Racial equity initiative efforts highlighted during Board of Trustees meeting

Several initiatives that El Camino College has hosted over the fall semester to support racial equity on campus were presented to the Board of Trustees. Still, some remained apprehensive regarding the college’s long-term actions.

ECC President and Superintendent Dena Maloney spoke to the Board during their meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, where she shared the initiatives throughout the semester. Events ranged from a National First-Generation Awareness Week to a Black Lives Matter Art exhibition.

Maloney said the fall initiatives commenced with a three-part symposium on “Educational (In)Equity, Race, and Institutional Agency,” given by Dr. Melissa Fujiwara, a full-time sociology professor at ECC.

Fujiwara, who had unsuccessfully attempted a similar symposium five years ago, credits activism and protests for allowing her to connect the ideas of race, racism, inequality, and equity directly to the experiences of students.

“That lived-experience is really powerful, right? It’s a really powerful engine,” Fujiwara said. “I could see that there was this momentum building on our campus to sort of establish itself as this anti-racist institution. And so I thought here’s a really good opportunity.”

She added that these were “long-standing” issues that America has had to face and deal with, not something singular to the ECC community.

According to the board agenda, the spring 2019 semester shed light on systemic racism and inequity at ECC, those developments led to a “need for action” to support anti-racism and institutional change.

Maloney also established a President’s Advisory Committee on Race and Equity to advise her on “strategies to support an inclusive and welcoming campus climate,” according to the committee’s webpage.

Fujiwara said she wanted to “bring voice” to what the ECC community was experiencing, along with creating space where institutional agents, like faculty and administrators, could figure out how to serve students better.

President Maloney echoed that sentiment during Monday’s board meeting.

“We’re not just focused on events. We’re not just focused on dialogue. We’re focused on how do we lead sustainable change at El Camino College,” Maloney said.

Trustee Kenneth Brown reminded his fellow board members that these were great “aspirational goals” but that the college needed to make sure they converted these into actionable items with timelines.

“You talk about it. And in a month or two months or three months, it goes away until the next crisis comes,” he said after the meeting. “I don’t want this to just be, you know, about nothing. I don’t want us to just talk.”

The Faculty Development Committee and Academic Senate lead the call to action on race and equity during the fall semester, via a virtual conference focused on campus culture and student success, according to the Board of Trustees meeting agenda.

“All of us should be aware of how race plays a role in our lives.” Fujiwara said, “That awareness is really important to changing our actions and how we behave, how we treat others and the decisions we make.”