From the PresidentPosted: Monday, October 26, 2020
SUNY’s Statement on the Importance of Diversity Training
On September 22, 2020, the White House issued an Executive Order aimed at curbing the use of certain modern diversity, equity, and inclusion training concepts by federal agencies, the Armed Services, and federal contractors and grantees. The Executive Order prohibits training on so called “divisive concepts” and could have a significant impact on how colleges and universities, and public and private organizations across society, address race and sex stereotyping at a time that we are engaged in a national conversation around race and inequitable treatment across society.
This prohibition on discussion of “divisive concepts” is in direct contravention of the State University of New York’s goals, our academic freedom, and our constitutional rights to free speech and expression. Indeed, it is our job as a university system to raise difficult issues, ask tough questions, and move along on an arc that “bends toward justice.”
SUNY has from its inception aimed to be the best, the fairest, and the most culturally competent system of higher education that any institution can be. We object to the Executive Order as a vast, unwarranted, illegitimate overreach.
Facing the reality of discrimination was never meant to be easy. Indeed, the science of implicit bias reveals truths that may cause discomfort, and it is in that place of discomfort that individuals find the motivation and courage to interact with others in ways that promote fairness and create greater cultural understanding.
It is SUNY’s commitment to inclusive excellence that enables its campuses to thrive and its graduates to succeed in the increasingly diverse workplace. And it is this commitment that draws people from around the globe to the enterprise of educating, at SUNY, the next generation of leaders.
Fairness and equity are our goals; education is our mission. By instilling in our workforce and student body an awareness of race and sex stereotypes, the competitive benefits of diverse teams, and research on the science of implicit bias, SUNY has taken critical steps to ensure that everyone in the SUNY community—throughout its 64 colleges and universities—is working toward achieving these goals. This is not “inculcation.” It is a recognition of what is right, legal, and the best path forward.
SUNY was founded in 1948, in part, to provide opportunities for members of disfavored groups who were not among the fortunate enrolled by private colleges. Today SUNY affords African Americans, Jewish Americans, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and members of lower-income, disadvantaged groups—as well as women—access to affordable, high-quality higher education that was illusive a mere 75 years ago. By equipping these individuals with the knowledge and skills to be competent and competitive in an ever-changing environment, SUNY has enhanced their socioeconomic mobility as well as the well-being of all residents of New York State. Even as we look forward to a shared future of increasing opportunity for all, this Executive Order moves us backward to division and inequity, and a requirement that we ban certain books and silence voices and research that do not espouse a particular viewpoint. We join the business community, higher education leaders, religious organizations, and others in urging the White House to reconsider and withdraw this Executive Order.
To see a full list of those signing today’s statement, click here. Chancellor Malatras invites others within SUNY’s community to click on the same link to add their signatures in a demonstration of solidarity.