City College’s Legacy of Educators Against Institutional Inequity

By Samya Brohmi

sbrohmi@gmail.com

 

As City College celebrates Black History Month, faculty members’ and alumni efforts to provide accessibility to higher education for students of color come to light.

In response to the civil rights movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s City College created diversity departments and initiatives. Faculty in each academic department sought to close achievement and opportunity gaps within their own communities and work together to serve all underprivileged students through the Ethnic Studies and Social Justice Collaborative, formerly known as the Diversity Collaborative.

Their efforts provided the foundation for the issuance and ratification by the City College Academic Senate of a diversity resolution in November 2020. The resolution aims to address the pressing needs of reaching racial equity and representation for City College’s students and faculty.

The campus community recently honored and mourned the loss of a pioneer of diversity inclusion programs, Dr. Henry Augustine, an educator who served City College for over 30 years. He founded the predecessor of today’s Umoja/African American Scholastic Programs, responsible for providing retention services for Black students — part of the comprehensive Multicultural Retention Services Department.

Illustration by Viana Goowin/The Guardsman. Instagram: @vrayartistry

Umoja has been instrumental in helping students earn high school diplomas, transfer to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and access academic and career counseling. Umoja’s educators and alumni have been crucial advocates for intercultural communication and solidarity in and beyond the classroom.

Former Chair of African American Studies Department Dr. Ramona Coates has dedicated her career to strengthening solidarity with Latin American and Latinx Studies. Her roles include developing LALS5, a statistics course exploring the intersection of data analysis and Latin American and Latinx Studies, and sitting on City College’s Affirmative Action Task Force’s Scholarship Committee.

City College’s Academic Senate has been responsible for campus policy development and implementation since 1997. As the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed substantial racial disparities in education, its members have recognized that students of color are more susceptible to academic barriers and health inequalities than ever.

On Nov. 11, 2020, its Executive Council approved the Resolution on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Resolution 2020.11.18.6D). The document expresses the Academic Senate’s continuing obligation to advancing equity on campus through improving the role of social justice in the diversity framework for academic and professional settings, and hiring and retention of diverse faculty.

The resolution also addresses the administration’s need to tackle racism within the institution and update City College’s current mission statement to reflect a campus-wide commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

The body recently joined other community colleges to press for the dissolution of institutional discrimination and greater inclusivity in higher education by signing the Academic Senate for California Community College’s Anti-Racism Pledge.

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