Our Commitment to Social Justice Change at Cypress College

Dear Colleagues:

Much has occurred this past week as our country and communities continue joining together to demand justice for our black brothers and sisters. I have appreciated the heartfelt conversations I’ve had with many of you about what we can do at Cypress College, as well as the many reminders that we can no longer keep talking, without backing up that talk with meaningful change.

Some of you have asked about my own vision for equitable institutional change. I hope that vision has been clear from the efforts to center our core values around equity and our focus on improving success for our students of color; but like many of you, I cannot witness the events of the past few weeks without doing some soul searching, and asking if that vision is fully informed or aims high enough.

At Cypress College our shared vision is to ensure our campus is a safe zone for our students and employees of color, and that we are a campus that can have meaningful conversations on equity, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Our students want to know they will be seen and heard, and we must all be part of the solution to make sure we not only create a space for meaningful dialogue, but are a campus that allows for engagement to flourish. Our vision is to ensure we have the best people working here at Cypress and continue to hire dynamic and diverse employees who demonstrate compassion for, and commitment to, ensuring equity and student success. Our vision is to support our faculty to prioritize educational change in our classrooms and to be unrelenting in our dedication to transform Cypress College into a place where social justice is authentic. Our vision is to create a culture of respect for differing opinions, without stifling the important conversations that must occur for us to create a healthy and dynamic college environment. Ultimately, the culture we want at Cypress College is shaped by all of us.

So my commitment to you is to use my position and privilege to continue to support our collective vision, while not allowing this moment to be something we talk about for a few weeks and then move on. That will not happen. In the coming weeks and months we will prioritize these important conversations. Some short term and long term plans are:

Our Associated Students will be hosting a student town hall this Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Our hope is for our students to continue to host these workshops throughout the year (summer, fall and spring). We are committed to providing students a safe space to educate others, and advocate for action with the goal of improving the student experience on our campus.

With the help of our campus leaders, we will also be designing a series of employee town halls and discussions that will also continue into the fall. An update will be shared soon on this first convening.
We will be rescheduling the Equity Retreat we had to cancel this spring, in a Zoom format this Fall to allow for more employees to participate.

Cypress College will be joining the California Community College Equity Leadership Alliance from USC’s Center for Urban Equity. Our Completion Team peer and data coaches have already been accepted to participate in this important training, but as part of this Alliance we will have access to guest speakers, additional training, and climate survey tools.

This is just the beginning of the work that must be done. Education has always been the path to social justice change, and community colleges are the system of higher learning that educates more black and brown students than any other. We have a powerful responsibility and role to play in creating real systemic change in this country. Join me as we step into this moment together.

“The greatest glory in living, lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Nelson Mandela

JoAnna Schilling, Ph.D.

Cypress College

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