Greetings ACPA Members!
Living and working in Washington, D.C. for the last 15 years, I have adjusted to the fact that politics is a way of life in this city. It can be all consuming, particularly in years of U.S. presidential elections. With the U.S. in increasingly political turmoil since the 2016 election and the country polarized along party lines, I can feel the anticipation and tension as I walk down the street. For those not in D.C., I hope that your lives, conversations, and relationships are filled with more than perpetual election chatter, network and cable news alerts, and the latest social media posts of politicians.
As ACPA prepares to come together in Nashville, Tennessee, I am reminded of the politics of divisiveness and exclusion that permeates many of the towns, cities, and states governments across the U.S. The erosion of civility, civic engagement, compromise, and communication on the national and international levels is also happening in your local communities and on your campuses. ACPA exists to assist our members in boldly transforming higher education, and it is only through the education of tomorrow’s leaders will we see positive social change in the world. I fully believe that student affairs and higher education professionals are at a critical juncture in shaping inclusive environments and creating communities of care on college campuses. Where else can we expect this central work to happen within the college and university administrative structures if not among those who work most closely with transforming the lives of each individual student?
2020 is not some date in the future…it is here, it is now! As you plan for your personal and work-related resolutions and goals for the year ahead, there are two civic commitments I ask that you hold centrally and tightly:
First, I ask that you get involved in your campus and community’s efforts to ensure that students on your campus understanding their voting rights and processes. I have worked on several campuses where student voting in local, state, and national elections have been fraught with efforts to block or suppress their votes or where student voting drives have been led only by student government organizations or external/government relations offices. It is our responsibility as college student educators to be informed and to communicate to students about their voting rights and about how to go about ensuring that their vote and voice is counted. From hall directors to senior student affairs officers, each of us can make a difference in how students have access to having their vote counted. I ask that each of you become more educated and informed on how to best support students’ right to vote on your campus and in your local community. Here are a few resources to get started:
Second, there is great potential for the 2020 U.S. presidential election to consume our attention, yet it is not the only significant civic event occurring in this calendar year. The year 2020 is also the time when the U.S. Census data collection will occur. The U.S. Census is taken once every ten years to assess local, county, state, and national populations, the results of which will have meaningful financial, political, legislative and educational ramifications for the next ten years. Whether you realize or not, your campus is also involved in the collection of data for the U.S. Census. When I worked as an Assistant Vice President at American University, one of my departments was responsible for supporting the U.S. Census process for resident students living on campus. I recently read Inside Higher Education’s January 20, 2020 article on Colleges Prepare Students for 2020 Census, and believe it is critical that ACPA and our members amplify the importance of the 2020 Census to professionals and students on our campuses. This article provides a terrific overview of the importance of the 2020 Census, and outlines some of the challenges and reasons for this year’s count as well as some of the ways higher education institutions are responding. I hope you will take a few minutes to review this contribution and then take action to learn and influence what is happening on your campus and in your community.
I acknowledge the scope of this article has been quite U.S.-centric, but the opportunities and implications ahead this year for members in the United States are too great to not dedicate focused time and attention. It is my promise to include a more global perspective in future articles, so I dedicate this text as a call to action for my U.S. based colleagues. Thank you for your leadership and effort that allow us to together continue to create bold, transformative actions that will change societies.
ACPA Executive Director