Commitment to Diversity
At Highline, you will find an environment that welcomes everyone. We offer events, programs and spaces that promote understanding, celebrate diversity and honor individual points of view. Our commitment to diversity, social justice and multiculturalism have earned prestigious awards: the 2016 Pacific Region Equity Award and the 2014 Award of Excellence for Advancing Diversity, both from the American Association of Community Colleges, and the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award four years in a row (2013–2016) from Insight Into Diversity magazine.
We believe that students — as a result of their experience during college immersed in an inclusive environment that embraces multiculturalism and diversity — have the capacity to change the world for the better as global citizens. A commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice is at the heart of everything we do daily at Highline.
One example of our commitment is how we are addressing academic equity issues associated with sexual orientation. We have been a leader in Washington state in a new process that asks for a student’s sexual orientation on the college application as a way to identify barriers to academic attainment among marginalized populations.
Here is a sampling of our many other services, initiatives and programming that meet diverse needs:
- Highline’s Equity Taskforce works to identify and address systemic barriers which obstruct the support and growth of diversity, equity and inclusion within both our student and employee populations.
- An Inter-Cultural Center, Center for Cultural & Inclusive Excellence, and MESA and TRiO programs to engage and support students of color;
- English for Speakers of Other Languages courses, transition-to-college services, co-enrollment options and a Welcome Back Center to serve immigrant populations;
- Recruitment and professional development initiatives that emphasize cultural competence, white privilege and universal design;
- Micro-enterprise support and innovative financial aid services that confront suburban poverty;
- Transition programs that provide meaningful educational pathways for adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. Highline is one of five community colleges (of twenty-seven colleges and universities total) receiving Department of Education funds through the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) program, which speaks to the college’s long-term commitment to these students; and
- Global partnerships that connect faculty, staff and students with the diversity of the world. Approximately three-quarters of Highline’s full-time faculty have had international experience where they have worked in higher education partnerships abroad.
Our commitment is also seen in many of our college policies, initiatives and mission.
Here’s a sampling:
Highline College actively promotes and supports a learning and work environment which ensures social justice, mutual respect, understanding, civility, and non-violence. Highline College is committed to the elimination of discrimination based on biological sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnic background, national origin, class, economic status, age, military and veteran status, disability, language, culture, and religious beliefs. Approved by the Highline Board of Trustees, 2016
Core Theme 2
Integrate and institutionalize diversity and globalism throughout the college. Submitted to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), February 2011
As a public institution of higher education serving a diverse community in a multicultural world and global economy, Highline College promotes student engagement, learning, and achievement, integrates diversity and globalism throughout the college, sustains relationships within its communities, and practices sustainability in human resources, operations, and teaching and learning. Adopted August 2013
History, Planning and Implementation
Washington State Student Services Commission (WSSSC)
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ)
Student Success Initiative
This is a student-driven initiative that began at the 2011 Washington Community and Technical College (CTC) Students Legislative Voice Academy. Five Community College students, Matthew Shrader, Jacob Kovacs, Jonathan Russell, Dante Obcena, and Jake Atwell-Scrivner were engaged in developing a white paper and conducting presentations to the Admissions & Registrars Council (ARC), Council of Unions and Student Programs (CUSP), Multicultural Students Services Directors Council (MSSDC), and Washington State Student Services Commission (WSSSC).
The white paper promoted the Voice Academy’s priorities for the upcoming legislative session. One of the five critical issues brought to the forefront was the recommendation to include LGBTQ demographic categories as part of our data collection on the CTC uniform admissions application.
On February 3, 2012, the students presented a PowerPoint entitled “Washington State CTC Student Coalition for LGBTQ Demographics” to WSSSC. The commission responded by agreeing that this was an important issue and recommended that a task force be formed.
Subsequently, the WSSSC LGBTQ Student Success Task Force was formed representing the following councils and constituencies: WSSSC, ARC, student leaders, Institutional Research, and State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) Information Technology.
The Task Force held its first meeting on March 26, 2012. It concluded that further research was necessary to determine the following:
- The impact of this initiative on student success, achievement, and campus climate;
- Steps needed to implement the process from decision to operational level, including IT support; and
- A communication strategy to educate campuses and the broader community on the significant benefits of this timely initiative.
- In Mallory Angelis’ report in the California Postsecondary Commission (CPEC, 2009) Newsletter entitled Access and Equity for all Students: Meeting the Needs of LGBT Students, she articulates that “there is a clear need for increased data collection and analysis on LGBT students. Consistent data on LGBT students is essential in tracking their progress throughout their educational career. Sexual orientation and gender identity should be considered its own demographic and colleges should collect and report LGBT data to CPEC in the same manner as gender, race, ethnicity, and disability data.”
While limited research has been conducted regarding LGBTQ students who attend community colleges, what is available clearly supports the need for colleges to be cognizant and aware of the LGBTQ students enrolled in their institutions. This information helps to create programs and services, curricular offerings and safe spaces for all students to study and learn free from harassment and discrimination.
The LGBTQ Student Success Task Force has determined through research, practitioner knowledge and student experience that implementing this initiative will serve as a visible testimony of the CTC’s commitment to diversity, academic achievement and student success.
In September, 2012 the LGBTQ Task Force presented their final Report to the Washington Community and Technical Colleges (WACTC) Educational Services Committee. The Task Force implementation plan was endorsed by WACTC, and WSSSC members agreed to contribute the financial support necessary to implement this initiative.
The Task Force determined that data will be most effectively collected quarterly on registration forms used by colleges. Detailed guidelines have been developed indicating who will have access to the aggregated data, which will be non-identifiable to specific students. These data elements will be included as part of the student’s biographical record.
Collecting this data will allow colleges to know more about their students’ progress and academic success. As a result, colleges will be better prepared to design and develop curricular and co-curricular offerings that reflect their students’ diverse perspectives, and that promote and safe and welcoming learning environment for all students.
Based on preliminary research, it appears that the Washington State Community and Technical College system is the first of two-year public institutions in the country to begin collecting this data. The LGBTQ Student Success Task Force is proud of the work that has been done to implement this important initiative, and is appreciative of the support provided by college constituents across the State of Washington.
Tonya Benton, Liaison to Research and Planning Commission, Highline College
Kate Bligh, Associate Dean for Enrollment Services, Highline College (representing ARC)
Toni Castro, Vice President for Student Services, Highline College, Task Force Chair
Rhonda Quash-Coats, Vice President for Student Services, South Puget Sound Community College
Ray Gartner, ctcLink Technology/Integration Manager, State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
Monica Lundberg, Manager of Student Programs, South Seattle Community College (representing CUSP)
Juanita Morgan, Development Services Supervisor, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
Matthew Shrader, Alumnus, South Puget Sound Community College; Project Manager, Washington State CTC Student Coalition for LGBTQ Demographics
Q: Is there a specific reason you are collecting this data?
A: Yes, we are collecting data to promote safe and welcoming learning environments, develop programs and services, and better track students’ progress and success.
Q: Will you report this information to outside agencies?
Q: What if I leave the question blank? Will you require me to select my sexual orientation?
A: No, a student can select “Prefer not to answer.”
Q: Will this information be disclosed to my peers or professors?
Q: Who will have access to this registration information?
A: Institutional research departments will have access to the data.
Q: Will I be able to update and change my status after I register for classes?
Q: Does your campus collect this information from faculty and staff?
Q: Will this information always be linked to my name?
Q: If I transfer schools, will you provide this information to them?
Q: If another school or entity asks you for this information, will you provide it to them?
Q: If I provide this information, will it be kept private?
Q: Does your campus have a clear procedure for reporting LGBTQ-related bias incidents and hate crimes?
Student Voices Video
Featuring Highline College students, this video promotes the new fall, 2013 initiative to include LGBTQ demographic questions on registration forms at community and technical colleges in Washington State.
We are committed to promoting a safe and inclusive learning environment for LGBTQ students at Highline College, and in order to do this, we need your help! Collecting data will allow us to know more about our students and thus, be better prepared to design and develop curricular and co-curricular programs that reflect students’ diverse perspectives and experiences.
We believe the implementation of this new process will serve as a testimony of our commitment to diversity, academic achievement and student success.
Providing this information will be optional; however, we encourage students to provide this confidential information so we can design and implement programs and services that provide meaningful and rewarding learning opportunities for all students.
Program examples include:
- Campus Safe Zones Projects and Training
- LGBTQ/Diversity Student Centers
- Student, Staff, and Faculty Professional Development
- Mentoring for LGBTQ Organizations and Clubs
- Course Offerings
- Funding and Scholarships
Why We Need More Than Three Genders NPR cosmos & culture – Commentary on Science and Society, December 2013
“Are you gay or lesbian?” College asks students the question in survey, King 5 News, July 2013
Ask, Do Tell, Inside Higher Ed, August 2013
Campus Pride Founder Says LGBT Inclusiveness Benefits Everyone, Insight to Diversity, December 2013