A Message to the Sierra College Community

To the Sierra College community,  

I met yesterday with a group of college leaders who I greatly respect to discuss last week’s senseless killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minnesota. Included were the leadership from the President’s Equity Advisory Committee, President’s Equity Faculty Task Force and members of my executive team. During that conversation, my colleagues and I expressed our anger, fear, frustration, sadness and concern for ourselves and our diverse communities. Emotions we are all experiencing as we witness the pain and suffering caused by racism across the country. Racism that we must not tolerate.   

The intent of the meeting was to determine what we could do, what steps we could take, to address the pain many of our students, staff and faculty are experiencing. Pain caused by injustice in not only the case of George Floyd but other recent tragic deaths including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor among far too many others, that has created continual and compounded trauma for so many.   

Yet another email statement sending our thoughts and prayers to the victims of racism is not enough. We do not have all the answers, but we must listen, and we must try, and then try again.  

In that meeting, another emotion was expressed, hope.  

We feel the urgency to identify actionable steps to address racism and demonstrate our commitment to a culture of equity and inclusivity. We discussed with frustration the slow pace of change. Overall, though, we felt reassurance that our college is fully committed and willing to do the hard work that is needed. Sierra College has built momentum in supporting equity and inclusion. We stand against racism, bigotry, and discrimination and we stand for equity and inclusivity. We must acknowledge structural and institutional racism that has led to inequitable outcomes for students and fight against them. 

There are things that we are already doing to support these goals:  

  • Extensive equity and inclusion training for faculty; 
  • Faculty Equity Chats where faculty engage in meaningful dialogue, explore important concepts, and cultivate strategies proven via research to reduce and eliminate inequitable experiences and outcomes in learning environments; 
  • The President’s Faculty Equity Task Force is developing recommendations and strategies to eliminate the inequitable experiences and outcomes that exist in learning environments at Sierra College. These recommendations are informed by employee data and surveys of current and former students; 
  • The President’s Equity Advisory Committee is working to remove institutional barriers in order to eliminate equity gaps and improve overall student success. Some of their actions to date include:
    • holding an equity summit,
    • listening to the voices of faculty and staff,
    • completing a student survey to listen to student voices,
    • conducting focus groups to listen to the voices of marginalized communities, and
    • developing a visual branding project to focus on authentic ways of honoring the individual stories of our diverse campus community members; 
  • New Legacy Committee implements strategies to improve underrepresented student success; 
  • Gender Equity Committee facilitates a safe and equitable campus climate through cultural, social, structural, legal and academic change; 
  • Spectrum Committee focuses on improving success and retention of LGBTIQ students as well as ensuring a safe campus climate. 

What we can do better:  

  • Invite student groups to online forums with College Administrators to learn from them how the college can best support their unique needs and provide a safe, inclusive, and equitable experience; 
  • Expand extensive Equity and Inclusion training opportunities to staff and administrators immediately; 
  • Host all-staff Equity Chats to discuss how we can all play a vital role in improving equity at Sierra College, how to support one another, and better support students from marginalized identities; 
  • Continue building community among faculty and staff of color; 
  • Commit to supporting Equity Programs, Resources, and Services even through economic difficulties. 

We support our students, our faculty, our staff and our community as we together in our role as educators need to continue working together to build a culture, society, and community with equal opportunity and respect for all. 

There are many additional resources available for students, faculty and staff including: 

Sincerely,

Willy Duncan
Superintendent/President
Sierra College