RETURN OF SBCC VP SPARKS CAMPUS OUTRAGE
More than a dozen Santa Barbara City College students took center stage, standing behind the college’s Board of Trustees during a meeting Thursday afternoon in protest of the college’s decision to allow a staff member whose been on unpaid leave for making a racist remark last fall to return to her post.
During a Nov. 14 gender equity work group meeting, Lyndsay Maas, vice president of Business Services for the college, used a derogatory term for blacks “to describe how some students use this word on campus,” SBCC Superintendent and President Anthony Beebe said in a campus-wide email last fall.
Ms. Maas, who has been on unpaid administrative leave since November, issued an apology to Dr. Beebe, which was shared with the campus.
“A staff member stated that our black/African American students feel unsafe because they hear the n-word directed at them on campus,” she wrote. “I then repeated that statement but used the unabbreviated version of the n-word.”
In a campus-wide email sent to student Tuesday, Dr. Beebe announced that Ms. Maas informed the college she decided to return and resume her duties beginning today.
“The last two months have revealed systematic challenges at our college that we need to address,” Dr. Beebe said. “Certainly, as we learned from many of you who have spoken up, anti-racism efforts are life-long commitments from each of us to change centuries of racism.”
On Jan. 9, Dr. Beebe said, the college’s Board of Trustees, College Planning Council and others held a day-long retreat on anti-racism facilitated by Professor Rhonda Magee, a law professor at the University of San Francisco.
The college is exploring a bias response team to review racism claims and reports. In addition, college administrators have visited UCSB to learn about the University of California’s approach to reporting complaints and resolving difficult problems. Dr. Beebe also met with senior administrators at UCSB to learn about it’s Office of the Ombuds, which provides confidential consultation services for those with campus-related concerns and seeks to ensure fairness throughout the campus while making recommendations for systematic change, according to its website.
“The anti-racism work at the college is critical and will continue — it must,” Dr. Beebe said. “I look forward to continuing to be personally involved in moving this work forward and providing my full support to the many positive efforts currently underway.”
Ms. Maas will resume her duties as vice president of Business Services upon her return, however she will not continue to participate in the gender equity work group, said Luz Reyes-Martin, executive director of public affairs and communications at the college.
“Ms. Maas will discuss with her supervisor, De. Beebe regarding professional development,” Ms. Reyes-Martin said in an email. “However, Dr. Beebe has been clear of his expectations that all members of the President’s Cabinet participate in the professional development being planned for the campus in the areas of anti-racism, equity and inclusion.”
In addition to going on unpaid leave, Ms. Maas was required to complete several anti-racism courses, including online courses, a pair of multi-day training sessions and the Ally for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Achievement Award Program training course over an extended period of time, according to the college.
Ms. Maas could not be reached for comment.
Things got testy during Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting. During public comment, some protestors repeatedly interrupted others who were speaking on the board’s decision not to recite the national anthem prior to meeting. That topic is expected to be discussed at a future meeting, said Board of Trustee’s President Robert Miller.
The board discussed adjourning the meeting and at one point took a short recess to bring order to the meeting.
Several students used their five-minute allotment during the comment period to stand in silence, some holding a sign reading “Students Against Injustice,” and “We have grace so where’s your dignity” as others stomped their feet in support.
One student said the campus is “embarrassed” to have Dr. Beebe serve as the college’s president and said she hoped the board felt uncomfortable as students stood closely behind them during the meeting.
“You make us feel uncomfortable because of what you haven’t done,” the student said.
Around campus, several students spoke out against the reinstatement of Ms. Maas, including some who said she should have known better.
“It’s not new,” said Isaiah Canada, a second-year student. “People know what they can and can’t say.”
Mr. Canada, who is black, told the News-Press he was “piggybacking” off other black students on campus.
“Let me ask you this,” he said. “If the school were to let her come back on campus, what’s stopping that from ever happening again? If there is no consequence, what stops that? Nothing.”
“I feel like we’re in a time period where you should be careful with your words and she should know that,” said a student named Sophia. “Those things can’t really be forgiven, especially on a really liberal community college campus. I don’t think the school would be supporting its students if the school had her back.”
Emily Edminston, a second-year student, told the News-Press she found the comment “unprofessional” and had mixed feelings about the situation.
“I don’t know, the fact that you are inviting someone that uses language like that into a college campus that’s supposed to be a very inclusive environment… I have very mixed feelings about it,” Ms. Edminston said. “At the same time I feel for her a little bit because she did apologize and she did seem sorry.”
Madison Madrone, also a second-year student, said that context does matter but felt the decision to bring her back might make some on campus uneasy.
“She shouldn’t have said it at all, but if she were to have just said it more randomly that would have been a whole nother situation,” Ms. Madrone said. “In that situation context matters, but I think she shouldn’t have used the hard ‘r’ no matter what.”
Other students on campus said Ms. Maas deserves a second chance.
“I think it was a bigger deal than it should have been,” said Ernesto Naranjo, third-year student.
“If it was out of hatred…. or not showing an example then without a doubt she should be fired. But because it was not out of hate and just showing an example of discrimination then it should be more forgiven.”
Schuyler Covert, a third-year student, told the News-Press the topic was discussed in one of his law classes and said Ms. Maas should be allowed to return.
“I think she should be allowed, as long as it’s her first and only offense,” he said. “But if she does it again then year, she can’t come back.”