This year has presented some of the most pressing issues of our time. Not only are communities of color dealing with the realities of the disparities that exist in health care as exemplified by the disproportionate representation of those affected by COVID-19, they are also living in a country where systemic racism thrives and repeated cries for allies seem to go unnoticed.
I am deeply saddened and appalled by the heinous killing of Mr. George Floyd last week in Minneapolis, MN. Like you, I saw a black man pinned to the ground while handcuffed and begging for mercy.
As a black man and immigrant from Ghana (West Africa), it does not matter how many academic degrees are listed on my CV or my socioeconomic status. For many people, what stands out the most is the color of my skin. During my lifetime, I have also been subjected to the everyday slights, known as racial microaggressions, commonly experienced by people of color.
My life matters. The lives of my children matter. The lives of all the students and employees I am honored to serve as their college president matter. Black Lives Matter. These are not zero-sum statements! It does not mean that the lives of other groups do not matter. It means that the lives of a historically oppressed group should be equally valued and treated with dignity.
I stand with members of our black community who cannot leave their homes without being racially profiled — people such as Christian Cooper, who was simply bird-watching in New York City’s Central Park, and those who cannot safely dwell in their own homes without being killed, like Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY.
Before the merciless killing of Mr. Floyd, there was Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while jogging in Brunswick, GA. And there are countless others. I know you are hurting, and I stand with you during this painful time in our history.
I want you to know that Elgin Community College condemns all acts of violence, hatred, and racism. Our commitment to our Shared Values of Diversity and Equity, as approved by the District 509 Board of Trustees, will continue to guide us in the coming days, weeks, and years as we seek ways to do our part to dismantle systemic oppression and institutional racism.
In addition to our black students, we will continue to embrace our Latinx students, LGBTQ+ communities, Muslim students, immigrant and undocumented students, our students with disabilities, and every student and employee at ECC.
Together, we can be part of the solution and use our influence to collectively work toward change and challenge outdated and out-of-touch systems, including our own. As an institution, we value diversity, equity, and inclusion and remain committed to furthering these causes.
I want to commend our employees who are proactively involved with the following committees and initiatives:
- The Student Success Infrastructure (SSI) Committee seeks to improve student success among diverse populations by incentivizing and institutionalizing equitable support and resources; promote awareness and understanding of critical success factors; and dismantle structural barriers within the institution. This committee exists because of ECC’s status as an Achieving the Dream™ (ATD) Leader College. SSI is also guided by ATD’s mission to lead and support a national network of community colleges to achieve sustainable institutional transformation through sharing knowledge, innovative solutions and effective practices, and policies leading to improved outcomes for all students.
- The Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA) is the Partnership for College Completion’s signature effort to catalyze urgent action on campuses across the state to eliminate racial and socioeconomic graduation disparities on their campuses and significantly increase completion rates for African American, Latino, and low-income students. As a result of participation in ILEA, ECC completed an Equity Plan in fall 2019, which reinforces our commitment.
- ECC’s Multicultural and Global Initiatives Committee’s (MAGIC) aims to prepare individuals to succeed in a diverse society by providing and supporting multicultural learning experiences at Elgin Community College and within District 509 with the ultimate goal of creating an inclusive environment at the college.
- TRIUMPH (Transforming and Inspiring Undergraduate Men Pursuing Higher Education) Program, in which ECC has participated in since 2019 to address the challenges minoritized males face as they attempt to navigate the educational system and to provide first-year and transitional support services for all men of color.
I am also proud of the many student clubs and organizations at ECC that are active in advancing our diversity initiatives, including the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), United Students of All Cultures (USAC), and Black Student Achievers (BSA), among others.
ECC also requires professional development training for all participants of search and hiring committees to recruit culturally competent and diverse faculty, staff, and administrators. Additional professional development opportunities specific to advancing institutional awareness and leadership in equity, implicit bias, and microagressions include the following workshops:
- Seeking Cultural Consciousness and Competence in Hiring: Practical Strategies for Hiring the Faculty, Administrators and Staff We Need (Part I)
- Identifying Implicit Bias and Designing Appropriate Interventions to Create and Maintain Culturally Competent Hiring Processes (Part II)
- Professional Development in Cultural Competency: Issues and Strategies for Faculty, Administrators & Staff
- Advanced Institutional Leadership in Equity: Recognizing and Diagnosing 10 Common Ways We Can Sabotage Effective Equity Plans, Policies and Practices
We also have employees participating in The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), which offers research-based, strategy-driven, and practical application-focused professional development services that equip educators with tools to address specific school needs related to equitable learning environments, student academic access, and ultimately, college and career readiness. NAPE builds educators’ capacities to implement effective solutions for increasing student access, educational equity, and workforce diversity.
Yet, there is still much work to be done.
Most importantly, I want you all to know that we are here for you:
For students, our Wellness Services professionals are available remotely. You can set up an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-214-7390 or the 24-hour emergency/referral hotline at 847-742-4033.
For employees and their family members experiencing distress and anxiety during these times, please make use of ECC's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through Morneau Shepell. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 via phone, chat, or text. Call 800-272-2727 or visit workhealthlife.com/us and search for "Elgin Community College" as your organization. You can also text MSEAP to 53342 to immediately begin chatting with an EAP client care representative or counselor. You can also download the EAP app by visiting the ECC website for a QR code.
Finally, I believe the events of this past week have strengthened our resolve and deepened our commitment to our mission. To improve people’s lives through learning does not begin or end in the classroom. I am confident that we can all roll up our sleeves to effect change together as Spartans United.
Let us continue to support one another and extend empathy to those who need it during these difficult times.
Thank you, David S.
President, Elgin Community College