Meeting addresses student equity

A management-called meeting scheduled by Los Medanos College President Bob Kratochvil for a presentation on equity by Dr. Veronica Neal, Director of the Office of Equity Social Justice and Multicultural Education at DeAnza College was held in The LMC Recital Hall Monday, Feb. 29.

Originally, the presentation was going to be held on opening day, but because of timing, the meeting had to be rescheduled so the classified staff in particular could service LMC students.

It has been organized as part of LMC’s Equity-Focused Professional Learning Initiative “Equity-in-Action: Empowering Change.”

Kratochvil began the meeting by welcoming the audience and introduced Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Advancement Ruth Goodin, who explained what the position entails and what she hopes students, staff and faculty will contribute to further the discussion on equity.

“The Office of Equity and Advancement is a support place for your work,” said Goodin, “This office is not a one-time event, it is not an outcome – it is an on-going commitment.”

She then introduced English professor Morgan Lynn, who presented Neal. Neal began her presentation by helping define what equity is.

“Equity is about the idea of ‘How do we address those differences within the institution?’” said Neal. “How do we make sure that we’re meeting each student where they are, understanding that the institution wasn’t necessarily designed to work in favor of all students?”

“Student equity and educational equity is defined as meeting each student where they are, providing them with individualized attention so they can meet or exceed a common standard,” said Neal.

There are five indications of success recognized by the state – access, course completion, basic skills in ESL, degree and certificate completion and transfer.

“The most challenging for those of us in equity work as practitioners is first figuring out how many people are actually fully engaged in that work and committed to it,” said Neal.

Neal explained according to research by people like Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon, reaching a point in a discussion where educators are willing to make change requires addressing a conscious bias and how we readdress institutional oppression.

She described the struggle of her parents who were wedded before Loving vs. Virginia allowed interracial couples to be married.

“Social justice for me felt like a family value that I could get behind,” said Neal. “[But] equity is a way of being, it’s heart work,” said Neal.

Although similar, she emphasized that social justice and equity are not the same.

“I had mastered [head work],” said Neal about engaging in social justice causes during the HIV epidemic. “Then one day one of my colleagues shared with me their status and my life was forever changed because it went from being head work to heart work.”

Equity is not just about becoming educated on certain subjects, but becoming involved with them.

“[Equity] really helps us to really find ourselves and get along side the difficult conversations because it’s heart work, because we care so deeply, because we know what we do on a day to day basis matters and impacts a student forever,” said Neal.

After the guest speaker, people were given the chance to participate in a Q&A session and group discussions on what they learned throughout the presentation.

Neal will be returning to LMC later this semester and during fall 2017 to present workshops and further the discussion on equity.