Photo illustration by Michael Watkins
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Former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur said that the schools we go to are reflections of the society that created them. If this is the case, then it’s no wonder that the black PCC community feels unappreciated, unrecognized and invisible.

PCC’s website states, “The Pasadena Area Community College District recognizes that equity and diversity in the academic environment fosters cultural awareness, promotes mutual understanding and respect, and provides suitable role models for all students.”

As forward-thinking as that sounds, it’s only true in theory. The reality is that many in the black faculty, staff and student population feel that PCC is just another version of the “good old boys club,” paying lip service to the marginalized, while their actions say otherwise.

Is PCC truly interested in having a diverse community of educators, staff and students, or is diversity simply a box to be checked off once a quota has been reached?

During the semester, black faculty expressed anger at the decision not to hire Arkova Scott as the Associate Dean of Learning Resources, a position that she created. The administration instead gave the position to a white male candidate from out of state.

Scott served in the interim position for over two years and developed the program and the position beyond all expectations.

Similarly, Dr. Paul J. Price served as the interim dean of the Social Sciences division until 2015, also receiving high praise from faculty and co-workers, when he also did not receive the permanent job.

This is reminiscent of what usually happens in every facet of the black experience; black people spend huge amounts of time and effort creating and building something, then once it’s complete, it’s taken and given to a white person to benefit from the fruits of black labor.

Four hundred years of black slave labor turned the U.S. into the richest country in the world at which point those same black people were kept from benefiting from their own labor and still are to this day. Has PCC become a microcosm of that oppression?

Dr. Christopher West, a usually outspoken and respected member of the faculty, also criticized not only the decision not to hire Scott but also the decision to release Dr. Rueben Smith as the executive director of facilities services.

“The response on the campus will be that these are isolated incidents, and these are anomalies that all happened to be negroes but overall, we’re doing a good job of hiring more African-American employees in teaching and non teaching positions,” West said.

“Lisa Norman was the highest ranking African-American on campus and she chose to leave. Rueben Smith was one of the highest ranking African-American male employees on campus and he’s now gone.”

West stated that people should begin to ask the questions of who will be on the ad-hoc hiring committee to replace President Vurdien after he retires. West noted that they were all white men and said that in his mind, that means the outcome of the new presidential selection is predetermined.

According to BOT President Ross Selvidge, the ad-hoc hiring committee initially consisted of himself, Jim Osterling and Dr. Anthony Fellow; all white men. Due to Fellow teaching in Italy for the study-abroad program, the ad-hoc committee will consist of Selvidge, Osterling and Linda Wah.

Difficult questions need to be asked of our administration but also of ourselves in the campus community. Why do so many black students feel that they don’t belong or are unwelcome at PCC?

Why do so many black students feel that they have nowhere to go for support outside of the Ujima program? Why do our black students feel uncomfortable when they realize they’re the only black student in their classes?

When a black student club on campus loses their faculty advisor and no one on campus informs them of this for almost three weeks, that is no less than disrespectful and indicative of the exact behavior and treatment that PCC’s black community is frustrated with.

When an accomplished, qualified black woman like Dr. Lisa Norman leaves her position as VP of human resources to take the exact same position at a college three hours away, questions must be asked.

If the administration intends to practice what they preach, they must be willing to answer the many grievances from the black campus community. This means transparency in words and actions.

Enough boilerplate PR responses that don’t truly answer the questions that are being asked. Honestly listen and consider the words and demands of the community, who take the time to come to BOT meetings and make public comments. Above all, show empathy and loyalty for those in our own campus community whom the administration claims to value.

Scott told the Courier that when she went to her superior to inquire about why she had not been offered the position, she was not given a reason and the response was very unsympathetic and uncaring.

Smith said that the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) club on campus had multiple successes in events and competitions but when he went to administration to have those achievements recognized, no one wanted to hear about it.

If PCC continues to undervalue it’s black community and ignore its legitimate criticisms, that community will disappear. It would be a shame and a major loss for PCC should this become a reality.

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