Board of Trustees tables vote on newly proposed anti-racist mission statement

Sara Leon and Evelyn Salazar

The NOCCCD Board of Trustees sent back and declined to vote on Fullerton College’s newly proposed mission statement on Feb. 14 due to some trustees having a problem with the phrase “oppressive institutional structures.”

For over a year, the college’s Institutional Integrity Committee has been revising and creating a new mission statement that is focused on removing the structures that have been holding back students from getting the education that they need. This includes the costs of textbooks and classes that are taught in a way that can feel alienating to certain students.

Leading the process were co-chairs of the Institutional Integrity Committee Danielle Fouquette and Daniel Berumen, who sought the input of Associated Students, Faculty Senate, and the President’s Advisory Council. The mission statement was approved by all of these parties.

“I thought they would take a position one way or the other,” said Fouquette, an English professor at Fullerton College, in response to the board declining to vote. “I think if they weren’t going to approve it, they should have at least taken a vote on it instead of sending it back to us for revision. I don’t think that’s an appropriate action for a board to take.”

All board members voted to send back the mission statement for revision. However, some members of the board were absent for the meeting, including Trustee Stephen T. Blount and Student Trustee Paloma Foster.

Associated Students, Faculty Senate and the President’s Advisory Council at Fullerton College all approved the new mission statement, shown here, with changes highlighted in yellow. But the Board of Trustees sent it back because of concerns over the added sentence at the end. Photo credit: Sara Leon

While the board approved of all of the other revisions done to the mission statement, some trustees took issue with the new additional sentence that reads, “We dismantle oppressive institutional structures in order to achieve educational justice.” Bent called it the “nuisance at the end.”

The committee thought that language used in the proposed mission statement was fitting for the college since it has removed barriers that have been known to block student’s educations in the past. If passed, the mission statement would reflect that the institution is still seeking to identify barriers that can make it difficult for students to seek education.

“That’s why we need the whole community to be involved in that work. The work of identifying barriers as part of our mission,” said Fouquette. “We need to hear from the whole community, particularly students.”

They did, however, approve the college’s new core values, which were also revised to fit the new mission statement, and one core value was added that explicitly focused on anti-racism.

The board sent the mission statement back to Faculty Senate. On March 16, they discussed the route in which they were to take moving forward.

“I think it’s quite an achievement that we’ve come to agree on language that is powerfully anti-racist,” said Faculty Senate Treasurer Bridget Kominek on why the revised mission statement relates well to Fullerton College. “The Board of Trustees might not understand the role our mission plays in our campus processes. Our mission is central to the work we do.”

Much of the faculty was still in agreement with what the statement said but some were not sure as to if it fully applied to the college.

“Is the mission statement what we’re doing or what we plan to do? I’ve been here for 10 years, and I haven’t seen any dismantling of oppressive situations,” said Physical Education Professor Marcia Foster at the March 16 Faculty Senate meeting. “I know we oppose it, though, and we can work to correct it, but we’re not dismantling anything.”

Some retorted Foster’s comment, with Fouquette mentioning both the decrease in textbook costs for students and taking away prerequisite courses as examples of how they have taken down education barriers. “They’re not societal barriers we’re dismantling. We’re looking at things on our campus,” said Fouquette.

Business professor Richard Ghidella said that it was important to pass the statement, but suggested examples on how to express the sentiment with positive words saying, “ ‘We will build structures to achieve educational justice’ or ‘Overall achieving equity for students and all’,” he said.

Faculty senate voted to recommend that the president send the proposed mission statement back as-is to force a vote on it. However, the mission statement was not on the agendas for the March 28 or April 11 board meetings. The Hornet reached out to President Olivo for a comment on the matter but got no response.

Every three years, the mission statement is looked at, and revision and change to the statement is taken into consideration.

This story was edited to accurately depict the official vote of the Board of Trustees.