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Keep Political Games out of Lakeland

LFA President Tobin F. Terry’s remarks delivered at the September 29, 2022 Lakeland Board of Trustees meeting regarding the approved motion from the September 1, 2022 meeting to form a trustee-only committee to review the words “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” as they appear in Lakeland policies and documents.

Dr. Beverage, Chairperson Vitaz, and Board of Trustees:

Hello, again. My name is Tobin Terry, President of the Lakeland Faculty Association, Professor of English, Lake County father of three.

When I addressed you during the September 1 Board meeting, I urged you to reject a motion to omit the words equity, inclusion, and inclusivity from the College’s Strategic Plan.

In that meeting, I heard that many of you support the principles of equity, inclusion, and diversity but that you have reservations about the words themselves because of their status as political lightning rods.

Let us remember, as Trustee Frager reminded us, that these words have actual, technical, dictionary definitions. They are not legalese whose meaning is open to interpretation.

I explained in my previous remarks that Lakeland’s institutional accreditor, The Higher Learning Commission, mandates a commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity, as do accreditors for our individual academic programs of study. 

These are the industry-standard terms for an educational institution’s commitment to meeting the needs of all students, and there are no synonyms.

Efforts to distance Lakeland from these terms jeopardize our accreditation. Without accreditation, a Lakeland degree has no value—our graduates won’t get jobs; our enrollments will evaporate. 

There are those who seek to vilify words and values that have long been a part of Lakeland’s legacy and that embody the best of who we are and what we have to offer. These people wish to use the College and our most vulnerable students to start a culture war, but Lakeland and our students are not pawns to be sacrificed in someone else’s game of political chess. 

We are here to show our support of continued commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity, not to promote partisan politics. You know who we are. You’ve visited our classrooms and offices; you’ve commended our dedication to student success. Our only agenda is ensuring the success and well-being of our students and protecting Lakeland’s ability to continue serving the community.

In the last meeting, this Board voted to form a committee to review these terms in Lakeland’s policies, but I urge you and everyone here to consider what work such a committee could possibly do. Our accreditors require us to use these exact words, and they already have definitions. There is nothing to discuss.

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