Pushback at Community Colleges

At least three community college leaders in California have received backlash against statements about violence at the U.S. Capitol. The system chancellor is standing by them.

January 18, 2021
 
Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images
Eloy Oakley

Last week, several community college leaders in California put out statements criticizing the Jan. 6 violence at the United States Capitol by supporters of President Trump.

At least three women among them -- from San Diego, MiraCosta and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College Districts -- received aggressive or racist responses as a result.

“We’re obviously in a nationally fraught time,” said Larry Galizio, president and CEO of the Community College League of California, a membership organization for the districts, which condemned the backlash in a statement. “Extreme rhetoric, physical violence and hate-filled communication unfortunately is quite common now.”

Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego district, told EdSource that after the release of her statement, the district received an email that read, “Your Black b---- chancellor needs to be fired.”

Carroll said there were about 10 other emails of a similar tone and theme.

Sunita Cooke, superintendent and president of MiraCosta College, who told EdSource she received a “horrible letter” in response to her statement, said that in general, responses were overwhelmingly positive.

“However, this has not been the case with similar statements released previously when I received negative feedback and/or resistance,” she said via email. “The criticism that has been expressed is reflective of the deep divides within our country when some recipients disagree on political, racial, or religious axes.”

Galizio said that such backlash against campus leaders is not entirely new. Leaders of color in the community college system and particularly women, he said, have been the recipients of hateful rhetoric. Several trustees and other leaders, he said, faced such vitriol after they released statements condemning the killing George Floyd last year.

“Truth, learning, reasoned and civil debate, and service to students and communities represent some of the most significant values that we cherish and seek to champion,” the league said in a statement.

Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges, supported the leaders on Twitter.

“I stand by all ⁦[California Community College]⁩ leaders that have spoken out against the attack on our democracy,” he wrote.

Oakley also wrote an email to campus leaders across the state.

“I know many of you have spoken clearly and forcefully about the insurrection that transpired last Wednesday, thank you,” he wrote. “I have heard from some of you that you’ve received some push back. Please know that your voice is critically important at this moment in history and I will do everything that I can to support you.”

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