May 2017 Advocate: Social justice at Cañada

SOCIAL JUSTICE AT CAñADA

A Community of Learners and Teachers Stands Up

by Julie Carey, ESL, Cañada

On Thursday, April 25, a speaker, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, was brought to Cañada College by a local chapter of the national right-wing group, Young America’s Foundation, the same organization that brought Ann Coulter to UC Berkeley and has been organizing similar events at campuses across the country. Lapin, who is known for espousing Islamophobic and nativist ideas, was interrupted by shouting students. Following the speech, several of the protesting students, have been brought up by the District on disciplinary charges based on the Board of Trustees’ (BOT) policy 2.31 – Speech: Time, Place and Manner that guides activities of students, faculty, and staff. In the light of the April 25 event at Cañada, this policy was presented at the May 10 BOT meeting. After the policy was presented, many faculty, students, and community members were allowed 2 minutes each to speak about the policy. After listening to the many speakers at the BOT meeting, Cañada ESL professor Julie Carey wrote the following message to colleagues. - Ed.

At last night’s BOT meeting, I listened and applauded as student after student, faculty member after faculty member shared their experiences and thoughts on the recent YAF event and protest at Cañada.  I was inspired, moved, and so, so proud to be part of the evening.

As the two-minute speeches went on it became increasingly clear that a community of teachers and learners have spoken, and that the right to a safe and equitable education coupled with the District’s mission and values of social justice and tolerance will not be ignored; we cannot succumb to a public so outside the students we serve that they can actually call a group of privileged students “marginalized”, or an ask to respect a two-minute time limit a violation of their right to free speech.

I often find myself wondering who I would I have been had I lived in a different historical time.  If, for example, I lived in Birmingham, Alabama in 1960, would I, as a professor at a higher ed. institution have argued that segregationists are entitled to their opinion?  Would I actually have made time during that incredible struggle and movement to protect their “free speech”? And for brave students who dared to stand up, to risk their futures and their very safety, as a professor, would I have turned my back on them because their methodology involved civil disobedience?  And that is the very question we face today. Students need us to stand up for what is right, not as a political stance, but as a critical call to action.

I have listened to horrific stories from my students this year; stories of fear, of injustice, of threats.  And I have felt so confused about why and how this conversation is politicized.  Are we not responsible to protect our students’ safety and rights first and foremost, above all else?  After months of anger, sadness and confusion, last night was bright.  It was hopeful.  For me, it was an amazing moment of clarity.  Thank you to all who participated.  Your words have reinvigorated my ability to truly serve our students.