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Black SRJC students speak out for change on campus

Spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement, a couple hundred people turned out Saturday afternoon to push for greater change at Santa Rosa Junior College in terms of diversity in hiring, classes and leadership.

The event was sponsored by the college’s Black Student Union and a new group called Uplifting Black Leaders, which has helped lead some of the large rallies within the county to protest the killing of George Floyd almost six weeks ago under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Other groups representing Latino and LGBTQ populations were present as well.

Speakers noted they are pushing for changes at the highly regarded campus that serves 22,000 students, especially in terms of more diversity, as 45% of the students are people of color. Black students make up 2% of the student body.

“When we are committed like this, we know what we are going to get out of this,” said Michael Doms, co-president of the Black Student Union. Doms noted that the crowds have continued to turn out in marches and rallies after the May 25 death of Floyd, which he said proves that their movement isn’t going to fade as the college goes into its fall semester on Aug. 17, when it will continue with online classes.

Some speakers called for the removal of Don Edgar from the SRJC board. Edgar last year lost his law license for two years for professional misconduct over $56,000 in funds awarded to clients in a lawsuit. Protesters on Saturday asked for a new board member of color.

They also spoke of putting pressure on SRJC President Frank Chong to improve financial aid to students of color.

Greg Granderson, the former dean of student services at SRJC’s Petaluma campus who is now with the Sonoma County chapter of 100 Black Men, told advocates that they should also push for more diversity in hiring of faculty and to force Chong to bring back the ethnic studies curriculum that was “destroyed” in the early 2000s.

Granderson spoke pointedly about incidents of racism he faced during his tenure at SRJC and noted that on his first day at the college, someone told him to park somewhere else when he pulled into the faculty parking lot.

“This was my first day. It went from one of those happy days to deciding if I was going to knock him out or not,” Granderson said. He thought the incident was over that morning until the man sent the police to Granderson’s office an hour and half later.

“In between Day One and being the dean, life was not all that good in Santa Rosa,” Granderson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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