Nelson Mandela was famously quoted saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
As the Utah System of Higher Education, we stand behind education as the greatest tool for dismantling the racism, oppression, and marginalization that plagues our country today. While we acknowledge the power of education to transform lives and communities, in Utah and abroad, we recognize, as W. Edwards Deming so eloquently stated, that “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”
The senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and countless others, as well as the protests across the world, have reaffirmed our commitment, along with our institutions’ commitment, to evaluating the ways in which our system policies and procedures create structural barriers to the access and success of students, faculty, and staff who belong to marginalized groups.
As the new Utah Board of Higher Education comes together under S.B 111, Higher Education Amendments, we are committed to working alongside all 16 public higher education institutions to intervene in widening opportunity gaps for underserved and underrepresented students. On July 1, 2020, the new Board will consider a resolution directing the Office of the Commissioner to develop a framework to systemically address this issue.
We recognize our position and responsibility to continue facilitating dialogue and prompting action between state leaders, researchers, and industry experts on educational equity gaps to ensure the success of all Utahns’ ability to access higher education and contribute to the overall state workforce. In this effort, we recommit to continue facilitating cross-institutional conversations with our Chief Diversity Officers. We value their expertise in co-leading equity and justice conversations with their institutional presidents and senior leadership to ensure inclusive campus learning environments for students.
We have created a new position in the Commissioner’s office—the State Diversity and Inclusion Director—to ensure that elements of equity, diversity, and inclusion are embedded as imperative elements in the mission, vision, and strategic plan of the Utah Board of Higher Education. This new role will work with senior staff and the new Board to identify, revise, or remove the embedded Board policies, procedures, and norms that create structural barriers to the access and success of students, faculty, and staff who belong to marginalized and oppressed groups.
As we move forward in this important work of equity and justice, we encourage our institutional communities to continue reviewing and revising all institutional policies and procedures that create structural barriers to student, faculty, and staff success. And we invite everyone to step outside of their comfort zone, to read, listen, and elevate the voices of those at the margins in an overall spirit of education and learning.
David R. Woolstenhulme
Interim Commissioner of Higher Education
Geoffrey T. Landward
Deputy Commissioner & General Counsel
Laís K. Martinez
State Diversity & Inclusion Director