Speaking out

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Community college leaders speak out after the violent rally in Charlottesville, Va.

After the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., and the heated discussions on race that have followed, college and university leaders have been speaking out against bigotry and racism.

Frank Friedman, president of Piedmont Virginia Community College, located in Charlottesville, said in a statement that PVCC “condemns the hatred and violence that occurred in Charlottesville,” and that the college “values inclusion and diversity and welcomes people from all walks of life.”

Heather Heyer, who was killed after a car crashed into demonstrators at the August 12 rally, briefly took classes at PVCC in 2007.

In Massachusetts, the presidents of the state’s 15 community colleges issued a joint statement voicing their opposition to the “violence, bigotry, racism and hate” that occurred in Charlottesville. The statement praises the diversity and inclusive nature of community colleges.

“We reject, in the strongest possible terms, hateful rhetoric, harmful actions, or attempts to diminish the values or identity of our community members, while remaining committed to the fundamental right of free speech,” the statement said.

In addition to signing on to that statement, Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven issued a separate statement.

“Within our walls and at all of our campuses, we stand for community. We stand for caring for and about each other. We stand for discussing ideas that build upon the very foundation of our country,” Vander Hooven said.

In California, San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll and board President Maria Senour signed statement.

“While we remain deeply committed to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, it is important for us to reaffirm the district’s position against hate speech and violence. Simply put, there is no place in our society for those who would single out one or more members of our community to be the target of hatred and violent acts,” they said in the statement.

Looking ahead

Bronx Community College (New York) announced last week that it will remove the busts of Confederate Generals Robert Edward Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson from its Hall of Fame for Great Americans.

“Embracing difference includes creating space where all people feel respected, welcome, and valued,” BCC President Thomas Isekenegbe said in a statement.

And Austin Community College (ACC) in Texas will now serve as a site for a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center. This is part of a multi-year initiative by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to educate and prepare the next generation of leaders to break down racial hierarchies. Ten institutions were selected as sites. ACC was the only community college selected.

“In the aftermath of the horrific, heartbreaking events in Charlottesville, we must not be silent. Instead, we must harness our collective intellectual, social and financial resources to transform words into action,” AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella said.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.