2022 May Rostrum
2022 May Rostrum
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges is honored to present this special Rostrum issue, “Answering the Call to Action: Racial Equity, Reckoning, and Academic Accountability Since the Murder of George Floyd,” which is a follow up to the Rostrum published in July 2020. In the two years since that publication, the ASCCC has continued its work regarding inclusion, diversity, equity, antiracism, and accessibility, including the adoption of IDEAA as the framework in which all of the work of the ASCCC is embedded. The ASCCC remains committed to supporting all faculty and to representing them at the state level through our work with the Board of Governors, the legislature, the governor’s office, and others.
We send a special thank you to Equity and Diversity Action Committee members Michelle Bean, Nadia Khan, Robert L. Stewart Jr., Juan Arzola, Leslie Shull, Mohamed Sharif-Idiris, Hermelinda Rocha, and Roberto Rubalcaba, who proposed the idea for this Rostrum. However, the work is not finished. The California Community Colleges system, and society at large, is on the brink of necessary, transformational change. All faculty, and indeed all people both within and outside of educational systems, must work collectively to continue to push to make meaningful changes happen.
Again, we are honored to bring you this special edition and hope that it will inspire you to help the ASCCC continue this work.
Dolores Davison, President, ASCCC
Krystinne Mica, Executive Director, ASCCC
Centering the Voices of Black Women on Community College Campuses
In light of the murder of George Floyd and sentiments of anti-blackness in our society and institutions, a professional network of Black women faculty and administrators has been organized to support, mentor, and empower community college women. Unfortunately, colleges have been slow and ill-equipped to respond to the needs of their Black employees and students. Recognizing the gravity of this problem, a group of Black women coordinated virtual community healing forums during summer 2020 for Black students and employees to be affirmed and heard. The group of women felt they needed to continue their work together in a far more organized fashion with an intentional focus on centering the voices of Black women while decentering practices rooted in anti-blackness and patriarchy.
Nandi, who was a Zulu queen, warrior, and devoted leader, seemed like a fitting name for the group of women as they began meeting to formalize their work and collective goals. Nandi is comprised of a counseling faculty member, English faculty member, Umoja Faculty Coordinator, Faculty Professional Learning Coordinator, CalWORKS Director, college presidents, vice presidents, and an Executive Officer of Equity and Engagement. The professional work of the Nandi members individually and collectively has been integral in advancing Black student success, Umoja efforts, men of color efforts, justice impacted efforts, and other diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the community college system. Nandi recognizes that the need for representation and engagement of Black women is imperative to advance Black women’s issues in the community college system.
DISPELLING THE MYTH OF THE ANGRY BLACK WOMAN
There is a unique type of discrimination that Black women experience that is categorically different than the type of discrimination experienced by other groups. Black women are often stereotyped as the superwoman archetype, angry Black woman archetype, or the mammie caricature, which dehumanizes Black women. One not too uncommon experience that many Black faculty members share, more specifically Black women, is being called aggressive, contentious, and/or uncivil when having uncomfortable conversations with certain colleagues. The weaponization of words used to villainize Black folks and induce a false sense of fear and lack of safety is a century long tactic used to control and cause harm to Black people. The century long myth of the fragility of others when it comes to their uncomfortable interactions with Black people is often used to excuse and
legitimize the harm, disrespect, and mistreatment toward Black people. The problem, however, is that the fragility of others confuses fear with danger and comfort with safety. Stated differently, when others feel “frightened” or “uncomfortable” with a Black woman’s assertive, direct communication they perceive that there’s an actual threat when no threat exists. Black women should be allowed to assert themselves, and they should be able to do so without being stereotyped as aggressive, attacking, and/or angry.
The negative stereotypes serve to perpetuate oppressive discourse that induce fear and causes harm to Black women. Therefore, creating a network for Black women that serves to support, mentor, and empower is essential to supporting the success of Black women on a community college campus. Moya Bailey coined the term misogynoir which is misogyny directed toward Black women. Misogynoir explains how race and sex intersect, and it describes the hatred, dislike, distrust, and disparate treatment towards Black women (Bailey & Trudy, 2018). Institutions are unaware of misogynoir and how it manifests to collectively harm Black women. The first step to dismantling and disrupting misogynoir is awareness. Furthermore, the most critical components to dismantling misogynoir is listening to Black women.
CENTERING THE VOICE OF BLACK WOMEN
The Nandi organization has four areas of focus: research, scholarship, mentorship, and professional development. Nandi will give voice and awareness to the experiences of Black women to help institutions move toward accountability and action that ultimately dismantles misogynoir in the community college system. Despite the many equity efforts statewide across our system, the plight of Black women continues to be overlooked and consequently Black women are holding back their voice due to fear of being villainized, punished, or worse, terminated. Addressing the negative perceptions, disparate treatment, and hostile environment will be imperative to ensure the success and wellbeing of Black female students, staff, faculty, and administrators on community college campuses.
Understanding the importance of turning data into meaningful action, Nandi will conduct research to capture the challenges, barriers, and overall lived experiences of Black female students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The action research approach will provide opportunities to engage colleges in the effective use of data in order to help build and sustain institutional capacity to support the success of Black women. Further, Nandi will coordinate workshops, webinars, and learning institutes that will focus on addressing systemic barriers that impact the success of Black women, as well as ways to better support their success. Nandi will host an annual conference to motivate and inspire Black women personally, academically, and professionally through relevant and engaging keynote speakers, workshop topics, and presentations.
Bailey, M. & Trudy. (2018). On misogynoir: citation, erasure, and plagiarism. Feminist Media Studies, 18:4, 762-768. DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2018.1447395
Bailey, M. (2020). Misogynoir transformed: Black women’s digital resistance. NYU Press.
Time for You to “Touch the Pole”
The spring semester should have been filled with the anticipation of students returning to campus. Instead, the college community discovered that its president, the second Black woman to hold that esteemed position, had been the target of vicious racial assaults. The aggressive and vulgar nature of the threats triggered myriad feelings and thoughts among the Brown and Black faculty, classified professionals, administrators, and Black students.
Too often, racial incidents are handled procedurally and summarily dismissed as outliers, deemed the actions of a mentally disturbed sole actor. Moreover, mediating feelings about racial incidents and doing “work” to minimize reoccurrences are relegated to those of us who have been victimized by the incident. In addition to being wrongminded, these actions inappropriately levy responsibility.
Each of us is responsible for responding in a manner that mitigates the occurrence of racial incidents and holding those who perpetrate them accountable.
If real, discernible antiracial change is to occur, if equity is to be realized, each of us must engage in an extraordinary work that is necessary to make our respective campus an antiracist institution.
Transformative change, the kind of change that we institutionally talk about, consult about, and highlight in strategic plans, cannot become a reality until antiracist behaviors, attitudes, policies, and procedures are actualized by you, me, and each employee and trustee, irrespective of one’s race, ethnicity, national origin, or belief system.
Succinctly put, nothing changes until you and I, individually and collectively, engage and invest in a pervasive, insidious, unwavering, authentic, and courageous struggle for justice for Brown and Black persons.
When a Brown or Black person is targeted with hate, the sphere of assault includes EACH Brown and Black employee and student.
Racism, hatred, and discrimination are kindred spirits that are neither new or foreign to Brown and Black people. Black and Brown persons need no reminders that racism and anti-Blackness are still very much alive in our community. Each day, one or more societal institutions, vividly and painfully remind us of our “otherness” in a way that is intended to perpetuate our marginalization.
An organization cannot become antiracist nor can it create equitable outcomes until it recognizes where and how systemic racism is sustained and begins the arduous work to dismantle systems, policies, and procedures that perpetuate its existence. Without traversing the ugliness, messiness, and, sometimes, volatility of racism, organizations cannot bring “equity” to the spaces it inhabits.
Traversing through racism is a tall order that requires courage, commitment, resources, and the will to lead transformative change.
Because most of us have been socialized to believe that the world is binary (i.e., win or lose, black or white, easy or hard, you or me), we mistakenly believe that creating more equitable opportunities where individuals are “free” to bring their full identities, will result in another person losing something of value. Success in all endeavors is reduced to a zero-sum game. More succinctly, if a Brown or Black person gains equitable access to an educational or employment opportunity, it is viewed as being enacted at the expense of a White person. This limiting belief, coupled with a lack of awareness or acknowledgement about this country’s history, makes transformative change too risky and too unpredictable for most leaders to engage in.
Despite its level of difficulty or degree of personal or professional risk effecting transformative change is THE call of leadership. Despite how leadership is treated or talked about, leadership is NOT a title or position.
Leadership is inherent to personhood. Each person leads; the problem is too many people lead by default rather than by design.
Today, I am asking you, on behalf of your peers, the students that we serve, and OUR communities, to begin, if you have not already done so, to lead by design. And, in so doing, lead with the character, courage, and commitment to be a voice and an instrument for change for racial justice.
Allyship is a verb. Action is required.
Not sure what to do? Here are three “getting started” steps:
Step 1. Decide right now, in this moment, to lead by conscious design in all places you inhabit. Use your voice, your privilege, and your presence to lobby on behalf of marginalized Brown and Black people.
Step 2. Show up in a manner that makes it readily apparent that you are an ally of action. No one exemplified this more courageously than 30-year-old James Tyson, the White activist who accompanied Brittany “Bree” Newsome to the base inside the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the South Carolina Confederate flag. When the officers threatened to taser Newsome as she climbed the flagpole, Tyson touched the pole and told the officer that if he tases Newsome he will also be tasing him. Talk about using one’s privilege!
Step 3. Ask yourself, “How can I ‘touch the pole’ in a tangible, measurable, and meaningful way?” Thank you for listening and for accepting THE call
Two Years Later
When a Black person walks into a room, the Black person scans the room easily to find a fellow Black person. As a Black part-time faculty member working in Southern California community colleges for fifteen years, I have experienced this over and over.
Quietly, we have all spoken about our complicated experiences at colleges, while we gently encourage each other. Yet, in 2020, while we were all suffering with personal and professional effects of COVID-19, we were being confronted with the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement in the world, community, and on our campuses. Being at home has allowed many of us part-time faculty an opportunity to attend meetings that we have normally been excluded from attending or had no time to attend.
Throughout the last two years, teaching at various schools within Areas A, C, and D, I was able to sit in a variety of department, academic senate, and board of trustee meetings, only to find the same issue: looking around the Zoom room to count the number of Black faculty, so that we can private message each other to build a survival network. Visiting these meetings and joining the newly formed equity committee meetings has led to more awkward conversations of how to help improve the collegiate experiences for students without discussing how we can create a collegial experience amongst faculty.
For two years, these equity meetings have moved mountains in departments, academic senates, and other areas on campuses to produce policy change. I still, however, attend meetings where diversity is about the same, but there are more Black faculty slowly being considered for full-time employment. Curriculum is becoming more inclusive with the introduction of Ethnic Studies programs, but I hope every class instructor includes more diversity in the curriculum. All classes should represent the diversity of the student body.
Even though policy is changing, hearts and minds are not changing. The amount of overt racist comments amongst faculty via Zoom and in emails has increased in a way that has been alarming. It feels as if our deepest concern was finally confirmed: We are not as liked and welcomed from our peers as we believed. In a recent board of trustee meeting at a school in Area C, an academic senate president deemed diversity, equity, and inclusion as “hot topic” for the period, while the academic senate continued to study a four-year old report and recommendations on how they should move forward in creating a more inclusive curriculum and hire faculty that reflect the student body.
Administration is responding, and students are begging for change. However, our faculty is slowly and begrudgingly shifting in a way that many are standing against progress. Instead of seeing diversity as a positive to the community, adding diversity to the faculty is being seen as current tenured faculty losing something.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Why We Can’t Wait,
We need a powerful sense of determination to banish the ugly blemish of racism scarring the image of America. We can, of course, try to temporize, negotiate small, inadequate changes and prolong the timetable of freedom in the hope that the narcotics of delay will dull the pain of progress. We can try, but we shall certainly fail. The shape of the world will not permit us the luxury of gradualism and procrastination. Not only is it immoral, it will not work.
We all have a responsibility to each other and to our students to strive to be more collegial and to make changes in our hearts and minds that is reflected in our policy, curriculum, words, and actions.
Commit to Transformational Change: Take the Antiracism Pledge
At the Fall 2020 Plenary, the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges (ASCCC) renewed the call to adopt Resolution 3.02 F19 Support Infusing Antiracism/No Hate Education in Community Colleges.  To this end, the ASCCC Equity and Diversity Action Committee strongly suggests that every campus distribute this pledge and every faculty member take the pledge:
I pledge my commitment to end institutional discrimination and racism and will support deeper training that reveals the inherent racism embedded in societal institutions, including the educational system; and ask individuals to examine their personal role in the support of racist structures and the commitment to work to dismantle structural racism.
The antiracism pledge is a commitment to eliminate institutional, discriminatory, and racist policies. The ASCCC strives to
- Integrate an accurate portrayal of the roles and contributions of all groups throughout history across curricula, particularly groups that have been underrepresented historically;
- Identify how racism, bias, stereotyping, and discrimination have limited the roles and contributions of individuals and groups, and how these limitations have challenged and continue to challenge our society;
- Encourage all members of the educational community to examine assumptions and prejudices, including, but not limited to, racism, sexism, and homophobia, that might limit the opportunities and growth of students and employees;
- Offer positive and diverse role models in our society, including the recruitment, hiring, and promotion of diverse employees in community colleges;
- Coordinate with organizations and concerned agencies that promote the contributions, heritage, culture, history, and health and care needs of diverse population groups;
- Promote a safe and inclusive environment for all;
- Actively work to clearly define--and redefine as circumstances dictate--key terms and phenomena related to institutional racism; and
- Critically reflect on antiracism efforts to ensure their relevance and effectiveness. 
We need to commit to “take steps to not only strive for a greater knowledge about and the celebration of diversity, but also to support deeper training that reveals the inherent racism embedded in societal institutions, including the educational system, and asks individuals to examine their personal role in the support of racist structures and the commitment to work to dismantle structural racism.”  There are a number of ways individuals and institutions can move from performative to transformative work and commit to racial equity.
- Create antiracism pledge/commitment walls or digital spaces. Many California community colleges are actively engaged in Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Antiracism, and Accessibility (IDEAA) initiatives which include inviting staff, faculty, and students to take a personal pledge to commitment to IDEAA work. Some examples include MiraCosta College’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Digital Personal Commitment Wall,  Diablo Valley College’s Anti-Racism Pledge Information page,  and Palomar College’s DEI Progress Dashboard. 
- Use the cultural humility toolkit  to self-reflect, plan, and take action. The ASCCC’s Equity and Diversity Action Committee developed the Cultural Humility Tool, a tool that helps individuals and institutions plan next steps in their antiracism and social justice journey, both for the development of a local plan and for self-reflection and action. The tool is a framework to support groups and individuals at deeper levels to engage in courageous conversations that may be needed to start the cultural humility work and move towards transformation.
- Distribute the antiracism pledge through campus listservs. Another way could be to create awareness about the antiracism pledge through newsletters and district/department updates.
Transformational work is intentional. It requires that we set goals, make a plan to meet our goals, and be accountable for following our plan and meeting the set expectations. Taking the antiracism pledge is a commitment that requires individuals and institutions to intentionally engage in transformational antiracism work. It is also important to remember that some people may be more ready than others to commit and to engage in work towards racial equity.
You may also get pushback. Recharge and continue to work again. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to take the pledge. Then, with hopes that collectively we can achieve the goal of creating antiracist and racially just campuses, we work towards racial equity so that in addition to dismantling racist systems, policies and procedures, we consciously commit to creating systems and frameworks that are based on racial justice and racial equity.
1. Resolution can be found on the ASCCC website at https://asccc.org/resolutions/support-anti-racism-pledge
2. The Antiracism Pledge
3. Support the Antiracism Pledge
4. MiraCosta College Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion web page
5. Diablo Valley College Antiracism Pledge Information
6. Palomar College DEI Progress Dashboard
7. ASCCC Cultural Humility Toolkit
Dealing with the Hate They Give: Antidotes to Microaggressions, Racelighting, and Attribution Ambiguity
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
(Frederick Douglass in a letter to an abolitionist associate, 1848)
Microaggressions. Macroaggressions. Racism. Bad behavior. These have not diminished after George Floyd’s murder. They have been perpetrated before and continue still, even in the halls of academia. We feel the impacts and continue to grieve. And while we know that we want and need to effect change on our campuses, knowing exactly how to exact lasting change is challenging.
In her article, “Racelighting and Inauthentic Allyship: How To Recognize It and How To Change It,” Liann Herder (2022) describes Dr. J. Luke Wood’s kindergarten experiences with racism and blatant name-calling. Wood recalls, “I knew to put it in the ‘Racism Box,’ and knew that I wasn’t inviting them to my birthday party,’ [... ] ‘But as I got older, [those epithets] became more subtle—dismissive looks and put-downs. I didn’t know what to do with that.’” Herder goes on to name Wood’s experience as attribution ambiguity. Defined by Baumeister and Vohs (2007), attributional ambiguity is “a psychological state of uncertainty about the cause of a person’s outcomes or treatment.” Couple attributional ambiguity with “racelighting” (Wood and Harris, 2021) where “People of Color question their own thoughts and actions due to systematically delivered racialized messages that make them second guess their own lived experiences with racism,” and it becomes clear that the road to genuine allyship needs to extend beyond performative gestures of solidarity.
As we pass the two-year mark of George Floyd’s murder, we must pause and take note of where we are as a nation, as people, as faculty. Furthermore, we need to both acknowledge the attribution ambiguity and racelighting experienced by California community college students, faculty, and academic professionals, as well as find the courage to evaluate our own part in consciously or unconsciously normalizing this attribution ambiguity and racelighting on our campuses. This means we must learn and utilize strategies to call out ambiguous statements when we hear them in meetings or see them in emails, create spaces of strength and protection for our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) colleagues where there are none, destabilize power imbalances and hierarchies in order to diversify leadership and amplify BIPOC voices, and defuse instances of racelighting.
What follows is a list of strategies that can help diffuse behavior that dehumanizes, discombobulates, aims to assert dominance, or reinforces existing hierarchies that excludes or dismisses the divergent opinions or ideas on our campuses. We need to call out bad behavior for what it is and instead normalize behavior that creates and sustains safer professional work environments for all.
RESPONDING TO ATTRIBUTION AMBIGUITY OR RACELIGHTING INCIDENT:
Dr. Wood and Dr. Harris (2020) developed a strategy with the easy-to-remember acronym, R.A.V.E.N., to provide possible approaches for dealing with microaggressions. Below are a few phrases under each of the approaches in R.A.V.E.N. that we have found useful, helpful, and appropriate to professional settings:
Redirect, intervene, correct, or pull the person aside. This is an approach to use with colleagues you know well. It takes empathy and openness on both sides:
“I’d like to speak confidentially with you about something. I’m wondering if you’re aware that that statement/image/tone/look you used/gave/had the impact of dehumanizing/belittling/affirming certain stereotypes/etc. That may not have been your intention, but I have to bring to your attention the impact. I hope you’re willing to reflect on what I’m saying and think about what kind of follow-up might generate healing and growth.” [if true and your colleague is willing, proceed with “I’m happy to talk more about it and/or offer suggestions for resources/people to consult with regarding this matter”]
Ask probing questions for clarity:
“I think I heard you say [repeat phrasing]. What do you mean by that?”
“I want to make sure I understand what you were saying. What I heard was [repeat phrasing]. Am I understanding correctly?”
Values clarification: Bring the conversation back to your college, academic senate, or group values by saying:
“We are working intentionally to create a space that is safe and welcoming for all. What you just said is not in alignment and/or inconsistent with our institutional values that prioritize equity and inclusion.”
“Because we value diverse ideas and perspectives, we will listen to our colleagues respectfully.”
Or, if you are needing to make your point and stop inappropriate comments, strongly assert one of the following phrases and move to the next item on the agenda:
“What you just said is not socially acceptable; let’s reframe that to a positive.”
“That comment is harmful to others because [explain the reason].”
Emphasize your own thoughts and feelings: Do this by shifting to “I” statements, such as the following:
“When I hear your comment, I think/feel…“
“In my experience, many people might take that to mean [explain your interpretation]. Am I understanding this correctly?”
Next steps: Focus on the action and accountability and say something like the following:
“The next time you encounter this situation, you may want to consider doing…”
“Going forward, we will include a ‘parking lot’ for questions and comments so that we do not interrupt or cut off our colleagues and that everyone who wants to share ideas has an opportunity to do so.”
WHAT TO SAY IF YOU GOT IT WRONG AS A LEADER:
No one is perfect and you will get it wrong sometimes, so give yourself grace and space to correct and grow. Accepting constructive criticism and seeking advice are two signs of a strong leader. If you say something that was taken outside of your original intent or was received negatively and resulted in harm to someone, avoid the urge to explain your intent, because no matter your intent, the harm still happened. Remember, intent is not obvious, but behavior is. Taking ownership and addressing your own mistakes will help you evolve as a leader and sets a positive example of strong leadership.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHEN ENGAGING IN SOCIAL JUSTICE WORK AND ANTIRACIST PRACTICES:
- Am I merely intellectualizing/giving lip service or am I truly actualizing a safe space for diverse voices from multiple perspectives?
- Am I “going along to get along” or am I going to speak up when something is “off”?
- Will I speak up when I see exclusionary behavior or hear unwarranted, harmful comments?
- Will I celebrate the discomfort? Am I willing to grow, listen, engage, and acknowledge others for their diverse perspectives?
- Am I engaging in liberation and healing and not self-loathing or denial?
We hope that as faculty we remember that we all have love and light to give. Let’s truly begin to embrace it and continue to grow.
A FEW OTHER RESOURCES TO CONSULT FOR FURTHER SUPPORT:
Responding to Microaggressions
ASCCC Effective Dialogue Tools
Courageous Conversation Toolkit
Tools for Building Professional Community
Open Rawness Handout
PBS Student Clips on Microassaults and Microinvalidations
YouTube Video on Microaggressions
UCLA Handout on Microaggressions
Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2007). Attributional ambiguity. In Encyclopedia of social psychology (1). SAGE. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412956253.n40.
Harris, F. & Wood, L. (2020). How to respond to racial microaggressions when they occur. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. https://www.diverseeducation.com/opinion/article/15106837/how-to-respond-to-racial-microaggressions-when-they-occur.
Harris, F. & Wood, L. (2021). Racelighting: A prevalent version of gaslighting facing people of color. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. https://www.diverseeducation.com/opinion/article/15108651/racelighting-a-prevalent-version-of-gaslighting-facing-people-of-color.
Herder, Liann (2022). Racelighting and inauthentic allyship: How to recognize it and how to change it. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. https://www.diverseeducation.com/demographics/article/15290943/racelighting-and-inauthentic-allyship-how-to-recognize-it-and-how-to-change-it.
The Value of Partnership in Moving Systems: CIOs and Faculty Team Up for Good
It is often a point of frustration and sometimes confusion when faculty move to the chief instructional officer (CIO) ranks and hear sentiments such as, “Ooh—you’re working with the dark side now.” Are we really intending to be in opposition to each other as faculty and CIOs? Why vilify each other instead of work in unison? Teamwork and unification is imperative, especially as we grapple with a post-pandemic era and with the racial reckoning and movement toward equity and liberation.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY CIOS WISH FACULTY WOULD REMEMBER ABOUT THEM?
As we think about collaborating across institutions, our colleges and our students are better served when we truly get to know each other as individuals. Chief instructional officers often come from the faculty ranks. They often have spent years teaching; going through tenure processes; working as part-time faculty; advising students; serving on shared governance committees; writing curriculum, syllabi, and program reviews; and dedicating themselves to serving all students who walked through their classroom doors. They became directors and/or deans first in order to support students, hoping their work and faculty experiences would serve their colleges to bolster instructional programs and support ongoing, meaningful change. At the heart of serving as a modern CIO is training and learning equity-minded practices that will foster student engagement and promote racial and social justice for employees and students. The real value and key to success in these efforts is collaboration with faculty colleagues, support from the academic senate, and hard work to build relationships of trust. Once trust is established then true collaboration can ensue which will allow us to break down institutional barriers, knock down silos, and promote success for students, for employees, and to build a stronger, more cohesive campus community.
WHAT DO YOU AS FACULTY NEED OR WOULD LIKE TO SEE FROM CIOS?
We need support and resources to incentivize IDEAA (inclusion, diversity, equity, antiracism, accessibility) work. Budgets are value statements, as Deputy Chancellor Daisy Gonzalez often says. Too often, the work falls to one or a few equity champions who already have too much on their plates and are stretched too thin with managing workloads and caring for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) students flooding our offices. Support with regular and consistent investment into equity-minded tools, investment into culturally responsive professional learning activities, and funding for intentional spaces and conversations on race and equity gaps is vital for us.
We need CIOs and administrators who will put resources into the work, stand shoulder to shoulder with us, and make the way easier; we need those who will create safe conditions to have courageous conversations about race and systemic barriers. We need leaders who believe in us; center BIPOC narratives; and provide cover for us from microaggressions, macroaggressions, marginalization, and racism. And in the same way, BIPOC CIOs need that same kind of faculty support to enact change that protects employees and students.
We need CIOs who understand and support culturally responsive teaching and learning and who invest in cultural humility with accountability. And to those who have supported and provided the cover—thank you.
SO HOW DO WE BUILD LEADERSHIP AND CENTER DIVERSITY WITH INTENTIONALITY?
Understanding the true potential behind the Call to Action for racial equity and social justice, both organizations, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) and the California Community Colleges Chief Instructional Officers (CCCCIO), have invested in empowering BIPOC leadership within the organizations. Here are just a few examples of how ASCCC and CCCCIO are working to advocate for ongoing, organizational IDEAA change.
ASCCC continues to center IDEAA intentionally into the work we do to support the faculty body and in collaborations with system partners. ASCCC has also invested in marginalized faculty groups such as Black, Indigenous, people of color, and women with the development of the new Faculty Empowerment and Leadership Academy (FELA) program.
CCCCIO developed the successful ALIVE program (Advancing Leadership Institute for Instructional VPs in Equitable Education) which focused on a yearlong training for directors and deans of color who are interested in becoming chief instructional officers. This mentoring and training program provided professional services and safe spaces throughout the 2021-22 academic year to build future leaders to change the makeup of the organization. The organization has committed to fund this institute in perpetuity, committing to “put its money where its mouth is” and institutionalizing DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) leadership. The CCCCIO also updated its constitution to include DEI principles and created the executive board position of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advocate. The DEI Advocate serves in a two-year position, elected by the general organization, and tasked with representing the CCCCIO on the statewide DEIA Taskforce as well as advocating in all CCCCIO organizational activities. In 2019, the organization began to focus each of its biennial conferences on DEI principles and updated its logo and motto to reflect “Equity at Our Core.”
Both organizations value and prioritize equity-driven systems and support faculty and administrators in their action toward these aims, investing in unity, equity, and providing a model, we hope, for our system on working together.
WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO TEAM UP THIS YEAR?
ASCCC and CCCCIO have intentionally worked as a team, locking arms to charge forward toward deeper work in diversity, equity, social justice, and antiracism. The culmination of the work and the team building has resulted in the soon-to-be distributed DEI Model Principles and Practices that focus on culturally responsive teaching and learning examples for colleges, local curriculum committees, academic senates, and classrooms. In April 2022, at the annual CCCCIO conference, ASCCC partnered with CIO leaders from 5C (California Community College Curriculum Committee) to train and provide promising practices to CIOs from across the state during an interactive pre-session event. CIOs and faculty anticipate providing more professional learning opportunities together in fall of 2022 to support local processes and practices.
ASCCC and CCCCIO plan to provide collaboration with the CCC Chancellor’s Office in rolling out professional development to support the DEI Model Principles and Practices. Additionally, faculty and CIOs will highlight the content and examples during a general session at the annual 2022 Curriculum Institute.
You can be part of the movement by starting the conversation with your CIO and your team. If you need promising practices to begin the work, ASCCC has a folder of resources for courageous conversations.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY:
- Make an appointment to talk to your CIO about needed resources and support for the IDEAA work.
- Agendize IDEAA at every meeting.
- Collaborate with other campus constituents to make major IDEAA principles part of your annual institutional goals. Put those goals on your agendas, on your website, and post them EVERYWHERE on campus.
- Create a Cultural Humility Journey Map together.
- Return to the 2020 promises and antiracist pledge you may have written and passed and measure what progress you have made.
- Empower BIPOC leaders and create a succession plan to include more voices.
- Give yourself grace and space to be imperfect but keep going! Social justice work is ongoing, and you are needed.
Providing Safe and Inclusive Learning Environments for Neurodivergent Students Aligned with Equity and IDEAA in the California Community Colleges
As librarians, we have experienced countless interactions in which another student reports another student’s behavior as being distracting, disruptive, erratic, or even violent; however, this is rarely the case. More often than not, these perceived strange behaviors instead stem from symptoms that fall under the spectrum of neurodiversity. The student might be stimming–short for self-stimulating–in which a person uses repetitive or seemingly unusual movements or noises to manage emotions or overwhelming situations, commonly associated with autism. The student could be standing up around their workspace, pacing or otherwise restless; this kind of fidgeting is a common way that enables students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to better concentrate on their work. While these behaviors are often interpreted as disruptive or strange–associated in overwhelmingly negative terms–students engage in these behaviors to help regulate their emotions and environment to aid in and enhance their learning environments.
Neurodiversity is a term used to convey the rich diversity in how people experience and interact with the world. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that often includes, but is not limited to,
- Autism (ASD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
While these conditions have often been associated as deficits, neurodiversity celebrates the diversity in how people think, learn, and behave. As the ASCCC builds on its definition and understanding of IDEAA–Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Antiracism, and Accessibility–faculty ought to consider the nuances of neurodiversity in our respective community colleges. While there is limited data around the demographics associated with neurodiversity, there is some indication that the number of enrolled neurodivergent community college students is quite significant. With respect to ASD, a 2011 United States Department of Education report found that 32.6% of students who identified as having autism had attended community college within the six years post-secondary education, while other studies have purported these numbers to be as high as 81.33%. Regardless, the faculty of the California Community Colleges must consider neurodiversity as we continue our IDEAA work.
What does this mean in the classroom? Faculty can model IDEAA and understanding of neurodiversity in several ways:
- Accommodate sensory needs, which may include adjusting the settings of the lights; having a fragrance-free policy in your classroom or campus; communicating anticipated loud noises (e.g., fire drills); allowing the use of headphones during independent work time; for online synchronous classes, as best as possible, ensuring audio input quality is clear and free of feedback, background noise, etc.
- Allow the use of fidget toys, flexible seating, and the ability to stand and move during class.
- Clearly communicate verbal and written instructions for tasks and break down tasks and assignments into smaller steps,
- Have structured course schedules and course design; give students advanced notice for a change in the regular schedule.
- Use direct language and avoid sarcasm or implied messages.
- Do not assume a student is intentionally being disruptive or rude; check in with the student to seek clarification and understanding.
- Ask students what their individual preferences and needs are to be successful in your classroom or learning space.
While students may have an official disability accommodation related to a neurodivergent condition, faculty ought to still be aware of how to identify and create inclusive learning environments outside of formal accommodations for their students. Moreover, not all neurodivergent students will have an official diagnosis or be enrolled with campus disability student services. In a 2013 study of over 17,000 children in the United States, Black children were 69% less likely and Latinx children 50% less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than their white counterparts.  Similarly, girls are underdiagnosed with autism and often must exhibit more behavioral problems or significant intellectual disability to receive an official diagnosis as compared to how boys are diagnosed.  Therefore, we must recognize that having an official diagnosis to merit a college disability accommodation is a privilege that not all of our students have. Modeling inclusive teaching and providing accommodating learning spaces can also help other students develop their own sensitivity and awareness of inclusive everyday practices.
While neurodiversity has real implications for teaching and student services, there are far more dangerous outcomes for misunderstanding neurodiversity than missed learning opportunities and accommodating learning spaces. Last year, on March 31, 2021, in Cudahy, California, an unarmed, Deaf, and autistic man, Isaias Cervantes, had a mental health episode, which prompted his sister to call 911 and ended with Cervantes shot inside of his family’s home with a permanent spinal cord injury that has left him paralyzed. While Cervantes had initially been calm when officers arrived and his therapist had informed deputies that he did not pose a threat, the deputies ultimately ended up using physical force with one deputy kneeling on Cervantes’s body and shooting him in the back. As a Los Angeles Times editorial stated,
Cervantes’ story is horrifying but unfortunately not unique. Families doing their best to care for loved ones with special needs or who process information differently than the majority of people must on occasion seek emergency help… Sometimes, instead of the help and expertise they expected, they get officers who escalate rather than calm the situation. They get excessive and unnecessary force, injury and death.
The Los Angeles Community College District contracts the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) to provide campus safety, the same LASD that had been called to help Isaias Cervantes in a time of crisis that merited understanding and empathy. As library faculty, we are very cognizant of the potential implications of calling campus sheriffs to the library for perceived behavioral issues and threats. While there are many conversations and trainings in the community colleges around diversity in relation to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and physical disability, there are far fewer dedicated to understanding neurodiversity. Again, modeling inclusive teaching and providing accommodating learning spaces are not only considerations for neurodivergent students but helps other students understand the spectrum of neurodiversity and how to be inclusive in their everyday lives, whether on our college campuses or out in our respective communities. As community colleges educating and training students to enter the workforce it is essential to provide an understanding of neurodiversity for those entering any professional environment, whether it is education, administration of justice and public safety, social services, or any other field.
So, where do we go from here? At East Los Angeles College, the authors have recently facilitated a campus workshop to introduce neurodiversity to reach a shared understanding of what it is and how this applies to our teaching and student services. It is clear that faculty still need guidance and support for understanding and accommodating neurodiversity and that faculty genuinely want to be able to provide such support to their students. When using the IDEAA framework in our faculty work, we hope that neurodiversity is included in this work.
1. Raising Children Network. (2020, November 11). Stimming: Autistic children and teenagers. https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/behaviour/common-concerns/stimming-asd.
2. Terada, Y. (2018, June 28). 17 ways to help students with ADHD concentrate. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/17-ways-help-students-adhd-fidget.
3. Baumer, N., & Frueh, J. (2021, November 23). What is neurodiversity? Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-neurodiversity-202111232645.
4. Highlen, D. (2017, July 3). Helping students with autism spectrum disorder at the community college: What does the research say? what can you do? Community College Journal of Research and Practice 41(7),447–54. https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2016.1199334.
5. Frye, D. (2017, January 18). The children left behind. ADDitude [blog]. https://www.additudemag.com/race-and-adhd-how-people-of-color-get-left-behind/.
6. Szalavitz, M. (2016, March 1). Autism–it’s different in girls. Scientific American. https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamericanmind0316-48.
7. There is debate about appropriate terminology with some advocating for person-first language (e.g., “person with autism”), while others advocate for identity-first language (e.g., “autistic person”). In the spirit of inclusivity and appreciating neurodiversity, the authors use the latter, as many self-advocates and allies view autism as a part of one’s identity, not to be condemned or viewed as a deficit condition.
8. Los Angeles Times. (2022, January 9). Editorial: Deputies shot an autistic man, then the justice system terrorized him. There’s a better way. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-01-09/sheriff-shooting-isaias-cervantes.
9. Disability Rights California. (2022, January 4). Disability rights groups submit letter to LA county district attorney urging dismissal of all charges with prejudice against Isaias Cervantes. [Online letter]. https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/latest-news/disability-rights-groups-submit-letter-to-la-county-district-attorney-urging-dismissal.
10. Los Angeles Times. (2022, January 9). Editorial: Deputies shot an autistic man, then the justice system terrorized him.
There’s a better way. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-01-09/sheriff-shooting-isaias-cervantes.
Rejecting Us vs. Them: A Plea for California Community College Faculty to Address Racism & Equity
Overcoming activist burnout and finding common ground are contributing barriers on why it is so challenging to have conversations about race and education. With the exception of survival Zoom calls, educators have been working in silos and have been isolated from meaningful working relationships. Admittedly, some faculty had established collegial relationships before the pandemic occurred that were maintained. But for those navigating adjunct life or the tenure process during remote instruction, trust and support among contemporaries has been rare. It makes sense that while being bombarded by media misinformation about educational equity policies and being sequestered in our classrooms mistrust has festered for some. This skepticism and hostility has resulted in some teachers suing their district, filing complaints against fellow colleagues, and regularly complaining to media about race politics of the workplace. This is a plea to all California Community College senators to engage in meaningful conversations on race and equity; as education leaders, we need to find common ground on issues of antiracism for the sake of our students and our future.
ACKNOWLEDGING RACIAL TRAUMA
Higher education has been lauded throughout history as a place for freedom of thought; access to knowledge, however, was not always open to those seen as lesser such as Black, Brown, Indigenous people of color (which depending on era or geography has varied). During the 20th century, America began to crack open the doors to colleges for all people, but professional gatekeeping was at odds with government policies that sought to provide equal access to all. My ancestors and aunties were not able to gain access to the public education that has allowed me to occupy the spaces that matter.
It has been acknowledged and affirmed at the state and federal level that trauma and negative racial experiences for our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) students are more pronounced in educational contexts. BIPOC students also experience intergenerational trauma related to education which can be harder to overcome. My college recently reported to its academic senate the result of the racial climate survey4 that reaffirmed many things, one of which is that some of our Black students do not feel safe on campus. Black students in the community are still grappling with the impacts of integration and simultaneously situations like what occurred at a local high school, when a Black student was assaulted by campus police and referred to by the hard R racial slur. Saying our students need a welcoming racial climate is not about finger pointing at specific faculty but opening a welcoming door of opportunity and access to every single person who wants to better their life.
Some college senators have argued that any special programs or policies should also be extended to conservative students and faculty. It is notable that self-selected groups that relate to political and religious ideologies do not experience trauma in same way, at least intergenerationally, anywhere near the same scope as our students of color. Political groups already have protections under the first amendment and though the fourteenth amendment protects equal access to education, it does not prohibit structural barriers for Black and Brown students or in any way mitigate gatekeeping or gaslighting by those that do not understand the trauma BIPOC students have experienced. If conservatives have recently experienced mistreatment in our community colleges, we should be having that conversation too. However, the palpable fear is real and justified for Black men in Kern County and throughout California communities, and we must remember that when we welcome those students to our college campuses.
MODELING COMMUNICATION IN RACISM AND EQUITY CONVERSATIONS
Academic freedom and first amendment rights should never be wielded as a weapon against coworkers to make their professional or personal lives unsafe or hostile. Social media spaces like TikTok and Facebook allow educators to express opinions and find support when they feel school policies challenge their political beliefs. Social media is not always the ideal platform for professional dialogue on higher education policies. Just before the pandemic, I was the target of vilification by a fellow colleague for being too progressive, I received a series of online threats of harm to myself and my teenage daughter: I know the author of the initial posts would never wish myself or my family harm, but their followers’ behavior was less civilized. This awful experience brings into focus that both conservative and progressive faculty are role models. Public colleges should continue to be a mainstay for critical thinking and communication, and as public employees we have a sacred role in engaging our students, community, and coworkers with respect. When faculty exhibit exclusionary, petty, or unkind behavior in the classroom or on college related media, they send cues to those that look up to faculty that such behavior is an appropriate way to communicate—it is not.
Words matter. Scholars understand that new concepts are frequently coined to better understand the world and that they should be careful with the language chosen when interacting. It is difficult to not take offense when conversations about race policies become reductive and offensive; it does not help the California Community College system move forward to label all our conservative coworkers as “racists.” Similarly, there will not be agreement if all race and equity solutions are denied as “Cultural Marxism.” Public education is at a crossroads on many fronts and it hinders progress to dismiss fellow educators rather than engage their arguments.
Conversely, as discussions about pronouns, intersectionality, and emerging terminology are proposed, established scholarship should be considered rather than clinging to outdated terminology that fits within one’s worldview. For example, many of the Mexican boomers in my family do not refer to themselves as POC (People of Color), but as a scholar I understand that term is not about ancestry but used to refer collectively to the way people are socially coded, most often based on appearance. BIPOC and POC are appropriate to frame race discussion in higher education when the aim is to hedge against normative constructions of identity. People can be politically conservative and racially diverse and 00091383.2020.1732775likewise we can help different groups of students while simultaneously acknowledging racism exists.
Admittedly, this analysis does not represent the totality of viewpoints expressed by conservative colleagues on issues of race and equity. When I employ the term conservative, I do not mean to conflate moderate republicans with far-right Q-Anon adopters. Furthermore, I do not intend to imply that people abandon their politics to maintain their seat at the table. The professional expertise and confidence required to be successful in academia does in some instances allow colleges to be havens for Narcissists. A bright line must be established for how much the political beliefs of college staff are weighed against the wellbeing and education of our students and fellow coworkers; the simple start is acknowledgement of the existence of structural and historical racism in public education.
The legacy of our academic senate should be one where California community colleges provide academic and workforce training for anyone, not a place where faculty make it about their own political beliefs. Our system has established programs that aim to provide targeted advising and assistance to former foster youth, veterans and their families, unhoused students, and those financially disadvantaged. When we identify a community struggling to access higher education, we attempt solutions, and it stands to reason, that programs and professional development should exist to help colleges better serve BIPOC students. It is not a zero-sum game, and our districts can learn about race and equity while still providing support to other students’ needs. Public higher education will not survive if we continue to parrot political talking points instead of talking to one another about solutions. Instead of lawsuits and targeted social media attacks, let’s embrace a free marketplace of ideas and boldly speak and act on behalf of all of our students.
1. Gorski, P.C. (2019). Racial battle fatigue and activist burnout in racial justice activists of color at predominately White colleges and universities. Race Ethnicity and Education, 22(1), 1-20.
2. Cox, J. (2021, June 16). BC professors file federal suit against college district officials over free speech. Bakersfield Californian. Retrieved from https://www.bakersfield.com/news/bc-professors-file-federal-suit-against-college-district-officials-over-free-speech/article_76375cba-ceca-11eb-bc34-7b93425028ba.htm.
3. Dallmeyer, M. (2022, March 7). Bakersfield College funneled nearly $200k to undocumented student programs. Retrieved from https://campusreform.org/article?id=19140.
4. Bakersfield College Academic Senate. (2022, Feb. 16). National Assessment of Collegiate College Climates (NACCC) Student Racial Climate Survey Results. Retrieved from https://committees.kccd.edu/sites/committees.kccd.edu/files/NACCC_SenatePresentation.pdf
5. Desai, I. (2022, Feb 25). Group demonstrates outside of EBHS after campus guard’s handling of student incident upset parnts. Bakersfield Californian. Retrieved from https://www.bakersfield.com/news/group-demonstrates-outside-of-ebhs-after-campus-guards-handling-of-student-incident-upsets-parents/article_1afc6876-96a8-11ec-841d-1f971ed9ab7c.html.
6. Haynes, C., Castillo-Montoya, M., Hailu, M. F., & Stewart, S. (2021). Black liberation in higher education: Considerations for research and practice. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
7. The Renegade Institute for Liberty at Bakersfield College (n.d.). Home [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.facebook.com/The-Renegade-Institute-for-Liberty-at-Bakersfield-College-269483300362170.
8. Mirrlees, T. (2018). The alt right’s discourse of “Cultural Marxism”: A political instrument of intersectional hate. Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice/ Etudes Critiques Sur Le Genre, La Culture, et La Justice, 39(1), 49-69.
9. BIPOC is inclusive term for non-white populations. (2020). Insight into Diversity, 10. Retrieved from https://www.insightintodiversity.com/wp-content/media/issues/november2020.pdf.
10. Patton, L.D., Haynes, C. (2020). Dear white people: Reimaging whiteness in the struggle for racial equity. Change, 52(2), 41-45: 10.1080/00091383.2020.1732775likewise
The Public Murder of George Floyd: Liberation Comes to PCC
In response to the public murder of George Floyd, I wrote an open letter to my campus community, where I am an alumnae and current member of the faculty. This letter was written to ask the campus to remember our Black students who were still reeling from the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. I was asking colleagues to have compassion for our students’ vicarious and lived trauma from the constant viewing of unarmed Black people being murdered at the hands of law enforcement. Furthermore, we were in a global pandemic and the world was watching our people, Black people, violently dying in the public eye. This letter went “viral” throughout the campus community and opened the door for faculty and staff to publicly speak in support of our Black community.
The Ujima Program hosted a campus-wide listening session centered around the voices of Black students. These students courageously shared how they felt invisible, broken, and unheard by the college and by society as a whole. Through the tears and sorrow, the students spoke truth to power to over 600 faculty, staff, students, and administrators via Zoom and YouTube. The only non-student voices heard at the session were by me, Professor Armia Walker, Counselor/Coordinator, Blackademia, and Rebecca Cobb, Dean of Student Life. It was a powerful example of directed outrage and a focused “calling out” of the institution for its complicity in centering whiteness and neglecting its minoritized populations. Since the “Student’s Call to Action,” there have been numerous changes on campus; some for the better and some not.
As educators, student advocates and lifelong learners, it gave Professor Walker and I great pride to witness the campus center support for Black students, faculty, and staff. The Black Student Success Center that we worked so hard to create was greenlit for expansion, our Black/African-centered programs were given significant funding, and our years of advocacy for Black students was propelled to the forefront of conversation. However, having been Black women all our lives and primarily tackling issues of race, power, and privilege most of our careers, we knew that the proverbial “iron” would only be hot for so long. It was time to strike towards campuswide change.
We saw this as an opportunity to expand our work on a higher platform. Although a campus leader, I had never been formally introduced to the academic senate. Due to my new visibility, I was appointed to the Academic Senate Executive Committee (ASEC) as secretary. I was able to see the influence the senate had on college policies, processes, and curriculum. I saw that our support for students could be broadened beyond our programs. So, after convincing Professor Walker to occupy a vacant senate seat from her department, we worked with our senate allies to draft resolutions denouncing the killing of unarmed Black people and an antiracism resolution, which were both unanimously approved by the senators.
Clearly, the academic senate was ready for change and for the first time in the history of the college, two Black women were voted onto the ASEC. This was not the only change. We, as a senate, established a Social Justice committee, opened a campuswide discussion on liberatory education/outcomes and are currently working on an antiracism policy to be adopted by all constituency groups.
Liberatory education, as discussed by Dr. Barbara Love (2013) and Dr. Gina Ann Garcia (2020), places the needs of minoritized students at the forefront of pedagogy and practice. It strongly suggests that students be empowered to work in tandem with institutions toward liberation (freedom from oppression and oppressive structures). According to Garcia, this goal should be prioritized by the institution on behalf of students of color. We were not sure what to expect from our local academic senate when we made this the primary topic of our first semester retreat.
As one can imagine, most of our senators had not heard of liberatory outcomes/education. Most had not thought about the impact that traditional college praxis had had on minoritized students, at least before George Floyd. However, it was pleasantly surprising that our senators were not only receptive to the idea of liberatory education but infused the concept into our senate goals for the year. It was amazing to witness new and seasoned senators discussing how to merge liberation into their curriculum and how they would expose the concept to their respective divisions. It was exciting, to say the least.
As the academic senate president, I am charged with occupying a seat on various, high-profile committees. At times, I am even called on to co-chair these committees. The ASEC and I had decided early on that we would discuss liberatory outcomes in all the spaces we occupied. So, whether in a Strategic Planning, Insti‑tutional Effectiveness, Outcomes Standing Committee, or in my one-on-one meetings with the vice president of instruction or the college president, I brought up liberatory outcomes and the works of Dr. Love and Dr. Garcia. From the floor of the academic senate, to boardrooms and classrooms across the college, the discussion on liberation is being had.
These changes have not come without consequences and pushback. Calling out white supremacy is a complicated and heavily contested item to discuss in any space where it is allowed to exist. Our campus is not immune to the complexities and nuances of discrimination and micro-aggressions. However, our determination, new positions, and familiarity with oppressive structures allowed us and our social justice partners to navigate what was starting to become hostile waters. As a Black woman who has been in leadership for many years, I found this new level of politics to be overwhelming but necessary for authentic change.
Currently, we are seeing the bright exposure from the George Floyd murder starting to dim. As Black campus community members, we have discussed amongst each other that our proverbial “15 minutes of fame” is in its final seconds. Unfortunately, as folks are starting to forget the horror of watching Black people being murdered over and over again, the chill of status quo can be felt on campus. However, we continue to work on behalf of our students. Although there have been situations that have momentarily distracted our senate, we still have vowed to meet our goals of liberation for all.
However, the truth remains that those who have always worked towards decentering whiteness and voicing the call for equity will continue to do so, with or without having to witness the public murder of Black folks. Those who were moved by emotion only will end their temporary advocacy and limited allyship once their emotions move them past the shock of these public events. It is my goal to get as much done on behalf of our students and colleagues of color before the status quo settles back in or another public tragedy forces us to revisit our views of oppression, racism, and inequity through the lens that George Floyd’s death provided.
Garcia, G. A. (2020). Is liberation a viable outcome for students who attend college? HigherEdJobs. https://www.higheredjobs.com/blog/postDisplay.cfm?post=2256&blog=28.
Love, B. J. (2013). Developing a liberatory consciousness. In Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 601–606). Routledge.
What We Can Accomplish Together
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
From Intent to Impact: Being Antiracist is Not a Passive Endeavor
In response to the Summer 2020 special edition of the Senate Rostrum and the heightened focus on Black Lives Matter for many white allies like myself, I’ve renewed and expanded my personal and professional focus on inclusion, diversity, equity, antiracism, and accessibility (IDEAA), challenging myself to move out of my own privileged comfort zone to question Eurocentric visions and values in our education system, including my own classroom. The special Rostrum issue, in particular an article by Adrienne Brown, inspired a deeper sense of urgency for me to personally engage in this work, and then bring it into my classroom and more broadly, onto my campus through my role as curriculum co-chair. Brown eloquently expresses the damage that can be done when “someone’s intent does not match their impact,” provoking deep introspection. I have taken to heart her call to “Educate yourself.”
Personally, the most important step I have taken has been to read – and to re-read – stories by and about historically and currently marginalized people. As a sociologist, I am no stranger to books on systemic racism, but since July 2020, I have read over 200 fiction and nonfiction works by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors that added more depth to my understanding and awareness. Though I already fervently considered myself an ally, reading these stories with new urgency and an open mind has helped to de-center my own Eurocentric socialization and decolonize my own assumptions about the world.
As a sociologist, I had previously felt, if not smug, well then, complacent that I was already integrating IDEAA into my curriculum. My own research background focuses on disability studies, and teaching sociology classes explicitly about race and ethnicity, sex and gender, marriage and family, and social problems gives me ample opportunities to promote IDEAA and social justice in the classroom. And yet – troubling gaps remained in my course retention and success, notably for Black and Latino men. Sociology teaches us to focus on the rules of the game, not the players, leading me to ask: Why is my intent not creating enough impact in the classroom? What more can I do? What more can my college and community do to level the playing field and to ensure that the rules of the game are fair?
While the more macro solutions for an equitable playing field are beyond the scope of this article, I did learn a valuable lesson during these past few years of reading and reflection: It’s not just what you teach, but how you teach it. I am thankful to my colleague Michelle Bean for introducing me to the work of Zaretta Hammond, who writes about three dimensions of IDEAA work in education: multiculturalism, social justice education, and cultural responsiveness. Seeing the three dimensions mapped out was a lightbulb moment for me: I have already been consciously engaging in the multicultural and social justice education in my course content and materials; what was missing was the third dimension, cultural responsiveness. I was teaching my classes in the way I had been taught as a student. Lacking any formal teacher training, I had been making choices about how to structure lecture and discussion, how to design assignments, and how to assess learning based on what I liked and responded to when I was a student. It amazes me now to think about how I could have missed the fact that my experience – as a white, cisgender, straight, US-born, non-first-generation college student – was vastly different from most of my students. Don’t get me wrong: I have been an outspoken proponent of diversity and equity for as long as I have been a faculty member, but it wasn’t translated into my course delivery.
Since this realization, in my own classes I have made many changes. I used to tell students, “I can’t grade you on opinions, so leave them out of your graded assignments.” Now, I have divided assignments into two parts, so that students can also get credit for the work they do to connect – or critique – how the course materials relate to their experiences. I have added even more explicit examples of systemic racism and intersectionality in nearly every lecture and discussion topic. I have made it clearer whether and why certain research or theories are Eurocentric in their assumptions or study population. In my research methods class, I added more discussion on Indigenous ways of knowing and the racism and sexism in Eurocentric social science research.
I don’t claim these changes are enough, or that there aren’t better ideas out there. At times, I have been overcome with self-doubt, with dread of saying the wrong thing, with discomfort in my own skin. Nobody likes to feel that way. And that’s the point. How many of my students – my colleagues –experience this on a daily basis? While no one should have to feel that way all the time, it is just as unhealthy to never experience it. For those of us with privilege, we need to go out of our way to experience that discomfort, and to recognize that part of privilege is that we can step away. The discomfort is temporary. I am learning to seek and sit with discomfort and uncertainty. It has been humbling and difficult and undeniably rewarding. While it is too soon to tell what fruits these changes will bear in my retention and success rates, I already feel a stronger connection to my students and a renewed sense of excitement in preparing for and teaching my courses.
I have heard colleagues approach this emphasis on IDEAA with trepidation or skepticism, with fears about ceding academic freedom and expertise or somehow reducing the standards and quality of our courses. While academic senates must be vigilant about protecting faculty primacy and authority, I would also challenge my colleagues to ask how much our current curriculum and instruction is really a product of our freedom or expertise. In my case, so much of how I structured my class was simply recreating the system I have been exposed to. I have found this IDEAA work to be extremely validating of my expertise in my discipline and my right as a faculty to stop reproducing the status quo. For the first time in many years, I am looking at my curriculum, my students, and myself with fresh eyes, and it is deeply meaningful. The wish to connect, communicate, and educate is what has driven many of us to become faculty, after all. This is what we do. This is our calling.
What is the road forward? At my college, I have teamed up with like-minded faculty in other disciplines to share our experiences with our colleagues for professional development activities. I have worked with my curriculum committee to incorporate more explicit consideration of IDEAA in our curriculum review, resulting in an array of changes, from more student-centered course descriptions and increased focus on OER materials to explicit inclusion of IDEAA in content, objectives, SLOs, and assignments. The work is just beginning, but it is long overdue.
1. Brown, Adrienne C. (2020). “Deconstructing Collegiality and Construction Courageous Conversations in California Community Colleges.” ASCCC Rostrum, July 2020.
2. For good starting points in learning about addressing structural racism on a societal level, see Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, and An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.
3. Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Corwin / Sage
An Inclusive Learning Environment for All: Why is it taking so long?
The California Community College (CCC) system has experienced a significant awakening over the past several years. A recognition of the need to do better for our students, faculty, and staff has become clear. The charge to do better is outlined in the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) and Chancellor Oakley’s “Vision for Success,” the CCCCO and Chancellor Oakley’s “Call to Action,” and the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) multiple resolutions addressing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Antiracism, and Accessibility (IDEAA). The “Vision for Success” outlines a vision for change. The vision includes closing student equity gaps, closing student achievement gaps, increasing the number of degrees and certificates earned by students, increasing the transfer rate to UC and CSU campuses, and more. The “Vision for Success” was followed by the “Call to Action” outlining a mobilization plan with six areas of focus. No one can argue the need for, or the value of, the work to be done, nor the load it brings to the faculty body.
Faculty of the CCC system have touch points in nearly all components of IDEAA efforts occurring across the statewide system. The number of touchpoints and the level of involvement by faculty has resulted in an outcry. Sometimes the outcry is that of pure exhaustion due to the heavy lift being carried, often with limited resources. Other times, the outcry is that of concern for not having arrived at the destination despite all the efforts being made. The outcry may also be that of feeling stagnated, as if no movement is occurring. These are common messages heard in many spaces, whether that be in CCCCO webinar sessions or in ASCCC plenary sessions. The fact that IDEAA work is hard, requires a team effort, requires a systemic approach, and requires time, seems to be a common point of agreement. As the faculty body becomes immersed in the journey of IDEAA within the CCC system as a whole or on local college campuses, it is easy to lose sight of the progress being made. Oftentimes, the focus remains on the direction of the future and the destination. Visualizing the work being done by way of an analogy may provide faculty an alternate perspective and a way to understand where the work is heading and why it feels slow, which can be a grounding point to continue the work.
Consider the analogy of a container ship taking a journey across the ocean toward a port. The ocean is vast, the load is heavy, and at times, appears to be too much for the ship to carry. The cargo is varied and specific to the consumer request. The challenges are many and may include stormy seas, unexpected delays, and a need for precise navigation in relatively small spaces. There is an urgency by all to have goods delivered. Anyone with the opportunity to observe container ships coming into any port across the western coast can bear witness to the size of the ships and the slow rate of speed they move. When watching the process of container ships entering port, one may experience a sense of awe when witnessing success.
The container ship can represent the campus system with the task of delivering an inclusive, equitable, and representative education to students. The ocean is the shared space each 116 vessels traverse to deliver the education to students. The containers loaded on the ship may represent the educational content, student success initiatives, student needs, and student success support systems. Other containers contain Guided Pathways for students to follow, equitable online learning student success tools, plans for closing achievement gaps, and solutions for addressing equity gaps. The goods are valuable and precious, as well as greatly needed. The ships are headed to port where the students anxiously await the goods that will provide them the gift of betterment, whether that be in the form of a job promotion, the completion of a certificate or degree, personal lifelong learning, or a transfer to the UC or CSU system to further their education. The student body knows the shipment is arriving, and they anxiously await. Students can imagine the improvements to access that they will experience with the arrival of the goods. They look forward to a more representative faculty body, decreased financial burden of textbooks with Zero Textbook Cost degree options, and decreased degree completion times with the expansion of course offerings in the online format.
If the destination is known and there are maps to follow and specific directions given, why is it taking so long? CCCCO “Vision for Success” provided directives resulting in a need to review the ships’ course and a need to redirect. The “Call to Action” provided further direction, and, for many, further correction. For some ships, the correction may have been small, but for others a complete 180-degree turn may have been required. Container ships are not speed boats running a short river course with the ability to run a slalom course and turn at a moment’s notice. Container ships are large, carry heavy loads, and require time, space, and a team to make the necessary turns. When navigating a container ship, a 180 degree requires multiple steps to be taken and a turn to be completed in incremental steps. Each step requires space and time.
Container ships are navigated by a team and a set of supporting technology tools. With ships of such size, it is impossible for the helmsman to navigate safely and wisely without the support of experienced watch officers. The faculty body of the CCC system are the watch officers. Watch officers communicate with the helmsman turning the wheel of the campus ship to head towards the destination. Faculty provide critical information and keep watch to ensure the ship stays course. The role of the watch officer is around the clock and can be tiring.
The urgency to deliver is tangible and real. Students are desperately seeking equity. The CCCCO is creating tools and calling campuses to action and asking for them to be delivered swiftly. Faculty and campus teams are attempting to deliver quickly while managing the rough seas and challenges of the past few years. Students continue to wait. Due to the size of the ship, the height of the loaded containers, and the speed at which the ship moves, it is easy to feel stagnant and as if nothing is happening. Faculty communicate the hazards of the ocean, the needs of the student body, and the experiences of the faculty body in hopes of making the urgency known. The movement forward, however, does not always reflect the urgency felt by all.
In times of feeling stagnant and as if no movement is happening, a reference point can be helpful to gain perspective. To monitor success, it is helpful not only to look ahead, but to reflect on what is in the rear view and behind. It is difficult to see the incremental movements of the ship, and such slight movement may appear to be insignificant in the moment. However, with a strong sense of reference from where the ship has come and where it is heading, one can begin to see how the incremental movements add up to a full turn over a time. The turn is happening with each adjustment made, each support system set in place for students, with each resolution, and with each action taken to close the equity and achievement gaps. Actions do not stand alone; they are part of a multi-step and incremental process to turn the ship of education.
Faculty, recognize the role played in navigating the waters of life and the delivery of education in an inclusive and equitable manner to the student body. Understand the enormity of the task at hand. Respond to the urgency with involvement and commitment that will ensure a successful delivery outcome. Be realistic about the time it requires to turn the ship in the right direction and make change. No matter how small or large of a turn a campus needs to make, it requires time and space. Remain vigilant and continue to communicate with the helmsman knowing that without your input the ship could not be navigated. Finally, keep reference points handy to measure success and movement. Look at where the ship is directed today and make note of where it should be headed. Take note of the view from the front, back, and sides of the ship. As time passes, refer to the reference points and the views of the past. If the view has changed, then progress has been made. The ship may not have arrived at the destination, but movement of ships this size is cumulative and adds up to progress. Appreciate the magnitude of the work being done and enjoy the journey.