ACD Statement On Diversity, Equity And Inclusion

June 22, 2020

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Alamo Colleges District Family,

The Alamo Colleges District’s mission is to empower our diverse communities for success. Our mission is more than a statement we recite; it is the compass that guides our work. Now, more than ever, we need to double-down on our commitments and expedite our journey toward more diversity, inclusion and equity within our district and community to propel our most marginalized students to success.

During our Fall 2018 Convocation, invited speaker economist Richard Reeves referenced a video that showcased inequality and opportunity in America, asking “What are your chances of making it from the bottom to the top?” If you’re African-American, Hispanic, or any person of color, the odds are stacked against you before you ever start, but his video uses data to show that education is one of the only ways we can break through those barriers. This is particularly poignant in San Antonio, which has the highest urban poverty rate in the nation and where less than half of high school graduates go on to college.

The Alamo Colleges District is active as an advocate and champion for our communities of color. Our colleges are Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) and St. Philip’s College is the nation’s only HSI and Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The work we are doing isn’t new, but our commitment has been made stronger by the injustices taking place in America, by the senseless and tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, and other recent killings and acts of racism against the African-American community.

The question we ask ourselves is, “How do we move forward?” For the Alamo Colleges, we move forward, with our mission as a compass, continuing on our journey, but also recognizing the individual and distinct struggles our students, faculty and staff face. We move forward with renewed energy to these commitments:

1. A commitment to a foundation of building equity through policies and plans.
  • Alamo Colleges District Board Policy F.6.5 is our equity in student success policy. It’s a commitment to systemic transformation to make quality learning a shared priority. It focuses on addressing the visible gaps in opportunities, expectations, and outcomes, and a deep understanding of the imbalances within the Alamo Colleges District and service region.

  • The Board Charges to the Chancellor support equity-mindedness at the Alamo Colleges District, which is a demonstrated awareness and willingness to address and commit resources to equity issues among stakeholders, students, faculty, staff and partners/suppliers.

  • The Alamo Colleges Strategic Plan. Our Voices Our Vision addresses our plan to eliminate barriers to enrollment, close performance gaps, build talent, empower our employees and improve the overall student and employee experience — all with an equity-minded approach.

2. A commitment to continue to expand the practices that are closing the equity gaps in student success for minority students.
  • Achieving the Dream - Since 2004, the Alamo Colleges have been using the Achieving the Dream model to address equity gaps among students. In 2019, ACD was awarded the Achieving the Dream Leah Meyer Austin Award, the organization’s highest honor, and was named a Leader College of Distinction for our work toward narrowing equity gaps, increasing African-American four-year graduation rates by 50% and Hispanic graduation rates by 61.5% since 2011. four-year rates by 61.5%. This fall, we will utilize the Institutional Change Assessment Tool (ICAT), which assesses the commitment, capabilities, and experiences of an institution to equitably serve low-income students, students of color and other at-risk student populations with respect to access, success, and campus climate.

  • District-wide equity team – A district-wide equity team has been in the works over the last several months to lead a collaborative, cross-district effort to identify equity gaps and opportunities for improvement in addressing educational outcomes for all students, with a focus on students of color and under-resourced students. The team has been charged with:

    • Collaborating across our organization to create opportunities for faculty and staff to develop as equity-minded practitioners. This will include creating opportunities for implicit-bias training and exploration of critical race theory.
    • Engaging in an internal and external landscape analysis to identify best practices in addressing issues of equity.
    • Developing an Equity Framework that encompasses the review of current policies, procedures, processes, and stakeholders’ awareness of the equity gaps in student performance and making recommendations on how to address these gaps.
    • Developing 1-, 3-, and 5-year action plans using data-informed principles of developing effective policies, structures, accountability factors and incentives.

  • College & DSO Diversity, Equity Inclusion Councils – To be successful, the District-wide Equity Team will need to align with diversity, equity and inclusion councils at each of the colleges and the District Support Operations as vehicles for creating organizational change, and creating awareness and supporting initiatives that increase opportunities throughout our organization for all communities.

  • An Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – We are also seeking to establish an office of equity to act as a support for the work of the equity councils and task forces, to elevate equity in organizational partnerships and to implement programming to create spaces to celebrate and create a more equitable and inclusive community.

3. A commitment to align our faculty demographics with our student demographics and to elevate awareness of equity issues with faculty.
  • Equity-Minded Faculty Task Force - In early 2020, the Alamo Colleges convened academic leadership from all five colleges with the charge to strive to build a faculty that celebrates and matches the diversity of those we serve and practices the equity-minded hiring and pedagogy our responsibility dictates.

  • Convocations with a focus on addressing equity outcomes - We have committed several convocation addresses to focusing on equity issues, including keynote addresses in 2018 by Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institute discussing inequity and opportunity in America, as well as Dr. Tia Brown McNair, from the American Association of Colleges and Universities, who spoke on the importance of inclusive excellence in higher education. In 2019, Dr. Laura Rendon, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, shared information on her research, which focuses on access, retention and graduation of low-income, first-generation-in-college students. We will continue to program convocation with speakers who can provide insight into our equity work.

4. A commitment to providing support for and elevating voices of students of color.
  • Men of Excellence and Men of Color – these long-established networks within our colleges to support men of color and provide a safe space for dialogue and development.

  • EMBODI Conference - designed to collaborate with established organizations and agencies to address the plight of young men of color.

  • Women and Non-traditional Support Services –Several initiatives at our colleges, including the Empowerment Center at San Antonio College and the Women in Non-Traditional Occupations at St. Philip’s College, address the needs and provide support to our female students and primarily serve women of color.

  • Investments in student success – A number of programs have been established within the organization to address the economic divide that plagues our community, but disproportionately impacts our students of color. They are all aligned with our moonshot of ending poverty in San Antonio though education and include:
    • AlamoPROMISE
    • Keep Learning Plan
    • Student Advocacy Centers
    • Fresh Start

We can’t begin to catalogue the work that we have done over the decades, in recent years or even have planned for the near future, but we can say that it isn’t enough. It’s never enough until each of our students have equal opportunities to realize their dreams. We commit to the journey until we create a world where that exists.

In Service,

Marcelo Casillas, Chair of the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees
Dr. Mike Flores, Chancellor
Dr. Veronica Garcia, President of Northeast Lakeview College
Dr. Ric Neal Baser, President of Northwest Vista College
Dr. Robert Garza, President of Palo Alto College
Dr. Adena Williams Loston, President of St. Philip's College
Dr. Robert Vela, President of San Antonio College