Following a lengthy discussion and alterations, the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees adopted a resolution on “inclusion and campus climate” during Thursday’s board meeting.
The resolution passed by a 6-2 vote, with Trustees Veronica Gallardo and Craig Nielson voting in opposition.
The resolution was first discussed at a fiery Feb. 14 meeting, during which time board President Robert Miller and other trustees received blow back from the campus and local community for removing reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The board unanimously passed a resolution to reinstate reciting the pledge and Trustees Jonathan Abboud and Kate Parker requested the board, at a future meeting, take up a resolution on anti-racism on campus.
The “anti-racism” resolution was discussed March 14 and an amended resolution on “support for all students” was discussed March 28.
Dr. Helen Benjamin, the college’s recently appointed superintendent and president, assumed her role on April 1. She told the board the resolution adopted Thursday gives the board an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to existing policies.
In voting against the resolution, Ms. Gallardo said she believed the resolution was “what the college needs at this point.”
Mr. Nielson said he devoted so much time into the resolution over the past month he was unable to finish his taxes and had to file for a continuation.
“What we’re dealing with here is feelings and emotions and how we’re going about mending this, to me, is just appalling,” he said.
The original resolution presented to the board included specific information on the race demographics in the student population, staff and faculty, which were ultimately removed.
Student Trustee Kenny Igbechi, though indirectly, appeared to counter Mr. Nielson’s reasoning and said there are others in the community who could better serve the students and the college.
“You say there is no need to pass a resolution on this and that it’s all just feelings, but just months back we passed a resolution on the pledge,” Mr. Igbechi said. “This is the lives and destinies of thousands of students. I don’t think we should play politics with their destinies.
“We are the students who go here, you don’t go here,” he continued. “You can’t tell us how we feel or how the campus climate affects our education. If you tell us you support us why don’t you just agree with us and pass this resolution?”
Mr. Miller said he was disappointed there was unanimous support for the resolution as presented.
“It’s time for us to heal. I think we’ve had a lot of discussion. We’ve had heated discussion,” Mr. Miller said. “We’ve had I don’t know how many meetings of discussion. We’ve heard passion pleas. Whether something’s reflected in an investigation report or not we have heard genuine, authentic comments and pleas to us to lead. Up to this point I don’t think we have adequately led and I think this resolution is an excellent start. It’s not going to solve any problems, but it’s going to help.”
Several trustees pointed out that in February, the board received a memorandum from its legal counsel summarizing alleged racial discrimination incidents. Several reported incidents were found to be untrue, though the college’s reporting system was described as “dismal.”
As the board engaged in discussions to alter the resolution that was presented, Ms. Gallardo made a motion to table the discussion until the next meeting so the public could comment on the amended resolution. The motion was seconded by Mr. Nielson but ultimately did not pass.
The resolution that was passed included the college’s mission statement and other board policies, code of ethics and a previously adopted resolution that addresses serving “all students who can benefit from a postsecondary education, without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, gender, language, socio-economic status, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, medical condition or disability.”
The adopted resolution also included the Nov. 19, 2018 meeting where trustees complaints of racism and bias and “an overall campus climate adversely impacting Black/African-American students.”
The resolution addresses that the board will continue to “further its own professional development and education” as it relates to “advancing an equitable, inclusive, and high-quality educational institution.”
The resolution also authorizes Dr. Benjamin “to take all necessary actions, consistent with existing policies, to improve the campus climate and the educational experience of all students.”