George Floyd’s viral, violent, and unforgivable murder framed my transition to the presidency of my academic senate. Commencement marked the end of our spring semester, and I would start my new post on May 26, 2020. Prior to the Labor Day weekend transition, I looked forward to sending a “happy summer” message to my peers, indicating my excitement and commitment to serve. Clearly, the world needed to hear a different message, including my own peers.
In Spanish, there is a term called pena, which describes a pain that has no counterpart in English. Pena is a sense of loss, a sense of emptiness, a sense of sorrow so sharp that it could alter one’s life. At that moment, pena described what I felt. I grew up in northeast Minneapolis in a mixed-race (White mother, Black father) and multicultural (Ecuadorian and US Midwestern) household. I identify as Afro-Ecuadorian and have experienced and witnessed first-hand the manifestation of white supremacy in the form of personal and systemic racism. One of my earliest memories as a child is of a cross burning in front of our house in Iowa. No one knows my lived experience, but it is foundational to who I am and what drives my racial equity and justice work. In that dark week, I searched within to craft the message that we all needed to hear. My letter to campus, instead of wishing everyone a happy summer, boldly proclaimed my convictions and commitment to addressing issues of equity as the new academic senate president. I emphasized the individual and collective actions we could all take to move toward a more racially just and equitable college and world.
This tragic incident fell on the heels of our college updating its mission, vision, and institutional goals, which included newly developed institutional values and a commitment statement (a process that took over a year to conclude). The commitment statement we adopted begins, “MiraCosta College is committed to creating a racially just campus climate.” This written statement opened a window of possibilities for action towards living into this commitment.
Typically, we do not have senate meetings during the summer months. However, the summer of 2020 was no ordinary summer. I immediately reached out to various faculty leaders within our local academic senate, curriculum, professional development, and other areas to help develop a resolution. On June 25, 2020, we held a special meeting to discuss the resolution: Declaration that Black Lives Matter and a Call to Action. In retrospect, the resolution was quite ambitious, but it provided the needed framing for our collective work over the last two years. I will highlight the work around two of the resolves within the resolution, one on a call for a community review board on policing and one on faculty hiring practices.
COMMUNITY REVIEW BOARD
“Be it further resolved, that the MiraCosta College Academic Senate calls on the administration to create a community review/oversight board to include predominantly Black, Indigenous, and other people of color community members from within and outside MiraCosta to regularly review police policies, procedures, and practices and make recommendations on recruitment, hiring, training, and discipline for campus police infractions”
In the years prior to the national calls to action around police reform, we experienced several local incidents around racial bias from outside the college and tensions between campus police and students, staff, and faculty of color. In addition, our campus police chief retired shortly after George Floyd’s death. These circumstances provided an opportunity to reflect on policing practices on our campus. The administration openly supported this resolution and worked with me to identify faculty to join a community review board. The committee quickly formed the Student Conduct and Policy Advisory Committee (SCPAC). The composition of the committee included seven faculty, one classified professional, one trustee, five community members, and several students of color. Six of the seven faculty members appointed were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) faculty.
Facilitated by the Vice President of Business Administrative Services, the SCPAC’s charge included serving “in an advisory role to promote equity and continuous improvement in the MiraCosta College processes of implementing student code of conduct and police matters.” Additionally, “the Committee’s purpose is to promote effective communication, collaboration, and understanding between constituent groups members, community members, and areas of the college charged with keeping the campus a welcoming, safe and productive learning environment for all members.” While many of my colleagues were skeptical at first, the SCPAC has diligently reviewed data, policies, procedures, and have made several recommendations regarding the campus police department. One of the greatest outcomes of this committee has been the envisioning of college policing practices through hiring. As of April 2022, we now have a permanent police chief, an African American female, veteran police officer who brings great promise for changes in community policing practices at MiraCosta College.
PART-TIME FACULTY HIRING PRACTICES
“Be it further resolved, that the MiraCosta College Academic Senate commits to reviewing policies and practices within its purview through a race-conscious and anti-racist lens”
At the first fall 2020 semester senate meeting, we developed concrete objectives aligned with the June resolution. One objective involved reviewing hiring practices for part-time faculty, an area that had not been reviewed in a long time, nor reviewed through a race-conscious and antiracist lens. Since 2015, our college has been focused on faculty diversification and equity-minded practices in hiring full-time faculty. Inspired by our resolution, we reviewed current policies and administrative procedures, handbooks, and training around part-time faculty hiring. We surveyed current and recent department chairs to understand how and when they hire part-time faculty. We found very little guidance was provided for hiring managers and faculty department chairs around part-time faculty hiring. The administrative procedure on part-time faculty hiring and recruitment only had three paragraphs of information and had not been modified since 2011.
Department chairs relied on the flexibility that the minimally outlined procedure provided. However, there was a desire by many to diversify their part-time faculty. They wanted to know how to go about doing so. This prompted the taskforce to make recommended changes to the administrative procedure to bring greater accountability to Equal Employment Opportunity practices, increase awareness of how to recruit and hire diverse faculty, and clarify roles and responsibilities within the hiring process. These changes were then discussed with the Vice President of Human Resources and other Human Resources staff. In this collegial consultation, we talked about expected outcomes and opportunities for collaboration. While this process took almost two years, the modified administrative procedure was brought to academic senate and our College Council for review and approval in January of 2022.
These are only two examples of the incredible work that has happened in response to our Call to Action. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish the last two years. It never should have taken the death of so many Black/African Americans to do what’s right. I end my service as academic senate president knowing that as a community, we will continue to keep our eyes on the prize and forge ahead in greater collaboration to ensure that we live into our commitment to being a racially just campus.
1. Source found at https://www.miracosta.edu/office-of-the-president/_docs/mcc_mission_statement.pdf
2. Resolution found at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UAnongu58eCtTo3IHtSw6t12h_OPJpk6/view
3. AP 7120.5: Recruitment and Hiring Associate Faculty: https://www.miracosta.edu/office-of-the-president/board-of-trustees/_docs/7120.5AP-RecruitmentandHiring-AssociateFaculty-Effective8-9-11.pdf