Karen Longman - "Diversity Matters"
3:17AM Jul 10, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it is our delight to be speaking with Dr. Karen Longman. Dr. Longman is professor of higher education at Azusa Pacific University and the author of the texts that we'll be discussing today. Diversity Matters: Race, Ethnicity, and the Future of Christian Higher Education. Dr. Longman, thank you for joining us today. Thank you. Dr. Longman. This book represents a remarkable undertaking. The book is comprised of 25 chapters each contributed by scholars and practitioners from across the CCC you network that is the coalition of Christian colleges and universities. The book addresses such subjects as the challenges and benefits of diversity and also leadership development strategies for minorities. Dr. Longman, how did this book Project come together.
Can I say a little bit about my own background first, please. So right now I am directing the Ph. D program in higher education at Azusa Pacific University, we have a little over 100 students from around the world primarily in North America. But prior to this work, I spent 19 years at the Council for Christian colleges and universities in Washington, DC, which now has about 180, post secondary institutions primarily in North America, but a good number from around the world as well. And in that role, I was in charge of professional development and research over that 19 year period and one of the initiatives we started was to try to prepare future leadership for Christian higher education. So this book in particular, diversity matters grew out of one of the leadership development Institute's that the council for Christian colleges and universities offered. We've been every other summer in June, offering a five day Institute to prepare future leaders for Christian higher education. And since 2011, in the odd years, 1113 1517 and 19, we've had people of color come together who have been nominated by their campuses as future leaders for Christian higher ed. And a group that was there decided that the perspectives that they had to offer they were not seeing in a lot of leadership books or in a lot of books about higher education or Christian higher ed specifically. So they designed a book in five different sections. And your introduction suggests that I authored it. I actually intentionally did not author it because I wanted to hear the voices of these people who had become friends and colleagues through the Leadership Development Institute. So it really took a year. And in the five sections, each section which I can tell you more about, had a section leader who gave an initial screening of the drafts that came through and tried to make sure there was coherence across those sections. And then I was the editor of the entire book. So I've read every word in this book many, many times, but the section leaders did a great job of getting it ready for me to review.
Dr. Longman diversity is a really important topic and one that our society has given a lot of attention to in the last number of years. How do we define diversity for the purpose of this project?
You know, that's thanks for wording the question that way. Obviously, people define diversity around a number of different perspectives and angles depending on what their agenda might be. We were very intentional and the CCC EU the council for Christian colleges and universities has a commission of representatives from the campuses to work on diversity issues. So they have made a decision and in the multi ethnic leadership development Institute's we've been running, which have now had about 125 participants. In the last decade. We intentionally limited The discussion about diversity to race and ethnicity, we felt there is obviously a huge parallel agenda to try to advance more women into leadership in Christian higher education. But for the purposes of this book, we were quite narrow and say there's a challenge on many, many fronts to respect the dignity of every human being. But for the purpose of this book,
our focus is on racial ethnic diversity.
Dr. Longman You are a veteran in educational policy in developing educational programs. Is it has there been a common set of goals in the diversity initiatives that you've participated in?
nationally, I would say that every organization I mean, I'm not sure that this is a factual statement, but diversity and diversifying the leadership and the serving the diversity of students in higher ed is a is a top tier, if not the top tier concerning priority. Last year, the national association that we're part of in higher ed of professionals and researchers in higher ed is called the Association for the Study of higher ed. And the entire conference which draws people from around the world was called the woke Academy. If people are aware of the demographic realities and the importance of diversity for today's students in the future of the country and world, we pay attention to diversity. So students definitely expect to study in a diverse environment and expect their faculty to be diverse and offer diverse perspectives and respect diversity. So I would say it's, it's probably the issue in higher ed right now. And in some ways, I would say Christian, higher ed, which we can get into should be modeling the way in terms of respecting the dignity and the contributions and the alternative perspectives that different histories and viewpoints bring. As in some other areas, We've kind of lagged behind the secular Academy. And so part of the purpose of this book is to paint a challenge and an opportunity for Christian higher ed to step up to the plate and really model what God would wish in this area for our campuses.
Dr. Longman Would you be willing to give a recommendation or two concerning books that really frame the topic of diversity from a theological vantage point or books that have helped you as you've done this work in in framing this topic? Mm hmm.
Well, one of the leaders has been over at the Claremont Colleges, Darrell Smith wrote a book about diversity that came out a few years ago with a second edition and she compared the work with diversity. She actually has a model for diversifying campuses.
compared the diversity agenda with the it phenomenon, and her 15 or 20 years ago thinking that somebody or some office can handle the needs for technology, but now it's interwoven in every part of campuses effectively. And trying to challenge higher ed to think of the diversity agenda in the same way. Other than this book diversity matters, I'd say another book that just came out in 2019 that really has convicted me. And I think that people who are listening to this interview might want to check out a book by tos bti spy called the color of compromise. 2019 book, which does a really nice job of talking about the history of the church. Pre Civil War, how the church was really complicit with slavery, in large part, although there were alternative voices. And then what happened within people of faith during the Civil War and post Civil War During the Jim Crow era and how the church again we would wish
would be taking the lead and respecting human dignity but often the church was complicit in keeping people in human bondage and in enormous suffering. It's not an angry book, but it's very Well, footnoted, very readable and quite convicting. So those would be a couple that I would recommend. Another book is called White out by my colleague here, Dr. Alex, john and Chris Collins, another colleague in our department. And then there's another book called White Jesus about how the church even in black churches, the pictures of Jesus on the wall are often white with blond or brown hair and blue eyes of Jesus, even though he was Middle Eastern, and how the church has typically viewed the Christian faith through white lenses.
Thank you very much for those recommendations.
Dr. Longman in your view is diversity, something that can be achieved and then no further diversifying is necessary. Can an institution hit benchmarks and become diversified such that it does not need to continue to pursue those goals? Or is diversifying some sort of ongoing process? And if so, that'd be
so when you ask that question, I think where are the most
My own opinion would be that we live in a world that is very fallen and very distorted from what God intended. And there's some really great, great passages in Luke and in revelation about the kind of who will circle the throne and who will honor God and how will we call people from Eastern western north and south together.
I just think that the impact of the fall
has really done damage in terms of our willingness to address these concerns about diversity and dignity and respect. So it definitely is an ongoing because it's, it's not just individual, it's corporate, it's systemic, that the depth of the systemic pain that has been caused. One of the points that was made was that pre Civil War, even as believers out of Africa, 10 million people coming into, into slavery out of Africa. are often Muslim, or often into tribal religions. And even when they converted to Christianity, the white churches would not allow the blacks to have their own churches because of fear of insurrection or rebellion against their slave status. So the church, you know, Sunday is the most divided day of the week really occurred after the Civil War, when the black church really gained momentum in the Reconstruction Era
and had the freedom to worship.
But before it was integrated by force by whites who did not dress blacks to worship their god their way.
So there's quite a bit of history there. Dr. Longman, thank you very much for that reflection.
you become personally committed to fostering diversity in your own educational institutions?
Right. Well, as I mentioned, I worked for almost 20 years in the DC office in Washington DC with a council for Christian colleges and universities. I was able To be on probably 90 or 100 campuses, as you would know, and listeners probably are aware Most Christian colleges historically were in pretty remote locations, many in the Midwest, many in predominantly white
as I traveled and talk to people, the term microaggressions for people of color who feel like they are in a dominantly white culture that does not may verbalize the support for diversity but doesn't live into that and embrace it. The amount of pain on our campuses
was very convicting to me.
And it comes out of the desire that Christian higher ed would model the way on every front and feeling like we have people who are feeling very lonely, very marginalized, very disrespected on these campuses and have zero role models in the senior administration, and very few role models. On the faculty at the same time campuses are trying to diversify their recruitment because of the changing demographics of the country. So I think when you hear the stories and you interact with people, the last eight chapters of the diversity matters book are shorter. They're about half the length of the other chapters, but it's eight stories of emerging leaders of color, who talk about what is it like to be a person, a student, an employee on these campuses, there's huge variation, theologically size setting, but by and large historically, because of the history of the white denominations, a lot of these campuses came out of, and because of their location, historically, obviously, a small minority often feels alone and unsupported, and that bothers me. So I would say it was traveling around and, and and talking to people and being embedded in these leadership Institute's and interacting with students of color Who are our future but and they should be supported on our campuses. So I want to give them the best possible educational experience.
Hmm. Thank you, Dr. Long.
What can white faculty members and white students at CCC use student member institutions or other private Christian higher educational institutions do to foster an inclusion and a culture of diversity on their campuses?
I think diversity matters as a book has some really interesting sections that let us get into the hearts of people who are human beings who feel called to be at these campuses and to appreciate that they are they they sometimes feel almost like this is a mission field because the students of color need role models need friends need colleagues need mentors need encouragement. So the first thing I would say when when I hear your question, I don't think It helps for a white
identify as an ally, a white ally. There's an entire section of the book about four or five people who, in fact, have been white allies. And there's a lot of research around being a white ally. But then that is a recognition that other people speak of you about, you don't claim that for yourself. But at the end of the day, doesn't it all boil down to relationships, it boils down to hearing somebody's story, wishing that they could be everything that God designed them to be and that these campuses would be places that free that up and let them contribute to the kingdom work with with joy and enthusiasm and feel supported. So I'd say it's largely like the the book that I mentioned is called the color of compromise.
that this is three or 400 years of sustained racism that the church is often perpetuated or perpetrated, and making a personal commitment to know the individuals and to fight against that systemic injustice in little ways. Sometimes speaking up in meetings sometimes being an encouragement, just like there are micro aggressions, which happen every day for people of color on many of these campuses. It's not just Christian, higher ed, it's the it's a reality across the country and around the world. But there can also be micro affirmations, so to speak, a word of encouragement and to be a friend and to be an advocate that can make all the difference in the world.
And Dr. Lyman, if I can turn that question as well. So what do you say to minority faculty and students as well? How what is their part in fostering a community of diversity and cultural inclusion?
There is a section of the book that the show shorthand title we gave it is why we stayed. And these are long term giants who have been working in Christian higher ed for 1015 2025 30 years, often in very lonely and very hard circumstances. And it's really interesting to their read their perspective and their insight and honestly, literally feeling called to the campus where they serve for the sake of their students and for their sake of their colleagues. They love Christian higher ed, they love the kingdom. They want to be people who model Christ spirit. So to come, I think, you know, a lot of times, if you're a woman, it's very hard to argue to get more women into leadership because it looks self serving. And if you're a person of color, it's really nice when somebody who maybe is in a higher position authoritatively within the cabinet or something like that goes to bat and argues for a more inclusive and a more supportive spirit. So why not One to be a friend, to see yourself as an advocate who speak strategically into situations where there may be no person of color in the room. Or there may be
a lack of voice
because the person of color feels like it's not my job to make this case for the 25th time, but it'd be nice if somebody else would make the case. Yeah, I think partly it gets at the individual level and the relational level but also realizing the systemic nature of racism in the United States and in the church.
Dr. Longman What is your message to future leaders of our Christian colleges?
Well, it's interesting when we were working on this book,
I think you have a cover of it. But diversity matters
as different colors of
coffee with different amounts of cream and different fancy cups and some are just straight black. The subtitle is race In the future of higher education or Christian higher education, there were some
who did not like the subtitle.
I would say, the reality is and the nation is waking up to realize this,
the facts of the demographic changes in our country by about 2045, which is not very far away, 25 years away somewhere between 20 and 25 years away with the immigration rate, and the changing demographics and the birth rate, we will have a minority majority country, the white population will be in a minority in the United States. So it's a little bit troubling. When people make the case that Christian higher ed better get on the bandwagon here because this the future students that coming into our campuses will be or will not be students of color because that's the baby boomer. The population that's coming of age, and we'll be going into college often is first generation college students from last time socioeconomic classes with the Hispanic population and the African American population coming out of urban areas primarily. So, my message would be, let's take the higher ground, be aware of the demographic realities but get get back to the Christian mandate of that inclusivity and breaking down the dividing walls of partition and of any place. Christian higher ed ought to be places where every student who walks in the doors feels honored and valued, and that God uniquely designed them to make a contribution on planet Earth. And for these years in college, adults, faculty, coaches, student development staff, chaplains will help each student become what God designed them to be. You know, it's the Ephesians 210 we're all God's workmanship code. So so let's work together to embrace every student that comes in the door and free them up to be what God intended them to be and give them the Tools through an education to become that, that that. That's the vision we need to hold on the demographics are secondary, but real.
And Dr. Long man if I can close with a question that we've been asking all of the interviewees on this program, and that is this, what would it mean for the church today to be united? How would we recognize the United Church? And what is it that we can do as Christians to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
It's a wonderful question. What would it look like to be united? Well, for starters, I would say I think that Dr. Shirley Hoekstra who is the president of the CCU right now with these hundred and 80 campuses is doing a phenomenal job. The campuses come from well over 30 denominations, and yet at the heart of it all is the gospel and a desire that Christian higher ed shine brightly and prepare. Literally there are millions of people around the world who are getting Graduates of these campuses. So to kind of catch a bigger vision and to be reminded of a bigger vision of what we're all about, and how do we, as I said before, collectively even with our own Wesleyan theological tradition, or Pentecostal theological tradition, or Presbyterian theological tradition, embrace the students that come to us and prepare them for Kingdom work and Kingdom purposes. I think if we can get above the fray, especially in our polarized society right now, and remember how remarkable it is that there are right now, I mean, hundreds of thousands of students in these campuses who are going to be salt and light where they go and in whatever whatever theological flavor we bring to that equation, to have professionals, faculty, administrative leaders and student development staff, embracing and equipping students for the kingdom without the lower level squabbles around theological differences in that kind of thing. I think we have a grand vision, Revelation paints it. Luke paints it, the Gospels painted. So we need to embrace it and do our part. I call it a mosaic. We're a mosaic. We have different colors in the mosaic from our different theological traditions in different parts of the country and different leadership styles. But we're all about the business of building the kingdom. So
it's good to remember the big picture.
It's been our tremendous privilege to be speaking today with Karen Longman, Professor of higher education at Azusa Pacific University and also the editor of the text that we've been discussing today. Diversity matters, race, ethnicity, and the future of Christian higher education. Thank you so much Dr. lawman. Very, very welcome.
I think it's an important book and I'm really appreciating that you chose to picture it. So thank you.