The quad at City College was bustling with activity as President Michael Gutierrez looked on from the steps of the cultural awareness center. While students gathered beneath a nearby gazebo flanked by large PA speakers and flip charts, Sabrina Edward, the recently elected student senate president, and Patti Leonard, dean of humanities and fine arts, took turns speaking into the microphone.
Leonard, a 31-year veteran of the campus, said that the event was for students to talk about “what contributes to a sense of community, whether it be on campus or not. It’s really important for us to get your input, and, hopefully, create a climate where you feel heard.”
For one hour on March 3, the latest installment of the “Your Voice, Your Power” dialogue series focused on student voices and student needs regarding campus involvement. A diverse throng of students ebbed and flowed from the tent, and all were asked to share their experiences and concerns over hot chocolates and brownies.
Business finance major Desmond Campbell did not originally plan on attending the event, but the sight of the tents piqued his interest. He spoke throughout the series.
“I’m glad to know that there’s a place I can go and actually be heard,” he said.
Originally from the historically tough neighborhood of Compton, California, Campbell said that he knows how powerful a strong social bond can be. There, his tight-knit community empowered each other to focus on their goals, and this culture sparked a sense resourcefulness that has helped him succeed at City College and beyond.
Other students, like Sociology major Julius Collins, also spoke to the benefits of the campus community. Collins said that he finds great joy in mentoring through the Re-Emerging Scholars program.
“I went to prison at a young age—I was 19 and I came home at 30, so this is my first experience back in the school system,” Collins said. “The Re-Emerging Scholars [program] allowed me to do that.”
Because Collins is unable to vote, he said his ability to help his community is limited and that it means a lot for him to be on campus helping people.
“It gives me a little bit of fire to kind of look at what’s going on for everybody,” Collins later said.
Not all students had praise for the campus community, however. Journalism major Taylor McClure spoke about her experiences with limited access on campus after police were called on her and a group of black schoolmates while they were studying in the fall of 2018.
“One of the people that worked in the front called the police on us while we were studying,” said McClure. “Now we have the black student retention center. It’s a space for the black students to come in, do their homework and study and just be around people that look like us.”
Biology major Lazer Introlegator said he experienced similar inclusion issues as McClure, citing the lack of a LGBTQ center at City College, which other Los Rios campuses have.
“City College is a very diverse campus, but with that diversity comes people with very old-school mindsets,” said Introlegator. “It’s not always a safe space for LGBTQ students to just be themselves on campus. So, I feel like there needs to be a space for people in that community to be comfortable.”
Other issues brought up during the series included inaccessibility to the complete student handbook, school-life imbalance and professor unpreparedness. Edward and Leonard responded to concerns with ways students can make a difference, including joining committees, but also steps that the school has taken or will take that students may not be aware of, like offering student success classes and working through the details of a LGBTQ center for the main campus.
“A sense of belonging—feeling like you belong—is kind of what we’re talking about today,” said Leonard.
According to Edward, the “Your Voice, Your Power” series happens three times per semester on the first Tuesday of the month.
“It is really important that you make sure that your voice is being heard,” Leonard said. “This campus is really adamant about shared governance, and that means that management, faculty, classified and students all have a structured, legitimate voice in the process.”
According to Edward, the “Your Voice, Your Power” series will continue on April 14 by turning the focus to microaggressions and stereotypes.