Cuesta College’s Board of Trustees further postponed the resolution to their student equity plan that was first called to action on June 3.
At the Sept. 2 meeting, the board could not come to an agreement on the proposed Resolution 14-20 Affirming a Commitment to Equity and Anti-Racism. They decided to table the discussion until the next meeting on Oct. 7.
However, the equity plan was omitted from the meeting agenda for October and was instead pushed to a meeting in November.
Tomorrow from 4—8 p.m, the Cuesta Board of Trustees will meet; included on the agenda is the controversial Academic Senate Resolution regarding Black Lives Matter that was previously postponed due to board member disagreement on the resolution's wording.https://t.co/n5xp9CuN2t
— The Cuestonian (@cuestonian) October 7, 2020
Dr. Jill Sterns, Cuesta College’s President, acknowledged the exclusion of the plan was due to human error and that this affected individuals who planned on attending the October meeting specifically because of the resolution.
The original student equity plan resolution was not signed due to the protest of several board members.
Dissenting board members
Board member Angela Mitchel was the first to motion against the plan. She was opposed to using the term “systemic racism” in the resolution.
“I just don’t believe that it’s systemic,” Mitchel said. “As a definition, systemic means that each and every person is racist.”
Board President Pete Sysak shared similar concerns.
“I just didn’t like the word centuries,” Sysak said. “If you really want to talk slavery, it’s only been around three to four thousand years, so I wanted to keep it current to what is happening to our community today and not what happened thousands of years ago.”.
Sysak also voiced his opposition with the third word in the first paragraph of the resolution.
““Aware of centuries of institutional racism.” I don’t like that word used in this context,” Sysak said. “When we get down to Black Americans and people of color, I don’t like distinguishing between Black Americans.”
Sysak then spoke his opposition against the verbiage, “noting with deep concern,” used in the second paragraph of the proposed equity plan.
“I don’t think we need to have that word [deep] in there,” Sysak said.
Sysak often posts on his personal Facebook account his opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. Sysak posts strong support for police, military, The Proud Boys and even posted an anti-Muslim post.
“Every time a Moslem [Muslim] stands up in Congress and tells us they will change the constitution, impeach our president, or vote for socialism, remember you said you would never forget. They said they would destroy us from within,” Sysak shared on his Facebook timeline after Sept. 11.
Student equity plan
Cuesta College students are asking for the board to condemn racism. The student equity plan is a pledge to the student body that the board is committed to the district’s mission statement.
The statement says that, “Cuesta College is an inclusive institution that inspires a diverse student population to achieve their educational goals.”
Dr. Jason Curtis, Assistant to the Superintendent of Cuesta College, gave a presentation on Sept 2 regarding the plan and the funds the school receives from the state. For the student equity program, Cuesta College is allocated $882,505. The total student equity and achievement program allocation is $2.75 Million for 2020-2021.
“The resolution was not required and was intended to be a move to support the anti-racism efforts in the state and in the country,” Curtis said.
In the presentation, the equity imperative slide stated that the every success measure reveals racial/ethnic gaps, and Latinx students are Cuesta College’s largest disproportionately impacted group. It continues on to state, “these gaps are historical and have been persistent.”
ASCC president and board member Jesus Cendejas says the lack of a solid student equity plan could have a detrimental effect on not only the students, but also the school itself.
“If we pass a resolution and we are not willing to name who we are affirming in our anti-racism and equity committee that is a problem,” Cendejas said. “I think that most of all this affects the public image of Cuesta College and its issues in the county with structural racism knowingly and unknowingly.”
School board elections
The controversy with the plan comes during an election year for several board members.
Trustees members Angela Mitchel, Dr. Barbara George, and Mary Strobridge all have terms ending at the end of this year. For members Mitchel and George, these are the last meetings concerning the resolution. Strobridge is seeking re-election.
“Our board is elected by the voters in the district and they represent different parts of our community college’s district, so different regions,” Curtis said.
Board members are intended to represent the interests of the voters and to function in support of the Cuesta College community. There are no term limits and some of the board members have held their position for over 20 years.