College prez: students might 'drop out from fear' after election

The president of Montgomery College claims that the presidential election created “profound insecurity” for students, which demands a renewed commitment to “inclusion” from academia.

“Radical inclusion is an approach to higher education that I have promoted for years at my college,” Dr. DeRionne Pollard begins a recent op-ed for The Washington Blade, asserting that “Diversity is one of the pillars of our identity at Montgomery College.”

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Pollard—whose bio describes her as “an openly gay African-American woman who remains committed to radical inclusion in the post-election era”—even contends that although diversity and inclusion are “progressive” ideals, they might actually have a practical purpose.

“Creating a climate of inclusion is certainly a progressive 21st century vision, but it also has a practical outcome: It strengthens academic achievement,” she asserts. “Extensive studies—many based around closing the achievement gap for students of color—confirm that people who feel connected to their communities are more likely to succeed in college.”

Yet Pollard says that the 2016 presidential election has created “ripples of profound insecurity” on college campuses, particularly with respect to Donald Trump’s proposed crackdown on illegal immigration, and frets that students might be driven to despair by their disappointment.

“Immigrants and native-born students have been saddened and distraught by the rhetorical targeting of distinct ethnic and racial groups,” she states. “They have written me heartbreaking messages such as, ‘I feel unsafe.’ ‘I feel so insecure...What will happen to us?’ ‘I feel scared, angry, and disappointed.’ Having spent immeasurable energies connecting academic achievement and social belonging, these questions threaten to unravel the safe haven of teaching and learning that my institution has painstakingly nurtured.”

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“Will students drop out from fear?” she ponders. “Will they drive others out under the false logic that opportunity is a zero-sum game?”

Conceding that the answer to both of those questions has thus far been “no,” Pollard says she has nonetheless been “overwhelmed,” but also “comforted,” by the expressions of concern she has heard from students and faculty, citing a “roundtable with journalists” held in the wake of the election titled, “What Just Happened?”

Noting that the college will continue to offer lectures that “push back against the false narrative that victims of state violence and political persecution are somehow a threat to ‘real’ Americans,” and that its “hundreds of ‘Dreamer’ students” will continue to attend for the same tuition, she still frets that not enough is being done to “teach our students about the campaign’s incivility.”

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“The only option I see is a stronger and deeper commitment to inclusion,” she concludes, remarking that, “in the week since the election I have received more messages from people who called for increased inclusion and dialogue than from those espousing intolerance.”

Boasting that Montgomery students “understand that poverty is the real enemy in this country,” and that “opportunity” is the solution, Pollard declares that “there is no room left for exclusion,” because “respect for the opportunity that education provides transcends partisan politics.”

Campus Reform reached out to Pollard for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ AutumnDawnPrice