Saturday, March 2, 2019

ACPA - Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization - relevant to internationalization?

The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) officially opens its 2019 Convention in Boston on Sunday, March 3. The distribution of its Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization will likely be a major point of discussion throughout the Convention, as it should be. The Imperative appears to be lined up to claim a place within the continuing series of statements ACPA has made over the years (i.e. Tomorrow's Higher Education and the Student Learning Imperative). The authors present compelling evidence for why the imperative is needed and how it will shape both ACPA's and higher education's future.

As someone who places high value on the history of higher education and student affairs, I was disappointed with the lack of historical contextualization reflected in the statement. Earlier documents in which student affairs thought leaders have been involved were absent in the text and scholarly resources that were listed.

In addition, I and others attempted to influence the drafting of the imperative to embrace the emergence of students affairs around the world - an international perspective. I was disappointed that no reference to internationalization was made. However, a very important statement referenced "student affairs educators who are often tasked with preparing college students for leadership and civic participation." This paragraph continued with, "Educators must not only come into awareness of their role in reproducing racism and colonization but also take concrete steps to identify and take action to shift how institutions create and exacerbate racism and colonization."

The statement above provides an extraordinarily important bridge between internationalization and leadership learning. Not only should educators examine their role in reproducing racism and colonization within North America but we must also examine how our views and actions perpetuate racism and colonization around the world. As leadership and student development educators we can help our institutions avoid a new era of colonization where Western practices overwhelm higher education everywhere. Where the harm has already been done, leadership and student development educators must be part of calling attention to the fallacy of inappropriate transfer of educational perspectives and practices across national and cultural borders. More than correcting the harm, leadership and student development educators must be a source of liberating learning in general, and leadership learning more specifically, around the world.

Having attended the recent ACPA 2019 Convention in Boston, I observed broad evidence that the Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization is a catalyst for great conversation about student learning, development, and leadership learning. I entered into conversation through the International Caucus and various programs and informal discussions. It was extremely gratifying that international representatives and internationalists within ACAP see the imperative as highly relevant to their work. My hope is that numerous people and entities will engage further in this important conversation going forward.

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