What is Diversity?

PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM DR. RUFUS GLASPER Chancellor of the Maricopa Community Colleges October 23, 2003

In a recent internal message to all employees of the Maricopa Community Colleges, I explained open communication is a vital part of honoring diversity of thought and culture. There is no question that freedom of speech is one of our most cherished rights. Academic freedom has always been a primary right of faculty and was one of the principles upon which the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was founded in 1915. The AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, states that, “Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.”

Further, it proclaims, “College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public might judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

Since the Maricopa Community Colleges strive to protect academic freedoms, instituting overarching prohibitions would be counterproductive to our educational mission. “Academic freedom is an area in which the law provides few firm guidelines for administrators…In addition, institutions are prohibited from enacting policies which interfere with the content (or substance) of faculty members’ speech, at least outside the classroom; courts permit narrow regulation of the time, place or manner of speech, but seldom of its content as such.” (The Law of Higher Education, Kaplin and Lee, 1995)

Diversity within the Maricopa Community Colleges involves creating an environment that demonstrates equity and mutual respect of each person. We are each charged with the responsibility of providing an organizational climate where students and employees feel that they are welcome and an integral part of our community. Our success depends upon us learning from each other and working together to achieve the vision and mission of this organization.

A diverse work and educational environment presents a myriad of compelling interests. While we may each have different perspectives, these can be shared in a manner that still maintains an environment of respect. Recent messages from this faculty member were abrasive and divisive and not in the spirit of a collegial exchange.

Maricopa will continue to thrive on the input and inclusion of all individuals and cultural groups within our institutions and the communities we serve. Upholding academic freedom and valuing different perspectives allows us to focus as one entity on the goals we have in common.

In sum, enhancing inclusiveness and diversity happens when you and I respect differences, uphold the freedom to discuss them in a respectful manner and seek to find understanding over dissimilar or divergent frames of reference while we maintain focus on effective teaching and learning.

I look forward to continued open and productive communication.

Rufus Glasper, Ph.D., CPA
Chancellor
Maricopa Community Colleges