The California Council of Cultural Centers in Higher Education (CaCCCHE), an organization comprised of staff and administrators who serve in identity-based and cross-cultural resource centers on college campuses on the West Coast, condemns the termination of Dr. Jonathan Higgins as the Director of the Queer Resource Center at the Claremont Colleges.
Dr. Higgins is a fierce advocate for social change, one who challenges white supremacy in all of its manifestations. His commitment to engage folks in critical conversations pushes the boundaries of social equity and justice and allows folks to show up fully in their own power. It is imperative that we take a public stance because the values of social justice, equity, and human dignity are increasingly under threat.
While all of the details are not available, it is undeniable that Dr. Higgins’ tweets addressing white supremacy, policy brutality, and homophobia were targeted and ultimately Dr. Higgins wasterminated.
CaCCCHE recognizes that the first step to addressing oppression is naming all of the systems at play. This includes but is not limited to heterosexism, cissexism, and white supremacy. We ask that colleges and universities explicitly affirm their commitment to protect and defend staff, faculty, and students who exercise their right to free speech in their roles as anti-oppression educators and activists. Leaders in higher education must actively undo their implicit and explicit biases in order to center anti-oppression as a core tenant of education.
A commitment to diversity and inclusion is not enough. As Dr. Dafina-Lazarus Stewart writes, “Diversity asks, “Who’s in the room?” Equity responds: “Who is trying to get in the room but can’t? Whose presence in the room is under constant threat of erasure?” Inclusion asks, “Is this environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong?” Justice challenges, “Whose safety is being sacrificed and minimized to allow others to be comfortable maintaining dehumanizing views?” (Language of Appeasement).
We ask that institutions of higher learning reevaluate their commitment to open dialogue and free speech and ask themselves: Whose speech is protected?
It is equally imperative that we state our solidarity and support for those students, staff, faculty, and administrators within the Claremont Colleges who are taking action on their campuses to address the negative and isolating effects of white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, white nationalism or “alt-right” rhetoric, and selective civil rights discourse.
We express our support for the staff of the Queer Resource Center, who must contend with the absence of their director and continue to serve marginalized students during this time. We also join the many individuals and organizations that have denounced the firing of Dr. Jonathan Higgins. (LGBT Consortium,Julia R. Golden-Battle,NASPA,ACPA,Open Letter in Defense of Dr. Jonathan Higgins).
This cannot be business as usual. We must reject the ways in which systems of higher education perpetuate and sustain white supremacy. We must also continue to work to dismantle these systems without threat of retaliation or termination. However, we are quickly reminded that threats to white privilege, white supremacy, and whiteness are often met with consequences that are designed to oppress and silence queer and trans people of color. This is nothing short of violence.
The Executive Board of the California Council of Cultural Centers in Higher Education