Post Election Statement from Institute President John N. Gardner
John N. Gardner
Like millions of Americans with whom we are in good company, I, in my capacity as President of the John N. Gardner Institute, and the Institute staff are trying to figure out what lies ahead for our country in the aftermath of the recent Presidential election. However, in spite of post-election uncertainties, I am not waiting to see which way the wind blows to chart a course. Nor will I allow our professional principles to be compromised or weakened in this new period of American history – a period during which it appears some would have the nation back away from the unfinished agenda of the American Civil Rights movements. Admittedly all of our U. S. Presidents and their administrations have found there is a profound difference between campaigning and governing, and we really don’t know how all these directions we fear are going to turn out. So we do have to try, difficult as that is because of the attendant anxiety, to let this play out while at the same time making our own position clear. The new administration has been duly elected and now inaugurated, and I certainly support the need for the appropriate transfer of power. But I am both concerned and saddened that the election was a catalyst for raising to more prominent levels the latent racism in our society and accompanying xenophobia, misogyny, and prejudice against gay, lesbian, transgendered fellow citizens. I worry that we are confronting potential adoption of public policies that will only exacerbate economic inequality by instituting disproportionate income tax reductions for the wealthiest amongst us and redistributing federal school aid money away from America’s public schools. And I am fearful of policies that will further punish immigrants and more generally the poor and will reduce or eliminate health insurance for the approximately twenty-two million fellow citizens who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Amidst all of these uncertainties and fears, I do know what my positions are, and with these positions in mind, I will endeavor to lead the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education as we
- redouble our efforts to improve the success of all undergraduate students, regardless of country of origin – especially those from low income, first-generation and minority backgrounds who have been so historically disadvantaged;
- continue to argue for more attention and priority to historic low-status courses (gateway, high failure rate courses) and low-status and historically neglected student cohorts, especially first-year and transfer students; and
- provide the best possible advisory support to those college and university educators – faculty, academic administrators, student affairs and student success professionals – who are dedicated to improving the success of these students.
I firmly believe that our work is in the national interest, and I am committed to pursuing legitimate efforts that will improve higher education attainment levels for all. I believe that this stance is totally compatible with our mission as a non-profit public charity. I am proud of our efforts to contribute to making our country a more educationally just and successful country. As one of the Institute’s Co-Founders (along with Betsy Barefoot), I would argue that our continuing work is a patriotic duty just as was my youthful volunteering for service in the armed forces during the Vietnam era and, upon my honorable discharge, my zealous pursuit of civil rights activities, which cost me my first academic position in an American college. I will not diminish my commitment to these core issues now. To the contrary, I will pursue the Institute’s mission with more dedication, resolve, and focus than ever.