Response to Student Leaders Regarding BLM

At a June 2020 Seattle Colleges Board of Trustees meeting, student leaders from North Seattle College and Seattle Central College delivered a joint statement to the board and executive leaders. Below is Seattle Colleges' response.

Seattle Colleges' Response to Student Requests Made
to the Executive Leadership and Board of Trustees Regarding BLM

The past several months have given all of us an opportunity to examine and reflect upon the state of Black America.

Our challenge now is to chart a way forward. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) are among our core values, and work in this area comprises one of the four key goals of our strategic plan. We firmly establish equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) as a human right for all. We frame our decisions and actions with this lens and are accountable to the community.

Our response to these student leadership requests (in regard to BLM) revealed the importance of having our colleges, as a collective, follow the same practices and procedures to ensure our students share in the same rich experiences, regardless of the campus.

With this in mind, we responded to these requests, as a district, with the knowledge and recognition that:

  • We need to invest time and resources to make sure students on all our campuses receive the same level of learning and engagement in and outside the classroom.
  • A single college may take the lead in an area or may offer innovations, and others will adopt their best practices.

Student Request 1

First, we ask that you establish a district task force designed to do three things in the name of public safety.

  • Evaluate the Seattle Colleges' relationship with the Seattle Police Department and make changes, as necessary. This includes any contractual relationships as well as all policies establishing when to call the police. We believe that police presence can be a major distraction to the learning environment, and we need to get clear about what our relationship with the SPD is.
  • Demilitarize our campuses by reorganizing our security departments. We believe it is necessary to add emergency response caseworkers to our security teams. We additionally believe that we need to start prioritizing experience outside of law enforcement when hiring for these teams.
  • Explore ways to empower our communities to promote public safety internally. This includes but is not limited to mental health training, de-escalation training, anti-bias training, and bolstering mental health resources available across the district.

Seattle Colleges' Response to Request 1

Seattle Colleges will form a districtwide task force this fall to assess, discuss, and recommend policy on issues of public safety on our campuses related to:

  • The district’s relationship with SPD.
  • The organizational structure and composition of our security departments.
  • Empowering our communities to promote physical safety and emotional wellbeing for every student and employee, particularly our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoC) communities.
  • Strengthening complaint procedures and training to improve response and act upon such complaints in an antiracist manner.

An example of an innovative program that could serve as a model, members of North Seattle College’s faculty and staff have participated in Trauma Informed Care Training. Their knowledge and understanding will help:

  • Restructure public safety protocols on campus.
  • Establish a community partnership with a mental health agency to provide services to North Seattle College students.

Student Request 2

Secondly, we request that the district explore options to establish a class around Black and Indigenous history that includes a focus on white privilege in America. We ask that the district move to make this a graduation requirement starting with the class of 2022. We believe that to promote real change, we need to normalize antiracism in the classroom. We believe the first step to doing this comes by increasing antiracism literacy across the board. We also ask that administrators be incredibly careful and thoughtful about who is entrusted to lead these classes.

Seattle Colleges' Response to Request 2

Curriculum, coursework, and instruction are the purview of our faculty. We actively support and encourage their efforts to incorporate diverse perspectives, normalize antiracism in the curriculum and classroom, decolonize curricula, and train faculty in antiracist pedagogy.

Efforts in this area include:

  • Seattle Central College is revising the outcomes of the graduation requirement in U.S. Cultures for its AA-DTA degree to focus on Black and Indigenous history and culture more centrally by 2022.
  • In summer 2021, the Curriculum Coordinating Council at Seattle Central College will host a Critical Pedagogy Institute for faculty as professional development.
  • North Seattle College has hired a new tenure-track faculty position for “Social Justice and Intersectional Studies” and is reorganizing several departments within the Humanities and Social Sciences to be grouped together under the social justice theme.
  • North Seattle College is launching a Climate Justice professional development program for faculty to help infuse climate justice into the curriculum. 
  • South Seattle College is working to develop antiracist AAT degrees similar to those at Central.
  • Beginning this summer, South Seattle College is offering antiracist pedagogy workshops. These workshops are led by faculty from various disciplines and will be an ongoing program.

In regard to personnel, we are working closely with our BIPoC staff and faculty to help drive more accountability with anti-racist actions. We are also building a full-time faculty and staff body that reflects the diversity of our students. 

Student Request 3

Additionally, we ask that the district recognize the work of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion on our campuses as essential work. We urge the district to avoid cuts from these areas. Moving into next year we are going to need the EDI team operating at full capacity.

Seattle Colleges' Response to Request 3

As stated previously, EDI work is among our key strategic goals as well as our core values. It is a priority. We recognize that budgetary decisions often burden underserved communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities. That said, our desire is to lead with racial equity and a commitment to ongoing reflection and improvement. We will work to minimize the impact of budget reductions on our EDI efforts.

Student Request 4

Our next request is that the support station at Central be fully funded throughout the month of June. Currently, the station is being maintained at $200 dollars/day and is funded for the next 2 weeks approximately. We ask that the district supplement any deficit in their funding so the station can remain open during June.

Seattle Colleges' Response to Request 4

The station is no longer active and had a surplus of funding when its work was complete.

Student Request 5

We finally ask that Seattle Colleges be willing to boldly declare their commitment to antiracism by doing two things.

  1. Establish a scholarship program for Black Students attending Seattle Colleges in the spirit of the "say their names campaign" and build opportunities for professional development and mentorship into that program. The lives, successes, and futures of Black students' matter, and we need to be explicit about that.
  2. We ask the district to donate an amount of $8,460 to three Seattle-based organizations including Black Lives Matter Seattle King County, Creative Justice, and Not This Time. If this funding is not readily available, we ask that the foundation work with us to establish a fundraising campaign. These amounts are specific and pay tribute to the life of George Floyd who was mercilessly held down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while he was murdered. Though we know giving money will never be enough, it is more powerful to say “we support you” with a check than with a tweet, an email, or a letter.

Seattle Colleges' Response to Request 5

We reaffirm our efforts to work with the Seattle Colleges Foundation as well as other organizations and college leadership at each of our colleges across the district to establish scholarships for Black students. The Foundation has existing scholarships that support Black students as well as commitments from donors to establish new scholarships. We have a strong starting point from which to build and a steadfast commitment from the Foundation, which takes its responsibility to EDI very seriously and sincerely.

At each of our colleges, we continue to develop support programs that include mentoring and professional development for BIPoC students. At Seattle Central College, for example, support for Black students is a deliverable for its Title III grant.

Funding is not readily available to make a contribution to three organizations, and state law prohibits the donation of state funds to other charitable organizations. Instead, we commit to raising money to support Black students studying at the Seattle Colleges and strengthening our partnerships with community-based organizations to benefit BIPoC community members.  For example, we have a collaborative grant with the Urban League focused on getting more BIPoC students prepared to work in the science and technology.

In addition to scholarships and related work to support students who are BIPoC, two other major districtwide initiatives are helping to advance EDI:

1. Seattle Promise (districtwide)

Seattle Colleges continues its strong commitment to EDI through Seattle Promise, a universal college access program with targeted equity strategies designed for historically underserved graduating high school students. The equity strategy within Seattle Promise is to provide non-tuition financial supports, called an equity scholarship, for students with the highest financial need. Equity scholarships are aimed at reducing financial barriers to college completion such as cost of books, childcare, transportation, and housing.

Further, the Seattle Promise investment, specifically the College Preparation and Persistence Support strategy, is complemented by K-12 School and Community-Based investments. More specifically, while Seattle Promise support for 11th and 12th grade high school students is distributed equally across public high schools, K-12 school-based investments are prioritized to serve up to five public high schools with high concentrations of students not yet meeting grade level learning standards, African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, underserved Asian populations, and other students of color, and/or designated as Title 1, thereby providing additional layered support for the students who need it the most.

2. Seattle Pathways (districtwide)

Seattle Pathways is a deliberate and comprehensive approach to achieve two strategic goals:

  1. Student Success
  2. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community 

Seattle Pathways fosters equity and helps eliminate the “equity gap” by building upon Seattle Colleges’ ongoing Strategic Enrollment Management, Guided Pathways, and related student success and equity initiatives. Our goals are to improve student satisfaction, retention, completion, and job placement, as well as to narrow student performance gaps. These efforts all fall under the Seattle Pathways umbrella.

While they help all students, these efforts are especially beneficial to BIPoC students and first-generation students, helping them with the transition to college in a focused, personalized, and supportive approach.

Seattle Pathways builds an aligned, consistent, and high-quality student experience across the college campuses that serves as the foundation for the four guided pathway pillars and associated programming/initiatives.

Thank You for Your Engagement in This Vitally Important Work

We want to thank you, our student leaders, for making these requests as you help us build a world with greater equity, diversity, inclusion, and community. Your requests show a concern and vision that we share as an institution devoted to people of all backgrounds improving lives and communities through education. You are an inspiration.