Words… on signs… in statements… over bullhorns… on lips… in our heads. No matter where displayed or spoken, the words of pain, frustration, anger and sorrow have grown louder locally and across our nation. As leaders of the 10 colleges in the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association (SDICCCA), we hear you. We see you. We stand with you.
Collectively the SDICCCA colleges serve 230,000 students. As with all 115 colleges in the California Community College system, we serve widely diverse student populations. We are often the higher education option of choice for many immigrant communities. The majority of our students are the first in their families to attend college. In other words, we serve many of the populations that have been targeted recently–Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish, Asian, LGBTQIA+ and Blacks.
We recognize many of the foundational pillars of our society–government, banking, health care, housing and education–are structurally inequitable. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone another light on this inequality. While the faceless virus attacks indiscriminately worldwide, violence, racism, inequality and hatred have a face. If we are ever going to build a more civil and understanding society, we must recognize that each of us has a role in lending our voices and actions to confront systems and processes that have been constructed to hold certain people down. Each of us must be willing to say we will no longer tolerate injustice.
We know these are uncomfortable conversations. We recognize not everybody understands the civil unrest currently erupting across the nation… and close to home. As fellow human beings, however, we do recognize pain and anguish.
Our nation has reached an important defining moment, not unlike the time of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, when he said, “We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
We must, all of us, stand together to call out injustice, inequality and racism and to actively work to end it. As community college leaders we will do what we do best–engage our communities to help us all heal.
Nora E. Vargas, Governing Board President, Southwestern College/SDICCCA Board Alliance
Linda Cartwright, Governing Board President, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District
Mark Edney, Governing Board President, Imperial Valley College
Rick Cassar, Governing Board President, MiraCosta College
Nancy Ann Hensch, Governing Board President, Palomar College
Maria Nieto Senour, Governing Board President, San Diego Community College District