Palomar College Learning For Success

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Building an Antiracist Culture at Palomar College

Governance Task Force Pauses for Equity Input

Recently, Lawrence Lawson stepped down from his role as co-chair of the governance task force.  In summary, he did so to make room for staff and faculty who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC) to weigh in on the last crucial steps of this project.  We have worked with Dr. Hossna Sadat Ahadi and Amber Colbert to get recommendations for assistance for next steps.  I have included Lawrence’s powerful message below.

Memo from Lawrence Lawson

[Email from June 12th]

I’ve been doing a lot of listening and learning in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. I’ve been particularly challenged by reading How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and have given lot of thought to the idea that dismantling systematic oppression, discrimination, privilege, and racism is more effective when one confronts policy instead of individual people. I can (do and will) confront individuals  in my life who express bigoted opinions, but I’m convinced that long terms gains in the struggle are much more likely to be won by confronting and changing policy.

With that in mind, I’ve thought a lot about our work on the Governance Structure redesign. Over the past year, our goal was to create a more efficient, meaningful, and transparent process to facilitate collaboration and decision-making at Palomar College. Threaded throughout our conversations was the idea that we needed to be inviting and inclusive of a wide range of voices throughout the GovernanceStructure.

Maybe we succeeded. Maybe we didn’t. Maybe there are policies we explored and discarded or never explored that would ensure more participation from our BIPOC colleagues. Maybe our revisions are continuing or creating processes which inadvertently distance the voices we need close. Given that we have expanded our time frame to complete this project, I think this is the time to explore these questions (and others) and make sure that we’re getting this right.

While I believe White folks, like myself, should be striving for true equity by doing the heavy lifting of dismantling systems that privilege White voices and White bodies, I also believe our group needs to be co-lead by someone who can authentically speak to the oppression and discrimination built into governancesystems (such as our local governanceprocess) through their lived experiences. Such a person (or persons) would be much more likely to identify weaknesses in our revised documents and structures that might exclude our BIPOC colleagues from participating fully and, with the group’s support, further refine (or create anew) processes that are equity-focused.

As such, I have spoken with my co-chair, Interim Superintendent Dr. Jack Kahn, about resigning my position as co-chair of this committee upon appointment of a BIPOC Co-Chair. To be clear, with my resignation, I am requesting that my role be assumed by a BIPOC colleague (or colleagues) who can help take this project down the stretch and ensure it does not privilege the voices our governancestructure has always privileged and instead ensure, through policy, that our governance structure goes out of its way to ensure that the voices of our BIPOC colleagues, specifically, are sought and welcomed and heard and that their opinions greatly impact our shared governance work.

Ideally, that person might be a current member of the Governance Task Force

However, I have also reached out to Dr. Hossna Sadat Ahadi and asked her to reach out to folks who might be interested in this work.  She’ll be in touch with us over the next few weeks on that front. She notes that we might need more than one other co-chair to ensure we’re including enough perspectives to ensure we get this right, so please be open to a tri-chair scenario.

Thanks for taking time to read this message. It has been an amazing experience leading this group; I have learned more than I could have imagined. My experience at this college has been enriched by the relationships I’ve built with many of you through this work. Thank you for that.

(22 July Update]

Since this email, Dr. Mireya Gutierrez-Aguero has come on board to assume my former co-chair position. Our internal work to also find a Black/African-American co-chair was initially unsuccessful, so we reached out to colleagues at neighboring colleges. Responding to important local criticism of that decision, we recommitted to reaching out internally for a Black/African-American co-chair and should have news to announce soon. We appreciate the campus’ patience as we work to get this right.