We celebrate Black History Month each February. It is the perfect opportunity to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is even more fitting because it allows us to reflect on the events that rocked the United States and the world last year. In 2016, NFL football player Collin Kaepernick knelt for the first time to protest against racial injustice. On February 18, my University hosted a panel discussion titled “It Takes All of Us – Speak Your Truth,” held in person (with social distancing) and streamed live on YouTube. I applaud East Central University for this initiative. Providing an opportunity for minorities to get their voices heard is essential. It is crucial to let others realize how their actions affect us, hoping we will do something about it. East Central University is committed to diversity and inclusion, and this commitment flows from the top. Diversity is included in our curricula and course outcomes. Courses exist in our catalog on this matter. However, more could be done to highlight the challenges black people face in our society and celebrate the contribution of black people and the minorities in our communities.
As a personal goal, I have thus decided to explore my own biases. Sometimes, I am surprised by my reactions to certain events. We all grow up in an environment, a culture, or a subculture which defines how we view the world. This environment, culture, or subculture shows up through our reactions to events, especially when these events do not line up with the beliefs we have cultivated while growing up. I have had the opportunity to visit many countries on most continents. In many of the places, I have been treated differently. I have been treated like a curiosity in some places, parents and friends in others. I have also been treated as an inferior human being by some and a respected dignitary by others. These places are different from each other in terms of culture or subculture from where I was born. My exposure to these differences has made me realize that there are multiple ways to perceive the same scenes, understand the same message, react to the same taste, the same people, etc. People carry differences, which define their perceptions, actions, and reactions.
I have learned to be aware of my own biases and to step back and reflect before passing judgment. I have realized that most, if not all, conflicts originate from our inability to accept that others can view things differently than we do. I have made it a personal goal to minimize my biases. I have read on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), taken courses whenever possible, and watched many documentaries. I encourage everyone to take a course offered on Coursera on the issue titled: “Leading for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Higher Education” and led by Professor Dr. John C. Burkhardt of the University of Michigan. This course was an eye-opener to me and covered the history of higher education in the U.S. and how this structure was purposefully created to perpetuate inequality and exclusion. In the past year, I have become an avid user of Project Implicit, which provides implicit bias assessment in many different areas.
As I work to eliminate my own biases, I am always surprised by how far I still must go to be completely bias-free. I thoroughly enjoyed the recent ACBSP inaugural Mid-Year Forum, especially the DEI track. I also appreciated the leadership training ACBSP offered its current and emerging leaders this month. I found Ms. Lyzette Williams’ keynote enlightening. Mr. Juan Johnson’s DEI training was equally informative. I want to thank Board Chair Bruce Stetar and CEO Jeffrey Alderman for affording us these opportunities. We have come a long way in making sure that our organization’s diversity is visible at all levels of its leadership. We must commit for this to continue and ensure that all voices are heard. The opportunity to provide pathways to all categories of minorities to ascend to leadership positions has never been so apparent, and we must seize it. We equally must ensure that all regions are also represented at the upper leadership level.
Regardless of background and race, each individual and all groups within our 11 regions should feel that they can ascend to leadership in our organization. As the co-chair of the ACBSP Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce, I commit to working with our leadership to help move ACBSP toward this goal. We can begin by becoming aware, each one of us individually, of how our words, actions, and decisions affect others. We must be mindful of our vocabulary, our remarks, our gestures. We must understand that as individual members of a global organization, what is normal to us might not always be acceptable to our colleagues and friends from a different culture, subculture, or from another region or continent.
ACBSP has engaged in a relentless path to make DEI part of the organization’s core values. I applaud this initiative. To this effect, the current DEI Taskforce must evolve into a standing committee, which will ensure that DEI is considered in all aspects of ACBSP’s operations. The DEI Taskforce will continue to counsel our leadership on these issues until the committee is commissioned.
Dr. Germain N. Pichop
Co-Chair, ACBSP Diversity. Equity and Inclusion Taskforce
Past-Chair Associate Degree Board of Commissioners