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SRJC students say Academic Senate vote limits their part in campus administration

Attendees said they disagree with a recent senate vote that decided who will take part in the faculty-hiring process.|

Santa Rosa Junior College students conducted a sit-in Thursday to protest a vote by the school’s Academic Senate that they believe hinders student involvement in the campus’s hiring of faculty.

The protest began at about 11 a.m. in front of the Lawrence A. Bertolini Student Center on the Santa Rosa campus and was attended by about three dozen people. Attendees included students, school staff, campus administrators and two members of the Santa Rosa City Council.

Many at the rally said they disagree with a recent senate vote that decided who will take part in the faculty-hiring process.

The vote by the SRJC’s Academic Senate on March 16 OK’d a proposal to include students on faculty hiring committees. But, according to minutes from that meeting, the measure also put faculty members in charge of deciding which students would be added to those committees.

Delashay Carmona-Benson, SRJC’s student body president, said she and other students oppose this part of the measure because it takes student voices “out of the situation.”

She believes this aspect of the proposal violates the California Code of Regulations, which outlines the rights of students to participate in the governance of their college or university.

“They have an epic failure record in choosing faculty members that are diverse and that are culturally competent,” Carmona-Benson said of the school administrators during the rally. “So, I would like to know why they felt we would be OK with them choosing our students (for hiring committees).”

Academic Senate President Julie Thompson said the hiring procedure was the result of deliberations between nearly 30 members that sit on the senate, which represents faculty on campus. It not only spoke to the needs of faculty, but also the students’ desire to get involved in the faculty hiring process, she said.

“(The change) goes so far beyond what the tenor of conversation was years ago,” Thompson said, referring to past reviews of SRJC’s hiring procedures. “I think we really heard that the students wanted meaningful participation, but ultimately, we are responsible to faculty.”

The Academic Senate's approval moves the measure to the SRJC's Board of Trustees, which could make a final decision on it later this year.

Students on campus are now looking to the board to change the language of the approved measure, Carmona-Benson said.

Thompson said she estimated the proposal, which is part of a broader review of school policies that the Academic Senate is undertaking, would be sent to the Board of Trustees no sooner than early fall.

The hiring procedure was just one of the issues raised by Carmona-Benson and other students during Thursday’s rally. Speakers included other members of student government and representatives from the college’s Black Student Union and MEChA clubs.

Their recommendations to school administrators included the addition of more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, the hiring of more Black staff at all levels and greater access to resources at the school’s Southwest Santa Rosa Center, which Carmona-Benson said primarily serves immigrant students.

Benjamin Alcantar, 40, a student in SRJC’s radiologic technology program, said the rally opened his eyes to issues that he had not been aware of, including those at the Southwest Santa Rosa Center.

“There’s some people that feel discriminated against that we don’t even know about,” he said.

Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Eddie Alvarez and Councilwoman Natalie Rogers said they attended the protest to show their support for SRJC students. Rogers said she sided with rally organizers over the faculty hiring committee procedure.

“For the faculty to be able to have a choice in which student is on the committee seems like a conflict,” Rogers said.

SRJC President Frank Chong said Thursday that he was not ready to take a position on the hiring procedure, though the policy will be included in his evaluation of the school’s overall hiring practices ahead of a future Board of Trustee’s discussion on the topic.

“We’re going to deliberate and look at it, and see if we can come up with some solution on it,” Chong said, adding that he can make recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

Because the matter has not yet reached the board for a final vote, he said he didn’t think the proposed hiring procedure represents an infringement on students’ rights under the code referenced by Carmona-Benson.

Chong, who met with rally organizers late Thursday afternoon, also highlighted several changes made on the campus in response to student demands in recent years. Those included the establishment of a scholarship fund for Black students and the creation of a Black cultural center.

The school currently rents the Southwest Santa Rosa Center, though it hopes to purchase the property so it can make improvements to the site, he added.

“We’ve been responsive, as much as we can,” he said. “I welcome their demands, but I ask them to just be patient and work with us to make these happen.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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