Welcome to the first edition of our West Hills Newsletter. It has been a summer unlike any in my 35-year administrative career. The coronavirus has – in what seems like an instant – upended much of modern life and higher education has not been spared. The budget shortfalls and recession – and a number of very difficult decisions have affected everyone. I have never seen this much stress on us as a nation.
It has been an extraordinary time of daunting challenges, but has also provided opportunities for us to establish West Hills as a pillar to our communities. Whether it has been expanding access to fast, reliable internet, connecting generations online, stitching fabric into masks, donating personal protective equipment, turning buildings and rodeo grounds into shelter for firefighters and animals, distributing food and supplies to local communities, providing lestuartgal aid to vulnerable populations, mixing and preparing hand sanitizer, creating web trackers to pinpoint community resources, supporting students with financial relief, or assuming significant social activism roles, our district has experienced an extraordinary summer, one that some are calling our ‘Dunkirk moment for our country.’ As a district we are focusing on the present state in order to maintain a strong sense of well-being.
As you know, in addition to the COVID- 19 pandemic, our country is undergoing a sea of changes on racial attitudes. For me, the urgent issue is to address racial equity in educational outcomes as a matter of institutional accountability and responsibility. Diversity without equity brings only symbolic benefits for colleges and universities, giving no substantive benefits to minoritized students. As an organization, we have resolved to focus on changing this—by changing the practices and minds of educators and leaders.
Specifically, we commit to the following:
• Use our voice more explicitly in calling out racism in all its forms with prioritized attention to anti-Black racism
• An investment of resources and energy in strengthening the capacity of grassroots, activist, and advocacy organizations and their leaders to drive systemic changes resulting in health and racial equity
• Substantially increase our commitment in Black-and-Brown-organizing, advocacy and movement-building organizations and institutions
• Internal to our organization, improved tracking, reporting and transparency of our funding to communities of Black and Brown-led organizations
• An explicit strategy to utilize impact investing tools – such as mission-related and program-related investments – to contribute to Black economic development and entrepreneurism to advance health and wellness in communities.
But simply put, we stand with our community partners, and recognize that as a postsecondary
educational institutions we can do more to advance racial justice.
We appreciate your continued support of West Hills. We believe that what we do matters and uniquely differentiates us from other districts. We look forward to communicating further how we continue to meet students’ needs monthly through this newsletter. I do hope you are all doing well, staying healthy, and safe.