The coronavirus already exposed many missteps of the college, but with the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement against systemic racism, it’s evident once again that PCC’s leadership hasn’t prioritized relevant issues. On a campus that is only 4% Black, it’s easy to exist on the margins. By failing to address their students’ needs for racism prevention and resource support, PCC’s vice presidents and superintendent/president Erika Endrijonas have let their students down.
The course of events leading up to PCC’s response to Floyd’s death is questionable at best.
On May 30 at 3:41 p.m., Dr. Gena Lopez sent out an email to staff addressing the killing of George Floyd by ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, who has since been charged with second-degree murder. In the email she addressed the events she would be coordinating moving forward to respond to the needs of Black students in the Ujima and Blackademia programs. Lopez also called on PCC to step up for its Black students by noting that its staff had been “looking for leadership on how to deal with these tragedies.”
This guidance should have started with the campus president, Erika Endrijonas.
Endrijonas did not reply to the staff email until 10:30 p.m. that night. She did not personally send out anything addressing this killing until two days later, with what was essentially a copy of those words. The campus-wide email, sent Monday, June 1, provided links to the PCC Counseling Services only. George Floyd was killed on May 25 with large scale protests spreading to the nation shortly thereafter, and Endrijonas’ statement came seven days too late.
When the Courier pressed Endrijonas for an explanation of her lack of swift action, it was revealed that there was a large gap of time between Floyd’s death and campus discussions.
“On Friday night [May 29], I exchanged emails with Alex [Boekelheide] to begin working on a statement from the college,” Endrijonas said in the email. “As part of this effort, he reached out to different groups on campus to see what concrete activities I could share with the college so that people could take action. In the course of this work, Alex learned of an event taking place Saturday morning. The college posted information on that event on social media for our followers to see.”
For PCC’s leadership to rely on social media, when many students aren’t involved with PCC’s platforms, is tone-deaf and negligent. It’s equally concerning that the campus relied on its Black department leaders to spearhead these actions and discussions.
Endrijonas and her associates should be bending over backward to be there for Black students—especially when the most intense uprisings were happening right as PCC entered finals week. How can Black students be held to the same academic standard—with zero support—while they are constantly seeing videos of Black people unjustly killed at the hands of police? How can PCC not address these killings beyond a fluffy email with no action to follow?
According to the listening forum on June 4, racism and microaggressions have been allowed by and, in some cases, perpetrated by teachers. It was even pointed out that during a campus event for Black History Month, police monitored the situation, according to Rebecca Cobb, dean of student life.
Directly following the listening forum, why was there no statement on how PCC is going to move forward with proactive changes? The students and staff deserve to know what actions PCC is going to take to make things better for its Black students.
The next campus email came the same day as the listening forum and included two virtual events that would occur over the remainder of the week, with most people getting the email around 10 a.m. Notably, the listening forum that occurred at 12 p.m. was not included in this—despite that event being in a letter signed by Endrijonas on the PCC Twitter the day prior.
This also didn’t stop PCC’s official Twitter account from sending a reminder tweet of the event. Why was this event, one of the original and probably biggest virtual event of the week, not mentioned in the campus-wide email? For students who don’t have social media, this might have been their only chance to know about it—especially when not every Black student is in Ujima or Blackademia.
Over a week after Lopez’ initial email calling for action, as of the time of this publishing, still no action plans or changes have been announced by PCC, other than a statement resolution denouncing the killings of unarmed Black individuals being passed by the Academic Senate, which was co-written by Lopez.
Our Black students deserve better. Full stop.