By Navor Jacob Tercero
On April the 17th a group of students named the “SVC Latinx Students” met with Dr. Thomas Keegan, the President of SVC, as well the members of the SVC cabinet, to discuss a number of issues that this group had with the administration. This meeting was organized following a letter that had been sent by the group, outlining their issues with the administration, and demands to address said issues. A copy of this letter was acquired by the Cardinal, which also spoke with the Students as well as Dr. Keegan to discuss the issues and demands within the letter.
In this letter, the SVC Latinx Students outline their mission, claiming that promises which had been made to them by the Administration have fallen short of their expectations. They note that “a promise was made to support [their] educational success as Latinx students,” and in turn, these students then understood “this support to mean that the college enrollment would reflect district demographics at all levels,” expecting an engaged community through “counseling, programming activities, curriculum, resources, and a safe space that is welcoming.” However, this letter goes onto claim that “this promise was never kept” and that there has been “no commitment” to these students or their community.
While the Cardinal spoke with these students, Flor Zamorano, the Student President of the Associated Students of Skagit Valley College noted that at the heart of this group is the desire to keep the Administration accountable. “We want to look back at what they are promising and what they are not fulfilling.”
Alejandra Puerto, another member of the group echoed her, saying that they want to hold the Administration to “the promises they are making but not keeping.”
Some of these promises include goals which are outlined in the College’s strategic plan. The main issue which was continually raised in both the letter and the in the groups speaking with the Cardinal, was one of enrollment and demographics. In the letter, the students noted that their “concerns are that…school demographics don’t represent…community demographics.” Going on then, to claim that “there is a lack of representation of the LatinX student population…a lack of representation in LatinX educators and lack of culturally relevant curriculum.”
To hold the Administration accountable the students in their letter included demands which they believe will move the college to fulfill these seemingly unfulfilled promises. Many of the demands relate to diversity of faculty or staff on campus, demanding that “Latinx and diverse people shall not be seen just in the front desks, as secretaries or janitors, but in high Administrative positions,” or also that “hiring processes in progress will be put on hold for those positions to be filled with LatinX, ChicanX/Mexican American experts.”
In addition to demanding greater diversity, the letter also demands wider access of resources available to students. Chief among these resources is a “Diversity and equity center” which would provide “diverse students with a safe place.” This equity center would be a safe space for all students but would be oriented towards students who are parts of minority populations or marginalized groups. Angel Camarena, a member of this group said that he feels that “it would be really cool to have this equity center not be just for people of color, but also for people with disabilities, and LGBTQ. In one of our meetings, we talked about having books [there] and it would be cool to have like motivational books…Books that make you think, ‘oh they did it, I can do it too’”
Upon receiving the letter from these students, the SVC cabinet invited the student to come and speak with them to discuss the issues in the letter. Dr. Thomas Keegan spoke to the discussions that have been happening with these students, saying the first meeting with cabinet was very much set up as a listening session.
“The first meeting…with cabinet…was to listen because we really want to hear the students and know the stories behind the written word, and frankly it was inspiring…I really respect the students and their approach and their passion and their very thoughtful nature. I don’t disagree with the issues that they are raising. Most every one of those issues are included in the college operational plan. I think the message from the students is that they want us to work quicker on each of those”
Since that first meeting students have been meeting with the Vice Presidents of individual departments to discuss, in more greater detail the issues that relate to their departments.
As the Administration and these students work together towards understanding and partnerships, the students hope that their work with the Administration can inspire others to speak up and become their own advocates. Zamorano commented that they are not trying elevating themselves but rather are working to inspire other minorities to make a voice for themselves and speak out on the issues that affect them.
Jaramillo concurred, saying “Just like how we don’t want somebody white to speak for us, we aren’t going to speak for [others].” Giovanna Carios concurred saying that, “If we can get something like this going, then anyone else can get something like this going.”
In the end, Puerto said that all that this group wants is for the Administration to fulfill the promises that they had made to them at the start. “We aren’t asking for special treatment, we aren’t asking for anything that we don’t feel like we deserve…it’s literally what the school says they will provide for us.”
Zamorano again then stressed the fact that this hasn’t been a process of antagonism, rather it has been a process of partnership. “It’s not like they are the enemies, we just opened their eyes and now they are more aware of this.” Adding then that most of the demands which were outlined in the letter were already plans being discussed in the Administration.
To which Carios added, “We just out a little fire under their…britches”