Friday Letter, 12-2-16

Dear Campus Community,

Over the last several weeks, college and university presidents across the country have emphasized the role of higher education in educating and protecting their students. While Cascadia has written several letters to employees and students reiterating our values, I want to take a moment to summarize the outlook on our campus from the perspective of the administration and the college’s governing board. And so I write this letter on behalf of our Muslims, immigrants, Blacks and Latinx; on behalf of our LGBTQ and individuals with disabilities, our women and our veterans; and on behalf of every person in our community who demonstrates respect towards others and is invested in learning.

It is both a challenging and critical time to be a member of a public institution of higher education in the United States. It is challenging because so many in our community are genuinely afraid for themselves, their families or their friends. It is critical because we are responsible for teaching and defending the values that define Cascadia. This is not the work of solely the administration, the faculty, or student services, but the collective work of all the employees and students who believe in Cascadia and our mission, and who show up every day to commit themselves to shaping a better future for all of us.

Allow me to be perfectly and unequivocally clear about our institution’s mission and values: Cascadia exists to educate all students and to positively transform their lives. Fundamental to that mission is our commitment to the principles of pluralism, social justice, and cultural richness. We have these values so that all of our students can reach their fullest potential. And we will never tolerate behaviors that serve to marginalize individuals or groups. Those who bully, direct hate, or incite violence will be held accountable.

This is neither quick nor easy work. There is no one blueprint to guide colleges through such complexity and ambiguity. We are learning together, in real time, how best to respond to questions, provide comfort and safety, and hold space for those who are struggling to understand, while simultaneously protecting free speech.

At this moment, we cannot know exactly what changes or new federal policies lie ahead and how they will affect us. We may be powerless to influence outcomes on the national stage but we are not powerless to establish the parameters and set the tone on our own campus. It is the responsibility of each of us to hold our neighbors, our co-workers, our fellow students, and campus visitors accountable to our standards of pluralism and social justice. It is our privilege to unite against bigotry, to give students a voice, teach them to be advocates and stand up for human rights.

How will Cascadia demonstrate this commitment and resolve? The college is coordinating activities and events to promote our values and facilitate learning.

  • Community Conversations

Held twice weekly on Mondays & Tuesdays, beginning December 5th and 6th from 12:00-1:00 pm in The Center for Culture, Inclusion, and Community (CC1-002). These discussions will be facilitated by a rotation of faculty and staff and are designed as a safe space for discussion and reflection.

  • Writing on the Wall Project

Students are encouraged to share their perspectives and tell their stories.

  • Border Door Project

Students, staff and community members are invited to illustrate their immigration stories on life-size doors.

  • Freedom of Expression Board

The place on campus for posting information about organizations, groups, initiatives or events that are not directly associated with the college.

  • Bias Incident Response Team

Student Success Services is establishing a “first response” team to manage campus bias incidents.

For information about these opportunities and others, please visit the web page created for this initiative.

As well, the college encourages students to talk with trusted faculty and staff about their experiences, especially if hostility is encountered anywhere on campus. We recognize that it may be difficult to report acts of hate, but sharing the experience with a Cascadia employee will help us think about resources and responses to help prevent further instances of unwanted behavior.

Our campus efforts, our collaboration with the university system, and our work as part of the state’s community college system will hopefully allow us to retain the same safe and positive learning environment we’ve always had. I believe if we truly live the values articulated in the college’s founding documents, and commit to the actions included in this letter, we will be a safer place. We call on our students to have a voice and we will protect that voice. I hope you will stand with me as we make this our reality.

 

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