home page #7
Dear Friends and Supporters,
As many of you know, this year marks 20 years that CUE has focused on the fight for racial equity. In light of that, I want to acknowledge that in our current environment we must redouble our efforts and resources to uphold racial equity as a matter of moral urgency and civic decency.
The pandemic continues to throw harsh light on the ravages of racial inequity; it is shocking to see how many more Blacks, Latinx, Native Americans, and other racially minoritized individuals are dying than whites every day. This disproportionate impact is no accident—it is the cumulative effect of longstanding racist practices and policies that plague our country.
The brutal murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd are horrifying, further underscoring the disregard for Black and Brown lives. As higher education practitioners and leaders, we must think hard about how we can educate citizens to uphold racial justice.
Of course, the frustration we feel today is not new. For many years, earlier in my career, I worked diligently in academia, focused on a variety of scholarly endeavors. But in 1999, I began to feel unhappy about how disconnected my work had become from the advocacy work of my twenties. This self-interrogation about the impact of my work gave me the resolve to create CUE with a focus on racial equity in higher education.
For me, the urgent issue was to address racial equity in educational outcomes as a matter of institutional accountability and responsibility. Diversity without equity brought only symbolic benefits for universities, giving no substantive benefits to minoritized students. As an organization, we resolved to focus on changing this—by changing the practices and minds of educators and leaders.
CUE soon pioneered methods of critical inquiry to help higher education practitioners and leaders recognize practices they believed to be racially neutral were in fact racialized and even causing the achievement gap they lamented. CUE created the term “equity-minded” to represent the actions, beliefs, values, and knowledge of race-conscious practitioners. And we taught practitioners and leaders to ask, “Why are we so much more successful with white students than we are with racially minoritized groups?”
Over time, CUE has created a suite of tools to deconstruct syllabi and course content, touching nearly 700 institutions across the country, including even the US Coast Guard Academy, and now reaching globally, in places such as Leiden University in the Netherlands and many universities in Chile.
Lately, as we consider CUE’s 20-year history, I’m often asked what is next for CUE; some even ask what’s in store for the next 20 years of CUE. The answer to what is next for CUE is that, as of July 1, CUE is merging with the USC Race and Equity Center, which is something I have been working on for the last four years with Shaun Harper. I know that Shaun is the natural and rightful inheritor of CUE and its work in the future. Shaun and I share a vision about racial equity in higher education, we have not been afraid to be viewed as scholars with activist agendas, and we have a long history of collaborative work, including joint grants we currently lead.
As for myself, I am retiring from USC at the end of this year. However, I am not retiring from work. I will continue doing many of the same things I do now—some independently and others in collaboration. I’m excited about having recently created Bensimon & Associates, an independent organization devoted to advancing the racial equity agenda that is so important to me. The work we already have underway includes leading a 15-month project on racial and socioeconomic equity. I will continue doing public speaking engagements (via zoom for the time being), working with college presidents on the development of racial equity agendas, and acting as an advisor to colleges on bringing racial equity-minded perspectives into searches for faculty and leaders.
CUE’s work will continue uninterrupted and will, in fact, be strengthened by the knowledge and resources of the Race and Equity Center. I am grateful to my dear friend Shaun for his commitment to continue and sustain CUE’s legacy.
And I am grateful to all of you—the friends and supporters that I and CUE have had for these past 20 years. Thank you believing as I do in the essential importance of racial equity. We still have much to accomplish—in and outside of education—and I am certain that as long as we continue to stand together in this fight, we will emerge victorious.
Dean’s Professor in Educational Equity
Founder & Director, Center for Urban Education