Superintendent/President's Fall 2016 Convocation Remarks

August 22nd, 2016 - 1:59pm

It was indeed a summer like no other. There is nothing I could possibly say about each of these tragedies that hasn’t already been said by our leaders, by the main stream media, or by everyday folks on social media or through their words of pain and protest emblazoned on signs or placards. 

With each incident came profound sadness. And with each incident I found myself searching for the right words to express my sorrow, my frustrations, and my anger. I also found myself searching for solutions. More often than not, I found myself with more questions than answers.

As a world, as a nation, as a society—simply as humanity—we need to get this figured out. We need to get this figured out because our political leaders can’t seem to get it done. So perhaps it’s best if we start right here at home—right here at College of Marin. 

Let us not think for a moment that just because we’re in Marin County—the most educated county in California—land of the progressive and enlightened–that we’re free of bias and intolerance.  To the contrary. You’ll hear more from team FLIT later this morning but, in fact, one of the recommendations in the Basic Skills Master Plan focuses on creating a more inclusive campus environment.

In the spring of 2015, FLIT conducted research in the form of 38 focus groups—17 of which were students and 19 comprised of staff, faculty, and administrators. In total, over 400 individuals participated. 

One important issue that surfaced was an insensitivity or a lack of awareness on the part of faculty, staff and the administration about the challenges students face around issues of diversity. Another issue that surfaced was a discomfort in talking about diversity and race. 

Clearly we need to do a better job and I believe we can do a better job.  FLIT recommends that we strive to create a more inclusive campus with regard to factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, socio-economic status, learning challenges, and age to eliminate barriers that impede success. 

So how do we go about this?

FLIT Recommends:

  • Providing professional development for all 
  • Implementing and building on the strategies within our newly developed Equal Employment Opportunity Plan
  • Implementing and building on the strategies within our Student Equity Plan
  • Assessing our environments for triggers of stereotype threat
  • Continuing to support our Safe Space, Umoja, and Puente programs as well as other initiatives that reinforce campus inclusiveness
  • Developing and implementing interventions that encourage a growth mindset and a sense of belonging, such as peer panels from diverse backgrounds

I firmly believe that each and every day presents itself with an opportunity to create space for such action. I would be failing miserably in my role as the leader of this college if I didn’t call us to action and to implore you to join me—to join this community—toward action. 

As a college—a place of dialogue, a place of exchanging ideas, a place of challenging views, a place of learning—we must seize the opportunity to engage with each other, to engage with our students, and to engage with our community. We must seek to better understand each other and our lived experiences. Indeed all lives matter, but I don’t need to tell you that there are many who aren’t feeling all that valued. 

We must challenge our biases. And we must NOT fear away from the tough topics like race and ethnicity, power, and more importantly - the abuse of power. And at some point we should probably even talk about the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution and gun control. 

You may have noticed that I will be hosting a roundtable discussion later this week with the title “We are Orlando” for our LGBTQ colleagues and their allies. This was first planned just after the tragedy in Orlando but before any of the other incidents occurred. After the other tragedies began to unfold, I considered pulling the roundtable discussion thinking to myself that it wouldn’t be right to focus on just one. I finally came to the conclusion that it’s best to just get started. 

My commitment to you is that this will be the first in a series of dialogues and opportunities for engagement. If you are interested in helping to shape this important agenda, please let me know. 

The tragic events of this summer resulted in the death of nearly 200 people—with nearly 650 others among the injured. We owe it to these people—people just like us—and to our current and future generations of students to begin doing more. Can I count on you to join me in the fight?

Among those killed this summer were police officers from places across our great nation. I would like us to take a moment to recognize our own police professionals who place themselves in harm’s way each day to protect our campus community. Chief Adams and your team, thank you for your service.