As a global community of scholarly publishers dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) is appalled by the Executive Order on Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping, issued by the US President on September 22.
By labeling difficult conversations about race and privilege as “stereotyping,” accusing citizens of advancing “pernicious and false beliefs” in areas of legitimate historical interpretation, and attempting to ban members of the federal workforce, uniformed services, and government contractors—as well as recipients of federal grants—from conducting anti-racist training, this order has the potential to set chilling and frankly un-American precedents. If fully implemented, it not only could slow the arduous, but vital, progress towards equity, justice, and inclusion in this country’s workplaces and public spaces, but also could hamper the essential exercise of intellectual freedom, through which new fields of inquiry, such as critical race studies, are articulated and make valuable contributions to the breadth of human knowledge.
This executive order claims to support “equal dignity” for every person, but would present serious barriers to the achievement of this goal. The AUPresses Statement on Equity and Anti-Racism expresses our members’ intent to recognize, value, and encourage diversity in our community and, importantly, aims to guide our future actions in this area. In part, it asserts that upholding equity, justice, and inclusion requires introspection, honesty, and reform of current practices, the interests they serve, and the people and perspectives they exclude. Forthright and thoroughgoing examinations of structural racism are only the first steps to meaningful change. To stymie these necessary actions in the manner prescribed by this executive order is to maintain a hostile status quo.
Moreover, this executive order has the potential to chill intellectual freedom. Our community has long championed intellectual freedom and, in fact, is well-known and respected for its role in publishing and promoting myriad new fields, including African American, Native American, and LGBTQ studies. By penalizing scholars and publishers – and possibly even their parent institutions – who rely on federal funding to underwrite the exploration of new ideas, this order could curtail meaningful intellectual contributions by US citizens, colleges, and universities, and could impede the advancement of human knowledge in general.
For these reasons, this executive order deserves both our contemporaneous condemnation and continued evaluation and watchfulness, in keeping with our association’s core values of diversity and inclusion and intellectual freedom.
AUPresses has also given our support to these letters and statements from the wider higher education and scholarly community:
- “Request to Withdraw Trump Administration’s Executive Order Restricting Diversity Training,” American Council on Education, October 8, 2020
- “Statement Urging Retraction of Executive Order Prohibiting the Inclusion of ‘Divisive Concepts’ in Employee Training Sessions,” American Historical Association, October 13, 2020
January 20, 2021: Shortly after his inauguration today, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed a number of executive orders, including one that rescinded this executive order. We applaud this signal of the new administration’s intention to foster the hard but necessary work of advancing racial equity in this country.
About the Association of University Presses
AUPresses is an organization of nearly 160 international nonprofit scholarly publishers. Since 1937, the Association of University Presses advances the essential role of a global community of publishers whose mission is to ensure academic excellence and cultivate knowledge. The Association holds intellectual freedom, integrity, stewardship, and equity and inclusion as core values. AUPresses members are active across many scholarly disciplines, including the humanities, arts, and sciences, publish significant regional and literary work, and are innovators in the world of digital publishing.