A Call to Action

By Dionne Shelton
Pasadena City College 2020 Graduate

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Growing up Black in America has challenges coming at you left and right. Before you can even comprehend the journey that has been placed in front of you based on the color of your skin you learn quickly the disparities that exist. Having gone through the education system myself, I barely escaped the school to prison pipeline. It wasn’t until I was 28 and working at an elementary school that I saw first-hand what black and brown children experience in our education system. Thinking back to my days in elementary, intermediate, and high school I remember how many of my peers were not given the proper chance to learn because of racial profiling. After witnessing this and hearing many testimonies from students I have dedicated myself to shifting the culture and ideologies that help hinder the success of all students.

With the ongoing protests surrounding the unjust murders of innocent Black people at the hands of law enforcement, the topic of systemic racism and its practices have been a hot topic. As a recent graduate from Pasadena City College (PCC) and having been involved in student government at PCC, I recognize the importance of student voices in the California Community College system. While many colleges reflect on their current policies and attempt to answer the Chancellor’s Call to Action, here are some ideas on how institutions that actively serve marginalized communities can better serve Black and African American students:

Hire more Black and African American professors, academic counselors, and campus staff. Why is this important? It is important that all students have professors and administrative staff that look like them and might share similar life experiences. In order to succeed or feel welcomed at an institution, such as a community college, students of color need to see college leadership that looks like them.

Allocate funds that support programs such as Umoja, Blackademia, EOP&S, and the Office of Student Life. Having programs like these on campus offers students of the Black community guidance and support outside of academics. This provides Black students’ mentorship and a successful network. Allocating more funding towards these programs would allow them to access more students on campus and outreach to incoming students.

Reform classroom policies that allow black students to be isolated and therefore ostracized. Reforming the classroom to not allow microaggressions such as using the N-word or derogatory phrases in the course curriculum helps to ensure Black students feel safe and welcomed in the classroom. Colleges should create quarterly cultural competency and ethics training that is mandatory for ALL college employees to attend in order to educate and lessen the acts of prejudice within the classroom.

Review the Tenure Faculty Process. Policies that protect tenured faculty who have a history of racial microaggressions and discrimination towards students need to be reviewed and changed immediately. Colleges need to evaluate policies that protect tenured faculty from being removed from their jobs to allow room for more equitable growth within their institutions.

Add ethnic studies as a general education requirement. Adding this course requirement will provide students the opportunity to learn about other cultures as well as how they operate within a society. This gives students the space to have in-depth conversations about cultural differences, similarities, biases, and how to co-exist in this world together.

Dionne will be attending the University of California, Riverside this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Education Administration.