facing today and certainly depending on how the courts rule, we’ll see if that ends up restricting autonomy and removing tools or allowing those tools to remain for various types of targeted interventions for various minoritized groups. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Well, Mike Nguyen, thank you very much for this terrific hour and to all of you for your questions and comments. This is really insightful and we appreciate it. Welcome to New York, Mike, your first New York—holidays in New York. So we will be resuming the series in January and we will be sending out also the lineup for our winter/spring semester of the Academic Webinar series, which is really designed for students, later this month. We do wish you all luck with administering finals this week and grading them and all those papers; I don’t envy you all. We have different deadlines under—at the Council that we’re working on right now, so it will be a busy month, but we hope that everybody enjoys the holidays. We will resume in January, in the new year, and I encourage you all to follow us at @CFR_Academic on Twitter. Visit CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for research and analysis on global issues. Again, thanks, Mike, for this, and to all of you. NGUYEN: Thank you so much for having me. Really an honor. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Take care, everybody. (END)
- The Future of American Education: It’s Not All About STEMEducation in science, technology, engineering, and math is critical, but the United States needs a balanced approach in building the workforce of the future.
- Higher Education Webinar: Navigating Digital EquityMordecai Ian Brownlee, president of the Community College of Aurora, will lead the conversation on navigating the digital equity gap in higher education. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/academic. CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Mordecai Ian Brownlee with us today to talk about the digital equity gap in higher education. Dr. Brownlee is president of the Community College of Aurora in Colorado. He also teaches for Lamar University in the College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Brownlee publishes frequently and serves as a columnist for EdSurge. He has been featured on a number of national platforms including by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine as a new school leader representing the next generation of college presidents, and he was most recently appointed to serve on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges. So, Dr. Brownlee, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. I thought we could begin by having you define digital equity and give us an overview of the digital equity gap in higher education, and I know you are going to share a presentation with us so we look forward to seeing that on screen. BROWNLEE: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the opportunity to the Council on Foreign Relations. Just thank you all so much. And to answer that question as we talk about digital equity, it’s the assurance of ensuring that all have access to the information technology available and to have the capacity to engage in society and productive citizenship. And so we’ll talk about that and let me just start sharing the screen and we’ll jump right into it. All right. Here we go. So, once again, thank you all for the opportunity, again, to the Council of Foreign Relations for this opportunity to talk about navigating digital equity. Bringing greetings on behalf of the Community College of Aurora here in Aurora, Colorado. And let’s just jump right into it. You know, as we talk about defining this work, how to navigate this work, we have to first understand the work, and to understand digital equity we must first understand the digital divide. And so, you know, as we talked about the digital divide at the beginning of the pandemic it, certainly, was dealing with the voice and mindset, the texture and tone, of accessibility and being able to engage in learning throughout the pandemic and, first of all, I would say as educators it’s so critical that even as we are, quote/unquote, “coming out of the pandemic” that we still acknowledge part of the challenges that are happening across the country and across the world in regards to accessibility—equitable accessibility to information technology, to the tools, and to have the capacity to not only learn but, certainly, engage in the economy and society. So as we talk about digital equity, we must understand the digital divide and so let’s kind of define that. One of my favorite definitions for the digital divide defined comes from the National League of Cities and they say the digital divide is the gap between individuals who have access to computers, high-speed internet, and the skills to use them, and those who do not. There’s two critical components as we talk about digital equity that I want to call out with the digital divide definition here. One is access. The other is skill. Access and skill. So as we think about equity and just think about how do we level the playing field, how do we close the gap on accessibility and skill attainment to engage. And it’s not just being able to access and that’s the other—I think the complexity here as we think about the term equity because just because I provide you the computer, right—and we found this during the pandemic—just because I provide you the computer do you even have broadband access? And if you have broadband access do you have dependable sustainable broadband access? And then if you have sustainable broadband access, are you skilled to not only learn but and engage through this instrument and tool, and that in itself is where we have found there to be challenges as we think throughout the pandemic and, certainly, beyond the pandemic on what we must do to close the gap for equity and the digital divide. So digital divide provides that access, skill. Equity will then take us deeper into this work. Here are key factors I want to call out in regards to how we must eradicate or address these challenges, these factors, in order to close the gap on the digital divide. Number one, what we have seen through research—and digitalresponsibility.org has done a great job of calling this out—number one, age-related issues as we think about the various generations that are engaged in society and still present in society. We have digital natives. I consider myself to be a digital native as a millennial. But this is very different than previous generations that may not have had the proper training and skill and their jobs do not have them engaging, utilizing these tools and instruments on a regular basis and so that in itself has created some challenges. And, again, there is, certainly, all those that are outliers and those among the generations that have been able to engage in these instruments and tools. However, it is truly a fact through research that age-related issues have been a part of this challenge, more specifically, speaking to our older population. Socioeconomic factors—have to talk about it. I think about it, especially in the higher education space. Our tribal institutions is where I’ve heard throughout the pandemic some of our most severe challenges that have been experienced in regards to the digital divide. One of the stories that I heard that just breaks my heart—I remember the first time I heard it, it truly had me in tears—we were at the height of the pandemic at this point and what we were learning is in one particular tribal community in order for those students to complete—these are young K-12 students—in order for them to complete their assignments they had elders and community members of that tribe that would walk the students up to the highest point on the mountain within that particular tribal territory just to be able to pick up an internet signal, and they were able to do this when there was not as much traffic on that internet broadband access—that grid, if you will. And so those students were having to do their work—their homework—between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. in the morning. Very interesting reality—unfortunate reality. We, certainly, have to come up with the solutions to addressing this. This in itself is part of that digital divide conversation. Geographic causes—it depends on where you are in the country. I remember at one point in time I was teaching and served the University of Charleston out of Charleston, West Virginia, and for those that are familiar with that part of the country in the Appalachia, I would have my students that were having to use their own cell phones in order to complete their assignments and upload their assignments. They did not have either, in some cases, the actual tools or accessibility, would have to drive in to more populated spaces to pick up a signal. This was impacting their learning experience. This in itself is all a part of that digital divide. Last, certainly, not least, racial, culture, language. All of this plays a role and more in that skill set component along with accessibility component and how are we going to as educators, as key stakeholders within our community, leaders, be a part of the solution to close that divide. Age-related issues, socioeconomic factors, geographic causes, racial, cultural, and language. Again, digitalresponsibility.org is the source on that there. Step two, to navigate digital equity we must understand digital equity, and so now we’re going to go and delve into what does it mean—what does digital equity mean. So I’m taking my definition, again, from the National League of Cities. Digital equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. This is huge. So, again, as you heard me talk about the digital divide just moments ago, it’s the component of accessibility and skill. That skill is then where we get into productive citizenship through society, democracy, and economy, and so now we’re talking about how does this tool, this instrument—it’s much more than just accessibility. Now how do I engage? How am I advancing my family, my economic—social economic realities through this instrument and tool? The definition goes on to say—again, by the National League of Cities—digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. Case in point, life. As we think about all aspects of life from employment to social participation—as we think social media engagement, employment, we all understand what that means; lifelong learning, certainly as educators we have to think about that component—and then accessibility to the tools that we need, I think about my own child who this past weekend had to reach out for virtual assistance from medical care for an earache that he was having. My ability to have the skill set and accessibility to reach out, obtain those resources for my family, and engage through an electronic means to fulfill what my needs were are all a part of this equity. Life in itself should be able to remain whole in what I produce and how it is able to produce within me, and that is in itself digital equity. So step three, let’s discuss how to navigate digital equity in higher education and, again, hello to all of our educators that are on the call today. So here’s some tips that I want to leave for you on today just to think about, and I look forward to our conversation that we’re about to have here in a moment. Number one, as educators—and we’re talking about navigating digital equity—it is so important that we understand who we’re serving. I say that because, unfortunately, what can happen is especially as educators and we think about the economy, the disruptions that we’re experiencing in the marketplace right now, we’ll sometimes pursue who we want, not necessarily who we have, and that’s unfortunate. As we think about the respective institutional missions and the spaces in which we serve, we have to be mission centered and embrace who it is that we’re serving because we owe it to those students who are pursuing their academic endeavors and their professional endeavors through our respective institutions to totally be served. We must understand their realities. One of the conversations we have here at the Community College of Aurora is the conversation about you don’t know who is actually sitting, respectively, in that seat in that classroom and what they had to overcome in order to sit in that seat that particular day. Do we know how many bus routes they had to take? Do we understand the challenges that they were having with their children? Do we know are they now leaving their second job that they’ve worked for the past twenty-four hours to now sit in your classroom? So we have to understand, be aware, and approach that engagement with a sense of grace. I think that’s a word that we, perhaps, haven’t necessarily embraced in the academy in the way in which we have—should have, but now more than ever we have to. Secondly, create systems that level the learning engagement field. So it’s this idea of privilege—this thought of privilege—and, perhaps, what we assumed that everyone had access to and what everyone had the ability to engage with that they don’t necessarily have, and if they do have accessibility to it do we have a true understanding of what all they have to do to have that level of engagement and accessibility? Again, case in point, bus routes. Think about what’s happening around our country. There has been a reduction from a transportation standpoint financially, and many of the routes and the transportation services that have been provided—some of this due to disruption, others due to areas in which there have had to be a funneling of tax dollars and resources in other spaces and places in our communities. Long story short, the reality is, is that in many communities the bus routes have had to be reduced, which means that individuals are either having to walk or find ways to public accessibility to some of these resources in terms of broadband access and computer access. So then as we’re teaching and we’re instructing and we’re providing services, we have to think about how can we level the playing field and remove barriers? Does it have to be performed—does that learning outcome have to come in the form of computer access and broadband accessibility? And maybe it does, so this takes us to point number three. Let’s promote community resources to close the digital divide. I think that laser focus on how we’re going to close that divide creates this space for equity, and so, perhaps, it’s through libraries. There’s one organization out of North Carolina in some of their rural spaces they have now through grant funds created different spaces in their rural communities for those in more rural spaces to gain access to a computer lab and the grants are sustaining that accessibility through computer labs in those rural spaces. Amazing resource. There’s many others and examples that we can share around the country. So with that said, let’s promote these community resources. Sometimes it’s a library. Sometimes it’s a grant-funded opportunity. Sometimes it’s a local nonprofit. So let’s talk about how we can be creative in our respective communities to close the gap there. Fourth, adjust learning experiences to be more inclusive. Not only do we need to create the systems to level the playing field but we must then adjust the learning experiences to be more inclusive to create learning spaces and engagement spaces for all, going back to not only accessibility but skill. Last, certainly not least, providing institutional resources to close the digital divide. What I mean by this is, is that, in closing, due to—through the pandemic and many of our institutions received the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds—the HEERF funds. Those HEERF funds were utilized in many different ways. In many cases, we were able to do laptop loan programs. In some spaces they were even doing hotspot loan programs. And so now that we are coming out of the pandemic what does it look like to sustain these resources, OK, because now that we provide these resources how do we sustain them? How do we ensure that we’re having long-term engagements? One of the things that I want and I ask from my educators, especially administrators, to look at: How do we close this—(inaudible)—without placing the costs on the backs of our students? They already have enough going on. We don’t need to just move the cost of something on to their tuition and fees. How can we be even more creative with the engagements and enrollments of our students to being laser focused on what we’re doing to close, again, many of those factors and gaps that were highlighted earlier? So grateful for the opportunity. Have a website. Would love to engage with you all more. I know we’re getting ready to go into conversation. But itsdrmordecai.com and, again, thank you all so much for the opportunity. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you so much for that overview. So we’re going to go to all of you for your questions now. You can click the raised hand icon on your screen to ask a question, and on an iPad or a tablet click the more button to access the raised hand feature. When you’re called upon accept the unmute prompt and please state your name and affiliation followed by a question. You can also submit a written question by the Q&A icon and I will read out the question, and if you do write your question please include your affiliation just to give us a sense of where you’re coming from. And there are no questions as of yet but I know that will change, or else you were so thorough that nobody has questions. (Laughs.) So do you see now with the pandemic experience that there will be continued—I’m going to ask the first question—you know, that this has opened up the space now for deeper understanding of the digital divide and bringing the resources to bear? Or now that we’re kind of post-pandemic or whatever this is people have forgotten about it and are moving on? BROWNLEE: Thank you so much for the question, my friend. I think that it’s twofold. There’s two sides of this coin, right. So there’s the one side of the coin where the awareness now is so much deeper and richer than it ever has been because of the amount of resources and what it took to sustain since 2020 those resources that were being provided to the students in the community. So now there’s many that have learned and they’re now having those conversations about how to sustain the resources because, as we all know, while there’s been an extension of HEERF funds through the Department of Education, that day is coming to an end here pretty soon and so we have to talk about sustainability. The other side of that coin is, unfortunately, there are those that acknowledge what the realities were but their agenda is more on how do we move past it, not necessarily sustain what we were providing. That’s part of the issue for some that we have to address because we don’t just move on from hardship, right. That hardship is real and we have to still maintain a laser focus on how we’re going to close the digital divide, especially in the academic spaces, but also understanding our responsibility as not only educators but community leaders, stakeholders within our community, to be a part of the solutions and the expansions on equitable access and resources being made available. And so I think with both sides of those coins we’re seeing two different realities. But I think that there’s also a need now more than ever to maintain the senses of urgency around the haves and have nots and what we’re going to do to be a part of the solution to ensure that we’re raising the level of accessibility and skill for all within our communities. FASKIANOS: I noted in your presentation you talked about knowing who your students are. So what advice do you have for higher education educators and leaders who are trying to navigate the digital divide in their classroom and to get to know—to figure out where their students are coming from and what their needs may be? BROWNLEE: So, as we all know, especially in the IR space, right, there’s different tools, resources, that we can use to survey our students. There’s different splash pages, if you will, that we can utilize in terms of the enrollment processes or the readvising processes, or even think of some of our learning management tools that we can engage with students to determine what their needs truly are. I think that it’s important that we create tools and instruments that will have high engagement rates. Sometimes those have to be incentivized. But we have to think about outside of our normal student leader responses how we’re capturing the voice of all of our students. And so that’s those that would not typically provide response, and as we think about the digital divide we have to acknowledge that that tool, that instrument, can’t just be electronic. What are we going to do to have paper resources or maybe through phone conversations, outreach, being able to have, certainly, the walk around conversations around our respective campuses and the universities. And so we need to have those conversations to make sure that we’re capturing the voice of all of our students, I think, is in the true spirit of continued improvement. We have to understand who we serve and then acknowledge, through the development of systems and the recalibration of our student experiences, are the voice of these students. FASKIANOS: Right. And in terms of the skills, because community colleges are so focused on developing the skills, what specifically are you doing at Aurora or are you seeing in the community college space to help students develop those skills that they need to navigate digitally? BROWNLEE: Absolutely. One of the things I’ll talk about—and those that may not be aware and I don’t know who all has visited Denver—but the history of Aurora—Aurora is the most diverse community—city—in the state of Colorado. I call that out because immigrants—it has a strong—there’s a strong population in this community and so part of our young thirty-nine years of existence in this community has been providing English second language courses. We’re noticing that especially our immigrant families and communities that are seeking social and economic mobility, highly skilled from where they come from but now we must create learning opportunities to close that gap, not only through language but through accessibility in this American market. And so through our community ESL programs we’ve been able to educate upwards of two thousand students a year and walk them through the various levels of learning and engagement with the English language, and then at some point in that process—learning process—we then engage and begin the computer engagement in utilizing the English language in their native language and beginning to close that gap. So I think that that work in itself is a part of that digital equity that must be created—how do you create the foundation to build upon to then advance the engagement. And there’s been some other great examples that I’ve seen around the country in doing that work, a lot of grant programs that I’ve seen in respective communities. You heard me talk about what’s happening out there in the Carolinas. But I think about what’s also happening over in California. California has been a great state that’s been able to do some work about working and identifying through heat maps and institutional resource—research and resources and community resources, looking at demographics, identifying low socioeconomic spaces, and putting concentrated efforts in those particular communities to increase the level of engagement, accessibility, and skill, and it’s critical and key. FASKIANOS: Great. We have a question from Gloria Ayee. So if you can unmute yourself and state your affiliation. Q: Hello. Thank you so much for sharing this important work that you’re doing. I am Gloria Ayee and I am a lecturer and senior research fellow at Harvard University, and my question is about the connection between the digital divide and also how it mirrors to current inequities that we see in the educational system in general. So thinking about that type of relationship, what do you think are the most significant challenges to addressing the digital divide, given the issues that we continue to see with the educational system in general at all types of institutions, and what do you foresee as the best way to actually address these challenges? BROWNLEE: Oh, that’s a great question. Great question. Thank you so much for asking that question, Gloria. I would say two things come to mind—funding and agenda, right. So if—I’ll tell you what comes to mind for me. So as we think about financially and we look at how these institutions are funded around the country, let’s think K-12. So grade schools. Think K-12. Let’s also think higher education. Are we talking headcount? Are we talking full-time equivalency? Are we talking success points? Are we talking—even as we think about developmental education, how are these institutions being funded to sustain the work of working especially with low socioeconomic communities? Let’s just take, for example, full-time equivalency, especially in this higher education space. So if I were someone who wanted to work to create programs that I’m going to help in the advancing and addressing of the digital divide and advancing digital equity, I need funds in order to do that. Now, could I pursue grant funds? Absolutely. But even—we all know that grant funds are not necessarily all the time sustainable funds. Short-term funds, but it still has to be a hard-lined. So then as we think about doing this work—I’ll go back to funding and agenda—realizing and looking at what would need to shift within particularly my state’s legislative agenda or, perhaps, in that particular district how the funding is occurring. If I’m working with a high population, which we are here at the Community College of Aurora—a high population of part-time students, these are students that are maybe taking one class and engaging. However, if I’m funded by a full-time equivalency model it then takes several students that are taking one class to then equal that one full-time equivalent, which then impacts my funding structure. So then how do I then serve, yet, I am seeking to obtain? And this is where we then get into, I think, a part of that friction of agenda and funding models. So I think that as we think equity—with an equity mindset beyond just the initiatives of overlay—we actually want to bake in the equity experience within our respective states and communities—then we’re going to have to take a look at the funding agenda, the agenda and funding—how are we truly going to advance equity and closing the digital divide. It has to be funded properly towards sustainability. We’ve seen this same thing occur in developmental education as well for those who’ve been a part of those conversations where we saw around the country there will be a reduction in developmental education funding, which has been impacted, in some cases, the success rates and resources that were historically provided through community colleges in certain communities. Same thing in this digital divide space and digital equity. So funding an agenda, and I think that the solution is, is really coming to the table and saying what does equity look like without it being an overlaid agenda, without it just being a conversation? What does it look like for it to be baked into the experience of how we’re going to transform lives, which then means that, in many cases, legislatively and funding models. We have to move from a transactional mindset to a transformational mindset and we have to go all in on ensuring that we’re creating equitable communities and engagements for those that we serve. Oh, you’re muted, my friend. FASKIANOS: Yes. Thank you. After two-and-a-half years—(laughter)—I should know that. Encourage all of you to share your best practices and what you’re doing in your communities as well. You know, we have seen the Biden administration really focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. They’re focusing on bringing more diversity to the State Department and other parts of the government. Is the Department of Education looking at the funding model? Is this an area that they are actively trying to reform and adjust? BROWNLEE: I get the sense—and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking in front of several legislators in different venues—I get the sense that there is a major conversation that’s happening. I do. I truly get the sense that there’s a major conversation happening, not just with our current administration from thinking about our U.S. president but also thinking local legislators as well. I really think that there’s conversations—many conversations that are happening. If anything, I feel as though the major—I don’t want to use the word barrier so I’m searching for the appropriate word here. But I think the major hurdle that we’re going to have to think about is how we have built and designed our funding models to date. You know, some of these funding models were built in early 1990s, mid-1990s in some cases. Really, you don’t see it too much early 2000s, and so we have older financial modeling infrastructure that we’re trying to pursue this work and how to change it. And so it can’t be a Band-Aid approach. I think in some spaces and communities that’s what’s been done is that rather than changing the actual model, the infrastructure itself, it’s received a Band-Aid in the form of grants. And I do believe that grants are significant and, certainly, necessary and appreciated. However, I think that we’re reaching a point in society where there has to be a total restructuring of our funding models and taking a look at what percentages are going where, taking a look at the demographics in our respective communities, taking a look at the economic realities in our respective communities. Take a look at just how much the demographics are shifting in our respective communities and building a model that’s ready to engage, sustain, and raise the level for all, and I think that we’re on our way. I, certainly, hope that we are. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Rufus Glasper. Q: I am here. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Q: Hi, Mordecai. How are you today? BROWNLEE: How are you, sir? Q: Hi, Irina. FASKIANOS: Hi, Rufus. Great to hear from you. Q: Mordecai, talk a little bit about digital equity and faculty. How have they accepted, rejected, embraced what you were describing as all of the different factors that are affecting our students, and what kind of practices have you developed or can be developed to ensure that faculty can continue the progress and include our students who are most needy? BROWNLEE: Great question, Dr. Glasper. I didn’t expect anything different coming from you. So, let me just say, we’ve had some very intense conversations, and I have to really give our faculty and our instructors kudos because I will tell you this is probably by far one of the most engaged communities that I’ve ever worked in of educators that are committed to just truly getting to the solution. There’s some strong work that was done around inclusive excellence here at the Community College of Aurora, certainly, prior to my arrival. It led to this college receiving an Inclusive Excellence Award from the American Association of Community Colleges right around 2017. Part of their work at that time was looking at, as our faculty and our academy, how were we going to close the gap on success rates, particularly in English and math, and part of that work was creating resources towards gap closure to ensure that those that had not traditionally and historically had access to some of those learning materials and plans and resources that they were being provided those in a more intensive way. Now as we think more into the digital space and, certainly, think through the pandemic, what we’ve now done as an institution is that we’ve become—Community College of Aurora has become the very first Achieving the Dream institution in the state of Colorado and one of the projects that our faculty and our instructors are delving into—I’ve got a big meeting tomorrow on this, matter of fact—is taking a look at the respective success rates in our gateway courses—our key courses that are gateways into our respective academic programs—and asking ourselves how can we create more equitable learning experiences. Two things—critical things—that I’ve seen our faculty do. Number one, looking at the data. I think that the data is key and critical—taking a look, disaggregating that data. And our faculty and our instructors continue to do that work, looking at a three-year spread, a five-year spread, and saying: Where is the success occurring? Who’s it occurring with and those respective identities of those students? And then really asking the hard questions: Why isn’t this population succeeding at the same rate as this population? The other part of this criticality is, is also then accepting that there can’t be an excuse in the work. There can’t be an excuse in the work and that we must ensure then that we are creating the equitable resources and infrastructure to close the gap, create learning experiences, and say, listen, if our students can’t access the internet and the Web then what can we do to create for them the resources, whether it be paper? If they can’t come to the teaching demonstration at this particular day how can I create an opportunity for them to engage and obtain that information at another given time? Perhaps they’re a working parent and can’t necessarily attend at 10:00 a.m. but they can at 5:00 p.m. What are we doing to level the playing field with accessibility? And the other aspect of that is just that our faculty and instructors have been partnering to create these more holistic learning engagement opportunities where if we’re having a conversation in English then what can we do within our math department and almost cohorting, in a sense, the learning experiences amongst those two separate classes but then creating like engagements where the same conversations happening in English could be happening in math and science to begin to bring about a new learning within the students to say, OK, well, this particular world issue, now I’m understanding it through various lenses and I understand the interconnectivity in these learning experiences. And so more integrated learning, and I think that we’ve got a long way to go but we’re committed to doing that work. FASKIANOS: So Rufus Glasper is the chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges, and I just thought I would ask you, Rufus, to maybe share your experience as the chancellor what has been working in your community. Q: I am the chancellor emeritus. I have not been at the colleges for a little over six years now. But I am the president and CEO for the League for Innovation in the Community College. And one of the things that I’d like to connect with with our experience right now we are involved in the state of Arizona with a project which is—which we are embracing. We are working with four different types of institutions right now—urban metropolitan, we have a couple of rural institutions and we have a couple of tribal, and we’re trying to make that connectiveness between insecurities—student insecurities. So we’re looking at housing. We’re looking at hunger. We’re looking at jobs. And one of the things that we have found is that we can’t make either of these items connect and work without broadband first, and the reason being when you’re looking at access it’s critical when you start to look at the activities that are occurring throughout the U.S. now and specifically within Arizona—I’ll talk about the connections we have now made that are national in scope, that are city, town, and county in scope, and the commitments that we are now working to obtain from all of those who are in position relative to enhancing broadband access and digital equity. There’s actually a Center for Digital Equity at Arizona State University (ASU), and last week we had a gathering of all of our institutions to get a better understanding of what does digital equity mean as it comes from the ASU center. What does it mean for each of our different types of institutions, and I will tell you that the one that was hardest hit was the one you talked about and that’s tribal just in terms of access, in terms of resources. But I am pleased with the dollars that are out there now at all levels. So if this is a time for us to increase access, increase affordability, than I think we should seize the moment. My question then, which would lead to another one, is on the whole notion of sustainability and you talked about that in terms of stimulus kinds of resources, and equity is in everyone’s face right now, especially broadband and others. Is it a sustainable initiative and focus and what are the elements that need to be connected in order to make sure that it stays in the forefront and that our students who may have benefited from buses sitting in their neighborhood during the pandemic and others but are still trying to make choices? And I’ll make the last connection point, and you made the opening—how flexible should our institutions be around work-based learning so that our students who are not able to come to the campus and be there on a regular basis but want to balance having a virtual environment? Do you see a balance coming or do you see us forced into staying the old, antiquated model of face-to-face classes and sixteen and eighteen weeks? BROWNLEE: Let me start with the sustainability component then. Thank you again, Dr. Glasper. From a sustainability standpoint, I’ll say here at the institution part of the conversation—it’s a hard conversation. But I encourage every educator to have this conversation, this brave conversation, in your spaces. Let’s take a look at your success rates, and I’m just particularly speaking to higher education right now. Let’s take a look at your various academic profiles. Let’s take a look at what has been your engagements with your workforce partners, your advisory councils, in many cases, and let’s talk about two things—one, the sustainability of those programs and, two, the social and economic mobility of those programs directly to workforce. I think what we will find is what we found here at the Community College of Aurora is that over time the various disruptions that have occurred has shifted the needs of our students. However, the institutions respectively delivering these services have not shifted with the times. And so it is quite possible that either our approach to the work or the actual lack of proper programming is prohibiting social and economic mobility in many of these communities and especially for us. Fifty-two percent of our students are first generation. Sixty-seven percent of our students are students of color. So as we talk about sustainability, we’re right there on the front line of having to take a look at enrollment, full-time equivalency, completion, graduation, and employment rates, and we began to find a shifting of that. And so when we talk sustainability, I bring this up as a framework, if you will, to say once you’ve had those conversations now let’s talk about where there are losses—financial losses—and areas in which we can truly be innovative and reallocate dollars that were once going in certain areas and infuse that into other areas that are going to have a higher return. So I think thinking, truly, with a return on investment—an ROI mindset—will then help us to not only meet the needs of our mission, meet it in its current state and its current needs and the disruption that’s currently being experienced, which will then help create new opportunities for sustainability beyond what has just been HEERF funding or potential grant funding, it can be hardlined into the institutional mission. I think the other component of that sustainability, too, is looking at the strategic plans of our respective organizations, looking at those—not only the mission but the objectives and asking how equity is not necessarily a separate objective but equity is actually ingrained in all aspects of the objectives—the strategic objectives—because, at that point, we can then understand the significance in resourcing and funding equity all the way through the entirety of the institution. In regards to your latter question about work-based learning and the old model of doing things, I, certainly, believe and hope, Dr. Glasper, that there’s this new movement that’s occurring where we’re going to have to embrace, whether we like it or not, the next era of higher education, and that next era will require us to not approach things in the same modalities and same ways. We’re watching, especially in research, the confidence levels reduce—heavily reduced now in the public’s perception of what higher education is to provide in comparison to what it once provided. Higher education in many communities isn’t necessarily being seen as the sole or the primary tool towards social economic mobility as it once was twenty, thirty years ago. So what does this mean? Our approach to sixteen-week instruction is, certainly, going to have to be transformed. What does it look like to have five-week instruction? Eight-week instruction? What does it look like for us to have true noncredit instructional programs that’s in direct partnership with business and industry to ramp up the training and social economic mobility opportunities within our communities? Folks aren’t necessarily looking for a two-year or a four-year or a six-year learning experience. They need to put food on their family’s table today. What does it look like for them to engage with the institution and have that kind of learning experience, and we have to do it with a digital equity mindset, right, because they’re seeking opportunity. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have accessibility in their current state. We want to get them to a state where they can have that accessibility. So how then do we create those tools? One key component of this is even looking at our college application processes. What is the readability score on some of these applications? We want to educate those that may have a reading level of a—seventh or eighth grade reading level. But some of these college applications are reading at a fourteen, fifteen grade reading level. That in itself is creating a barrier to those that are seeking opportunity, that need the opportunity to up skill. And so I think that the old model is going to, in my opinion, and hopefully quickly deteriorate and we’re going to have to be more effective. But let me also say this. It is critical that we have our faculty and our instructors at the table. These decisions shouldn’t be thrown upon them. It should be conversations that we’re having collectively together, and then how can then we resource our faculty and our instructors and our staff to be a part of those solutions, drive those solutions, reinvest in them to be able to create more innovative and more, I’ll say the word, relevant learning experiences because I truly believe that relevance is not necessarily a word that we’ve used in higher education in terms of our approach, but now more than ever we’re going to have to. FASKIANOS: OK. So I’m going to take a written question from Nicole Muthoni, who is an entrepreneur and innovator at the University of Connecticut. She has been passionately working on bridging the divide in emergent nations, especially Kenya. Therefore, in this regard, the key factors creating the digital divide in this space is geographic causes, socioeconomic factors, and culture. So the question is what tools and programs can we use to effectively educate teachers to learn the necessary skills that they can use to teach their students in the classrooms. This is because most of the teachers have not been empowered with the necessary and needed skills for educating in the space of digital equity. BROWNLEE: I think—I began to speak to that right towards the end of what I was just sharing, right. FASKIANOS: Right. BROWNLEE: It’s this idea of we’ve got to get out of the blame game. Oh, I want you to come up with the solution. Well, how are you investing in me to be a part of the solution? How are you even engaging me in part of being the solution? You know, as I talked earlier about those conversations we’re having at CCA about what are those programs that have been unsustainable or times have shifted and changed and we needed to create some more relevant learning experiences. It is our faculty and our instructors that made that decision to be able to say, hey, it’s time to pivot. They were at the table. Not just present for the sake of inclusion but, truly, the decision makers in that work. Now, I think, the next component of this work as we talked about achieving the dream and us being the first in the state of Colorado, part of our strategic plan is creating a—we don’t have a name so just work with me here conceptually. We don’t have a name yet. But I can tell you what the desired outcome is, and the desired outcome is that we create a learning center for our faculty and our instructors to grow and to be invested in and to learn what are those emerging approaches that will—on the verge of becoming best practices. However, they’re not, quote/unquote, “best practices” around the country yet. What could we create here at CCA to be a part of those solutions? And also exposure to national best practice. What are we doing to invest into our people? So I think that part of that shifting that Dr. Glasper was calling out is going to have to occur now more than ever because, unfortunately, what’s happened, I think, in the academy too many of our instructors and faculty have been blamed. Too many of our staff had been blamed, not engaged and brought about to be the solution, and not just thrown right out there in the fire to say come up with something. No. You need to care for your folks more deeply, more passionately, and more genuinely than we have ever before and really ask the question how are we going to be relevant and make sure that our folks feel cared for and that they’re valued in the spaces in which they’re serving. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So the next question is from Krishna Garza-Baker from the University of Texas at San Antonio. What would you say is the role of private service providers and their ability to assist in reducing the digital divide? Are they doing enough to collaborate with higher education institutions to address this area, specifically, internet service providers? And I’m going to add on to that. What are your recommendations for how schools can and should be leveraging corporate and community partnerships to help address the digital divide? BROWNLEE: You know, you heard me earlier talk about how we can’t just do this overlay approach. Yes, I want to give you a voucher for reduced broadband access. That’s wonderful. It is. It is grateful. It’s better than not having it. But now let’s talk about how we’re truly going to hardline in opportunities for all. As we think about the spirit of advocacy, unfortunately, sometimes, as they say, it’s the squeaky wheel gets the grease, I think, is how it’s communicated. And so what I would say is, is that now we have to think about those that don’t have a voice how we’re still meeting their needs. And so working directly with corporate industry partners, those who have the access. What does it look like if we focus less on trying to make a dollar and more on trying to create opportunity? What would it look like if we all came about and said we want to be the solution to the issue? Yes, there’s areas and opportunities where we’ll make that dollar. But as we think about society as a whole, what does it look like to create experiences and a life for the goodness of all? And so I think that now we really more than ever have to have these conversations. More than ever it just can’t be who gets the voucher. It’s how do you create the accessibility for all, those who have a voice and those who know how to use their voice. And I think that—if I understand the nature of that question now, I will say with private entities, corporate partnerships, I think it’s more visibility in these colleges and universities and these nonprofit spaces beyond the cameras and just looking at the campaigns. What does it look like for us to have the conversations day in and day out to say we’re neighbors, we’re all going to collectively be a part of the solutions and to bring the rising up, if you will, of our communities to raise the level for all and that’s, certainly, what we’re seeking to do. We’ve seen some major responsiveness in this particular community to say, listen, outside of just some campaign and a picture, what does it look like for you all to be a part of our learning experience, a part of our community, a part of our solutions, and to hardline these experiences for all. So equity causes and it charges and it demands that, and we have to realize the power of that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Laila Bichara from SUNY Farmingdale. Many of my students are immigrants and are first-generation college students. My question is about skill transfer—once our students get access to technology for themselves and their families who are then losing their jobs due to automation. BROWNLEE: Demographic shift. I talked about it earlier. You know, I think about here in the Denver Metro area and I’m going to—I attended a site visit conversation with their chamber of commerce there in Denver. It was pretty telling. In looking at the demographics, it broke down how for millennials, I think, there’s currently—so there’s 3.3 million in the greater Denver area. It broke down for millennials, which I fall into this group—I think it was eight hundred and sixty-four thousand millennials currently in that space. Then it had Xers. Not Xers. It had generation Z. Z accounted for, roughly, six hundred thousand. But get this. So my children, my eight- and my four-year-old—they’re generation alpha—were only accounting for, roughly, three hundred thousand in the space currently right now. I say that as an example that I’m going to walk us through really quickly, and that is, is with the lens of equity and we think about the shifting and the disruptions in market and we think about especially now in the markets humanization versus automation, and we want to create social and economic mobility for these respective spaces wherever those realities are and we think about accessibility to the internet and we talk about that digital equity and the digital divide, we then have to have a high degree of urgency within us to say that what will—can we create today that will prevent communities of color and low socioeconomic communities that traditionally in this current market would have been given opportunities but that in the future market, due to a lack of potential skill and accessibility, will not be provided the resources and the opportunities that they once were in an automated world. And so what do we do then to make sure that they’re not the one pressing the button. They’re the one that’s coding the button, right, and that’s all a part of that work and that shifting. So it’s going to take stronger math and science skills and accessibility and equity all built into their learning experiences because if not the wide—we will widen the gap—the poverty gap—because we move, again, deeper into automation, lessen the humanization, and then we are essentially moving an entire population of folks further down the supply chain, if you will, which then will prohibit their learning—not learning, their earning ability. And so we have to be laser focused on those realities and, really, look to eradicate what’s going to be future barriers now so systematically we are able to address it. FASKIANOS: Great. So the last question I wanted to ask you is you’ve just completed your first year as president. What are the lessons that you’ve learned? BROWNLEE: Oh, my gosh. I will tell you that, you know, I just released an article on this talking about my first year in the presidency and through EdSurge and lessons learned, and one of those lessons I would say is is—that I highlighted in that article is, you know, don’t do more for an institution than you would do for your own family. I think that as educators, as community leaders, and anyone that’s on this call, I’ll just take the opportunity to encourage you. You know, sometimes we give our all to these entities in which we serve, and we do it and we give it countless hours. You know, we say it’s a forty-hour job but we’re probably spending fifty, sixty, seventy, if not more, and we get lost in that, right. And so there’s good work to be done. However, what is the biggest mockery of all to save the world but lose your own family? And I think that part of my lesson that I had to really reflect on was, like, right now as I’m giving this lecture my eight-year-old son is here in the office with me right now that I’m trying to get to be quiet and work with me as I’m giving—having this time with you all now, right. He doesn’t have school today. It’s an in-service day. But really creating those engagements for my family to be engaged in the experiences and making sure that they’re part of the process. I think the other component of this is, too—and I talked about this in the article—is realizing that it is a privilege to serve, never taking for granted the ability, the opportunity, that we have to serve because there’s others that wish that they had these opportunities. So, yes, even in our most—our days of most frustration it still is a pleasure and a blessing and an opportunity to serve and honor. And so what would life look like if we embraced it for the pleasure and the honor that it truly is and how we treat and create spaces for others to thrive, because they’re sacrificing being away from their families and loved ones to do this work. We need to create more communities for all to thrive. FASKIANOS: Oh, your son should be very proud of you. I have to say that—what a role model. BROWNLEE: Thank you. FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Laurette Foster. Laurette, please say your affiliation. It’s great to have you on. Q: Hi. Laurette Foster, Prairie View A&M University in Texas. And I really don’t have a question. I just want to say how delighted I was to hear the conversation and hear about what the next steps are, because looking back at the pandemic and how we wanted to step up and do so much and I’m just afraid that even though we did those things that needed to be done that many of us now are settling back into the old ways. And it’s still funny that when you told the story about the tribal community happened to go to the top of the mountain from 2:00 in the morning to do—the passion for education is there with the kids. But we have to continue to do our part. So I just appreciate all the comments and—that you did today. It was really enlightening. So thank you very much. BROWNLEE: And thank you, and I will say that my wife is a proud product of Prairie View A&M. The Hill as well. So just thank you for your comments. FASKIANOS: We have another thank you from John Marks of LSU of Alexandria just saying that it was really great to take time out of his day and to—said they—definitely in Louisiana access and skills are, indeed, real obstacles that are typical of every online class that he’s taught. I’m going to take the final question from Haetham Abdul-Razaq from Northwest Vista College, again, from San Antonio, Texas, working on a research project regarding online learning and community college students. One of the interesting findings is that some students might be considered as tech savvy, yet they have problems engaging in online classes. Do you think that we should build on the strengths of our students’ digital knowledge when it comes to these sorts of skills? BROWNLEE: Great question. Absolutely. I think, you know, we talk about creating student-centered approaches and sometimes we’re successful at that and other times we’re not, perhaps, because if we were to really delve into student-centered approaches just how far from our base currently of how we approach higher education just how far it’ll take us. But I would say, going back to an earlier conversation, now’s the time more than ever to go there. Matter of fact, we should have went there already before. It’s time, truly, for a revolution and an evolution in our approach to learning and engagement and advancement with an equity lens. And I go back to that word relevance. We have to create more relevant learning experiences. Think about business and industry. If we look at what’s happened over the past ten years due to some of our bureaucracies and our lack of responsiveness. Look at business and industry. They’re creating learning experiences right around higher education, in some cases not even engaging higher education anymore, directly working with middle schools and high schools to create their own strong pipelines. What has happened that that even came about, right? And so due to a lack of responsiveness, perhaps, innovation—true innovation—and that student-centered approach that we, perhaps, moved far from or maybe just took parts of that was easier to tackle, not the harder aspects of that, and so we now have to tackle it. We have to embrace it, because if not I think that five, ten years from now, certainly, twenty years from now, we’ll have more institutional closures, more reductions in enrollments, if we fail to be responsive and create these more equitable learning opportunities that are geared at creating a digital equity. FASKIANOS: Right. Well, we are just at the end of our time. Thank you very much, Dr. Mordecai Brownlee. We really appreciate your being with us and sharing your insights, and to all of you for your questions and comments. And so you can follow Dr. Mordecai and also go to his website, itsdrmordecai.com, and at @itsdrmordecai, correct? BROWNLEE: That is correct. That is correct. I look forward to engaging with everyone. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. We really appreciate it. Just as a reminder for all of you, our next Higher Education webinar will be on Wednesday, November 2, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. Rebecca Granato, associate vice president for global initiatives at Bard College, will talk about refugees, migration, and education. So we hope you’ll tune in for that. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out CFR fellowships for educators at CFR.org/fellowships, and this is a program that allows educators to come for a year in residence at CFR or else go work in—we place you in government to get some policy-relevant experience. The deadline is October 31. So if you’re interested email us and we can send you information about that. Also, go to CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for research and analysis, and follow us at @CFR_Academic. Thank you all again. Thank you, Dr. Brownlee. We appreciate it, and we hope you have a good rest of the day. (END)
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