Addressing Institutional Racism at COM

July 27th, 2020 - 6:49pm

College Community,

As we begin a new academic year, I want to convey some very important information that will shape our work together in the days and months ahead to address individual, historic, and institutional racism in our community and at College of Marin (COM).

On June 15, I was very pleased to announce that COM, along with over 60 other California community colleges, had joined the California Community College Equity Leadership Alliance facilitated by the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center. You may recall, the multi-year initiative will involve monthly convenings focused on professional learning, development of actionable steps, access to resources, and campus climate surveys.

While this alliance will take our equity and anti-racism work to a new level, it will build on the impressive work already underway at the College. Fulfilling COM’s mission of providing equitable opportunities and fostering success for all members of our diverse community and accomplishing the equity goals outlined in our educational master plan starts with each of us.

On June 3, Chancellor Eloy Oakley issued a call to action to California community colleges, asking “our system to actively strategize and take action against structural racism.” In alignment with the chancellor’s call to implement anti-racist practices and with the goal of improving COM’s accountability and outcomes for anti-racism and equity, the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Action (IDEA) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Committees recommended that the College institute the following actions:

  • Continually acknowledge structural racism with the COM Board of Trustees, superintendent/president’s cabinet, employees, and students. Higher education is a system rooted in racism and white supremacy. It is important to practice transparency by naming this and acknowledging COM’s areas of growth and how we are transforming this system.
  • Center the healing and collective care for Black and African American students and employees. Acknowledge and name the lifetime of racial trauma of anti-Blackness and white supremacy that exists in individual and structural racism, cultivate healing spaces for our Black community, and invest in financial resources and dedicate time that center their emotional and mental health.
  • Ongoing anti-racist training for the COM Board of Trustees, superintendent/president, cabinet, and employees. Transforming systems requires personal transformations and these personal transformations around anti-racism and cultural competency are a lifelong journey. Anti-racist professional learning from top leadership is fundamental in the campus-wide integration and growth of an anti-racist campus culture.
  • COM Police Department employees receive ongoing professional learning and training rooted in anti-racism. Require and integrate anti-racism learning into the foundation of training of our campus police department. It is important that this professional learning is ongoing and offered regularly.
  • Advance anti-racist affinity groups. Nourishing relationships amongst shared identities and experiences and cultivating transformative spaces to uplift racially marginalized communities is vital to creating an inclusive and anti-racist campus community and climate. Understanding that different racial identities have different work to dismantle white supremacy, create anti-racist affinity groups for employees beginning with the following groups: white, Black, and non-Black people of color.
  • Provide proactive support for faculty in evaluating and evolving their anti-racist classroom and learning cultures, curriculum, and evaluations. It is important that all faculty engage in comprehensive review of curriculum in their discipline, gain feedback, and develop an accountability process for cultivating an anti-racist classroom and learning culture.
  • Review all participatory governance committee charges and plans to ensure anti-racism is established and integrated as a core commitment and approach. This recommendation highlights the role of the Professional Learning Committee and its charge. Integrating equity and anti-racism into all training, workshops, and ongoing professional development is vital for achieving the goals of COM’s strategic plan. 
  • Build a pipeline of practices for hiring, supporting, and retaining more Black, African American, people of color, and equity-minded employees and institute a Grow Your Own program. The revised Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Plan and Educational Master Plan 2019-2025 (EMP) outline the goal to “Hire, support, and retain equity-minded employees reflective of the diversity of the student body and expect all College employees to approach their work with equity-mindedness” (Equity EMP Goal 2). An action step of this goal is to, “Develop a comprehensive, equity-minded, ongoing outreach process to build relationships with graduate programs, other institutions, and potential candidates that lead to more diverse applicant pools in alignment with the EEO Plan.” The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office identifies nine best-practice approaches for success in promoting EEO. One approach to this type of outreach is the development of a Grow Your Own program, providing an opportunity for graduate students to serve as interns and/or fellows at COM.
  • An accountability plan for each of the recommendations. Established by the superintendent/president, an accountability plan should include deadlines for when each of the recommendations will be implemented and assessed. In addition to hosting speakers to discuss topics that include white privilege and anti-Blackness and workshops on proactive anti-racist education and practices, the superintendent/president’s town hall meetings can serve as an opportunity to provide status updates about recommendations.

After meeting with representatives from the IDEA and EEO Committees as well as other College leaders, I am confident that fully embracing these recommendations will make way for concrete actions that support the institutional values we espouse. Much like our accreditation and strategic planning approach, I will appoint champions for each recommendation and identify the respective work groups. Now more than ever, WE have the opportunity to make real and lasting change in solidarity for and with our valued students and employees.

Growth and transformation toward a truly anti-racist College and society require a shared commitment, transparency, intentionality, integrity—and most importantly—individual and collective accountability. This will not be easy work, but we have reached the right time in our history to accomplish it.

Speaking personally about becoming anti-racist, I have always considered myself a work in progress. I have been fortunate throughout my 30+ years in higher education to have had extensive professional learning opportunities in diversity, equity, and social justice. Throughout most of my adult life, I have worked to reconcile how my early experiences as a white person have informed my view of the world, my own implicit biases, and how I treated others.

Pairing these experiences with how I show up for others today, in particular Black and non-Black people of color, I accept that anti-racist work starts with me individually and is ongoing. As I continue my own journey toward greater racial enlightenment and the practice of white allyship, I call on each of you to join me in this important work.

David Wain Coon, Ed.D.