The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an important piece of legislation in our nation’s history, and an Act which served to end discrimination against individuals, particularly those who identify as racial and ethnic minorities, people from different national origins and religious faiths, and women. In addition, it enforced one’s constitutional right to vote, ended racial segregation in schools, in the workplace, and by establishments that served the public. As a naturalized citizen, former student of this great university, and one who has become quite familiar with the history of individuals who have fought for the right to be included, I can remember the stories of my father who emigrated from Jamaica in the 1960s and experienced segregation while pursuing a college education in the United States. A thirst for a better quality of life for his family, especially for his daughter and son, led him to pursue higher education in another country. His experiences left us with an unwavering passion for education and a belief that universities are cornerstones for the development of a healthier, more just society.
Unlike many universities that share a similar origin and history, Texas A&M integrated in 1963. So, this year, 2013, is particularly memorable for us, as we recognize the 50th anniversary of that landmark year. Many of the former students who were “firsts” still reside in the Bryan-College Station area and are influential community leaders, others have pursued and furthered their life goals throughout the world, and still there are countless others who are direct and indirect beneficiaries of integration after that landmark year.
As the first public institution in Texas, we have made tremendous strides to be a flagship. We are a university that not only serves the people of the State of Texas, but one that works to keep pace with the needs of the society, as well as the national and global challenges that impact the human condition in our world. Diversity and excellence are indispensable to these efforts and outcomes. While an institution’s quest for preeminence and prominence is largely dependent on actualizing its espoused values, mission, and vision, one cannot overlook the strength and talent of the constituent groups that influence these efforts–students, faculty, staff, and, the environs of the surrounding community. We cannot achieve excellence without diversity.
Our Diversity Plan that was approved in 2010 is already reaping benefits from our efforts and commitment to be held more accountable, enhance climate so that Aggieland remains a welcoming place for all, and where equity is commonplace and sustained for the future. As we reflect on and take part in the activities for the 50th Anniversary, let us not forget our progress, those who made the Civil Rights Act possible and fought for Aggieland to be a more inclusive place. Let us renew our commitment to diversity and envision a brighter future, one where we continue to learn, stretch, and grow together, from diversity and all the richness, challenges, and opportunities that it brings for us, to be an even greater Texas A&M!
Christine A. Stanley, ‘90
Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity
Professor, Higher Education