By Armenta Early Hinton, Ph.D., vice president of inclusion, diversity and belonging and Title IX coordinator at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.
Published in the Gettysburg Times, Jan. 22, 2021
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, is honored to share one of the first gifts of 2021 – tools to help us become a more inclusive College community with help from Kevin Gannon, Ph.D., the College’s first Diversity Scholar-in-Residence.
Over the past year, HACC and other institutions of higher education have been challenged to address the pandemic-highlighted inequities regarding health care, education and wide scale inaccessibility faced by our Black students and other students of color. We have discussed, read, examined and debated the best ways forward. Even those who may not agree in totality with the current social movements cannot disagree that society has privileged some groups and dis-privileged others; included some and excluded others; and championed some and diminished others.
As an institution, we have also seen the harsh realities of racism and the terror and oppression that accompany it. The challenges to HACC’s core values have been numerous, but we have met these challenges with humility, honesty and courage.
In response to racial unrest spurred by the deaths of many Black citizens in summer 2020, members of the HACC community saw a reckoning with who we believed ourselves to be. We experienced moments of self-examination and activism that shook our foundation and led to funding, position creation, declarations of inclusion by various employee groups and other gestures signaling to the wider community our dedication to diversity and inclusion.
We took a unified approach to evaluating our systems and practices to ensure that we create an environment of inclusion and belonging. We collectively worked to create an understanding that Black Lives Matter means that all of humanity should be valued, including Black lives. This is particularly relevant, as history has demonstrated that the humanity of Black lives has not mattered for centuries. Instead, history has shown that Black lives matter when monetized through slavery, the prison industrial complex and other forms of exploitation.
HACC is fortunate to have a forward-thinking Board of Trustees and senior leaders who not only see inclusion and belonging as an imperative, but have mandated inclusion be stamped on everything that we do, from curriculum design to inclusive business practices. HACC has been a thought leader in inclusion and is now taking the necessary steps to create and sustain an environment of inclusion and belonging throughout the region. The College took a tangible step in summer 2020 by approving a $1-million Diversity Innovation Fund. One way we are acting through that fund is by engaging Gannon during our faculty professional development week held at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester.
In his book, “Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto,” Gannon writes: “We claim institutions of higher education are an inherent good for our society and polity, but institutional and educational practices that exclude students – that push them to the margins figuratively or literally – render those pronouncements nothing more than a cruel joke. This is the ultimate statement of inclusion and one that explains how we must value the education and experience of all students.”
With Gannon’s insight, we have the radical hope to press forward and practical tools to deepen our work in inclusion, diversity and belonging.
Armenta Early Hinton, Ph.D., is the vice president of inclusion, diversity and belonging and Title IX coordinator at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.