By Melvin Bui
East Los Angeles College is a minority majority community college, but that doesn’t mean that it is free of racism.
In efforts for equity ELAC hosted an equity audit dialogue to highlight what was learned from an anti-racism presentation last Friday.
The anti-racism presentation, Fostering and Sustaining Inclusive Classrooms for People of Color was held on Sept. 10. The dialogue was led by the e-convening team and critical topics were explained by the equity ambassadors.
E-convening is a term for people coming together for a meeting or assembling online.
However, the e-covening team are the people in charge of hosting the meeting. ELAC’s e-convening team is made up of three professors: English Professor Raenna Glaeson and Sociology Professors LaQuinta Jones and Eileen Le.
ELAC’s equity ambassadors are the group of individuals who attend the e-covenings hosted by the University of California.
ELAC has four equity ambassadors that represent the college during e-convenings: The Associated Student Union President and three faculty members.
So far, they have participated in one of 12 e-convenings, as a part of the Community College Equity Leadership Alliance with the USC Race and Equity Center.
The CCELA is an invitation to an alliance, which aims to address and improve marginalized classroom environments so that it’s more inclusive for students of color.
The dialogue aimed to highlight the actions students and faculty can do to help foster an environment of integrity and growth.
The first call of action was to acknowledge racism and other forms of discrimination like colorism and classism.
“People are conflating diverse student body with lack of racism,” said Psychology Professor Apri Festekjian.
She said because of that faulty assumption, there are major blind spots.
Curricular erasure and the refusal to learn students’ names can signify potential racism in classroom settings. Many faculty members nodded in agreement that it was basic respect or common courtesy to learn a student’s name.
“What does equity and inclusion mean in a minority-based institution,” said non-credit faculty member Leticia Barajas.
She said that there needs to be a change in the way the word equity and inclusion is being used when dealing with students of color, because the meaning is too broad.
The second call of action was for participants to talk about what steps can be taken to abolish racism on campus and their definition of anti-racism.
The first step was to acknowledge the problem and then look for solutions.
It is important to know what is being fixed before blindly fixing it.
“My tenure should not obviate me of my accountability to students nor should my academic freedom excuse me from my responsibility and commitment to anti-racism,” Festekjian said.
She said that it is proven in sociology that changing behavior can change attitude.
“Instructors must take the time to address racism,” said English professor Nancy Ramirez.
Political Science professor Kenneth Chaiprasert said that people can’t be forced to change. However, it can be recommended and shown the benefits.
He said that racism is everyone’s problem and that it is important to take conscious action to stop racism. However, people must be willing to change in order for it to work.
“As students, we go to school to learn and become a better version of ourselves. But if our reality up until this point has included our idea of racism to be ‘normal’ and ‘not wrong,’ anti-racism is necessary to help create a healthier and better reality,” said ELAC student, Geovanny Martinez.
The overall goal of the dialogue was to create and foster an environment to continuously discuss critical topics.
The dialogue was held because faculty members and staff felt that there was a need to discuss racism during these trying times.
“We really need to ensure our teaching and service practices are grounded and relevant to the lived experiences of the students. Cultural responsiveness is crucial to that enterprise,” said Academic Senate President Jeffrey Hernandez.
The dialogue was hosted on Zoom with 35 participants, made up of faculty members and students.
The interactive presentation software Mentimeter was used throughout the dialogue for participants to answer questions anonymously.
Students must register in order to participate in these dialogues. The link to register is https://laccd.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJlvdemvpzwtHddsBjResLNbOznAn9_eoxln