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All Higher Education Institutions Should Have a Cultural Competency Plan

Photo of Representative Teresa Alonso León

Rep. Teresa Alonso León (OR), sponsor

Sponsored by Rep. Teresa Alonso León (OR)

Reported to the Caucus by the NHCSL Education, Media and Culture Task Force
Rep. Pedro Marín (GA), Chair

Ratified by the Caucus on December 11, 2020

WHEREAS, the proportion of students of color in the undergraduate student population across the United States increased from 29.6% in 1996 to 45.2% in 2016. Similarly, the percentage of graduate students of color increased from 20.8 to 32.0 percent over the same time period;[1] and,

WHEREAS, according to an American Council on Education report, a significant contributing factor to the increasing diversity in higher education is “a growing Hispanic population that is seeking higher education at levels not before seen,”[2] with the share of Hispanic high school graduates attending college seeing the largest increase among racial/ethnic groups (13 percentage points over the same twenty-year period);[3] and,

WHEREAS, despite the increasing diversity, episodes of racism, discrimination, and racial and ethnic insensitivity continue to plague higher education institutions, indicating that many are not prepared to provide a safe and welcoming environment for their much more diverse student bodies, and lack effective plans to address discrimination; and,

WHEREAS, in the fall of 2015, protests erupted at the University of Missouri, when university leadership failed to meaningfully respond to reports by African-American students’ racial slurs being used on campus; both the system president and the campus chancellor were forced to resign;[4] and,

WHEREAS, studies have found that students of color are often asked to represent their race or ethnicity in class discussions; and endure stereotyped comments about the criminality of certain groups of people, along with hurtful expressions of disbelief when they show intelligence or depth in their work or remarks;[5] and,

WHEREAS, this pervasive racially- and culturally-insensitive college environment, and the aggressions and microaggressions it fosters, negatively affects the emotional and mental health of students and their academic performance;[6] and,

WHEREAS, cultural competency plans and policies seek to address these issues and have been growing in acceptance;[7] and,

WHEREAS, cultural competency can be defined as “an understanding of how institutions and individuals can respond respectfully and effectively to people from all cultures, economic statuses, language backgrounds, races, ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, genders, gender identifications, sexual orientations, veteran statuses and other characteristics in a manner that recognizes, affirms and values the worth, and preserves the dignity, of individuals, families and communities;”[8] and,

WHEREAS, in 2017, the Oregon Legislature required all public higher education institutions in the state, including community colleges, to establish a process for recommending, and providing oversight for, the implementation of, cultural competency standards for the institution and its employees;[9] and,

WHEREAS, the benefits of effective cultural competency plans and procedures include increased responsibility for performance, includes instructor performance;[10] the promotion of inquiry and acceptance that leads to increased efficacy and effectiveness within the institution;[11] and, greater satisfaction in the learning environment among students and faculty due to increased participation and engagement.[12]

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) recognizes that cultural and racial tensions and insensitivity within the college and university environments continue to negatively affect students of color and have led to students feeling unwelcome or unsafe on their campuses, resulting in negative health and academic outcomes; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NHCSL calls on state legislators to stay informed and learn more about these issues so that they may act accordingly and appropriately in response to any climate of intolerance or discrimination at higher education institutions within their states; and,

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that NHCSL encourages state legislators to craft, adopt and require cultural competency plans, policies, and procedures for their states’ higher education institutions in order to promote greater inclusivity, tolerance, responsibility, and respect amongst the students, faculty, and leadership on these campuses.



[1] Association of American Colleges and Universities, “College Students Are More Diverse Than Ever. Faculty and Administrators Are Not”. Available at:  https://www.aacu.org/aacu-news/newsletter/2019/march/facts-figures

[2] See Executive Summary of Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report. Available at: https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf

[3] Association of American Colleges and Universities, “College Students Are More Diverse Than Ever. Faculty and Administrators Are Not”. Available at https://www.aacu.org/aacu-news/newsletter/2019/march/facts-figures

[4] Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/09/12/administrators-students-and-activists-take-stock-three-years-after-2015-missouri

[5] Harwood et al. 2015. Racial Microaggressions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Voices of Students of Color in the Classroom. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Press. Citation accessed from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13562517.2017.1414790?casa_token=QeM15vS3r3AAAAAA:URApWuZd1cxyrXh87RsgNLS-AIbprYgZSIL_jnYsQUUxeR1Gh-UtSPdlear7kvYrdPhyZpsbca2mQw

[6] Williams, David R. et al. "Racism and health: evidence and needed research." Annual review of public health 40 (2019): 105-125. Available at: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040218-043750

[7]Kruse, Sharon et al. “Developing cultural competency in higher education: an agenda for practice”. Teaching in Higher Education. (2018). Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13562517.2017.1414790?casa_token=QeM15vS3r3AAAAAA:URApWuZd1cxyrXh87RsgNLS-AIbprYgZSIL_jnYsQUUxeR1Gh-UtSPdlear7kvYrdPhyZpsbca2mQw

[8] Available at: https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2017R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2864/Enrolled

[9] HB2864 - https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Measures/Overview/HB2864

[10] Dixon et al. 2014. “Differentiated Instruction, Professional Development, and Teacher Efficacy.” Journal for the Education of the Gifted 37 (2): 111–127. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0162353214529042

[11] Lozano, R. 2014. “Creativity and Organisational Learning as Means to Foster Sustainability.” Sustainable Development 22 (3): 205–216. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/sd.540?casa_token=M-Oiu1IpY8YAAAAA%3A3bCtajHCkObuneml31IKy_jCJB4egYYm6O_ugj_5oTkJyTZ7mOPLH6GV6WNGnzoQyPQSQuAlldyx0Jd7

[12] Frazier, M. L., and W. M. Bowler. 2015. “Voice Climate, Supervisor Undermining and Work Outcomes: A Group-level Examination.” Journal of Management 41 (3): 841–863. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0149206311434533?casa_token=fX08M1CkuTgAAAAA%3AC-HiKAUkfHipuABDFSQW1YOnn57gSxTGdT0yO0ehRaXdM9PoLM4df3zCbBI-BlxjrQgft4hG2FY9Gg