Las Positas College is taking steps to change policies and procedures to improve the experience of black students at the college, as well as their success rates.
Steps include more welcome activities for black students, surveying employees and students about their experiences and a speaker series on anti-racism topics.
“As an education community, we’re asking the deeper questions around diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Theresa Fleischer Rowland, district vice chancellor. “We’re looking at the things we can change, including policies and procedures.”
The death of George Floyd in late May catalyzed heightened attention on the Black Lives Matter movement on Las Positas and Chabot College campuses throughout the nation.
At Las Positas College, a presidential task force was formed that will make recommendations to the college president on how the school can address systemic and institutionalized racism. The goal is to obtain racially equitable student outcomes in access, retention at school and completion, said Dyrell Foster, college president.
“We want to change how black students experience the culture here,” Foster said to the district board of trustees last week.
Some activities include a welcome event for black students during the student services resource fair, the English Department’s “English x Blackness” initiative and the Black Student Union’s “Wokeshop” series.
The school plans to survey students and employees about the racial climate and conduct listening sessions with current black students to understand their experiences and needs better.
“We want to continue to value the voice of our students through listening sessions and focus groups to respond to and address institutional challenges impacting their success,” Foster said.
Additionally, the school plans to analyze data on student access to the college, how long they remain students and the completion of their programs to reveal hidden patterns of racial inequity.
Starting in September, the school will begin a speaker series for students and employees on anti-racism, anti-blackness, cultural competencies and unconscious/implicit bias, he explained.
“The next steps will be to develop measurable goals for each commitment, identify resources and estimate a timeframe,” Foster said. “We recognize all these won’t happen this year. We plan to identify activities and commitments that will make the most difference for students.”
For the two-college Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (CLPCCD), equity and anti-racism are now goals of the longer-term Educational Master Plans for each college and Districtwide Strategic Plan.
“The previous mission didn’t mention equity,” noted Rajinda Samra, director of research, planning and institutional effectiveness for Las Positas.
Chabot College – the other school in the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District – recently launched the Black Excellence Collective, which “aims to wholly engage, challenge, and develop students through culturally relevant activities and support services.” Chabot also initiated 10x10 villages, which are groups targeted at addressing different ways to improve the experience of black students.
“By implementing villages at scale for all black students, we hope to ensure their success,” said Stacy Thompson, Chabot College vice president of academic affairs.
Chabot has about 2,000 black students, who will each be assigned a village on a topic. Some of the topics include health and well-being, graduation, financial literacy, equity in hiring and a Black Cultural Resource Center. Each village includes volunteers, and all spots were filled before the school year began, said Jeanne Wilson, dean of special programs and services at Chabot College.
“I’m very grateful to see that faculty, staff and administration really care about the success of students,” said Skylar Robinson, president of Striving Black Brothers — an existing group at Chabot College.
Each village receives $25,000 for its work, with the village deciding how to use the funds this year, said Jamal Cooks, Chabot College’s dean of language arts. The results will be analyzed to determine the best approaches, strategies and ideas to help black students.
The goal is to create a safe space for learning, gathering and healing, Wilson said.
“It’s our sincere hope that the Black Experience Collective and 10x10 villages will help build a college where all students, especially black students, will experience an academic future rooted in social justice, community building and allyship,” she said.
Board members applauded the efforts at both campuses. Community colleges should be the great equalizers and provide opportunities to everyone, said Linda Granger, CLPCCD Trustee.
“It’s heartening to see the staff saying there’s work to be done,” Granger continued. “We can put a system and structures in place to become a model.”