Southwestern College Continues Tackling Its Issues Head-On - Voice of San Diego

Opinion

Southwestern College Continues Tackling Its Issues Head-On

Culture shift takes years to accomplish, and Southwestern has made remarkable progress in moving our college to one where structural and institutional racism and accountability are addressed every day.

The Cesar E. Chavez Student Services Center at Southwestern College / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

It is heartbreaking to sit by and watch politics malign Southwestern College and people I have grown to love over the last three and a half years. The “scandals” being used in political mailers that Voice of San Diego recently covered are part of a long history that we are working hard to address. I hope that I can provide context and shed light on our progress. As the superintendent of Southwestern College, I was hired by a concerned Governing Board to move the college culture from impunity to accountability, disrespect to respect, inequity to equity and silos to student-centeredness. Southwestern College went through a less than stellar period in its history. When I came on board, we began the long difficult road of acknowledgment, reckoning and hard work to address the damage caused over the years.

Voice of San Diego highlighted some of that damage but it’s important to provide context. Several cases at Southwestern College have been the focus of the media since we started the difficult work to change our culture. To address racism and anti-Blackness at our college, the board and I decided to take it head-on soon after I was hired in 2016. That was not popular among those whom the old system served well, and there is resistance.

Culture shift takes years to accomplish, and Southwestern has made remarkable progress in moving our college to one where structural and institutional racism and accountability are addressed every day through revising policies, procedures, job descriptions, hiring practices, healing circles and professional development. We have funded our priority of inclusion through the budget. The college has a permanent executive officer of equity and engagement and a dedicated department whose role is to build and maintain an inclusive culture where all students can achieve, and all employees can thrive.

This work is more than addressing individual racism at our college. This is about systems that continue to marginalize Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We recognize that the work is far from done and continue to listen, learn and collaborate with our community partners to work together on integrating this work into our institutional operations.

Much of our work at Southwestern College doesn’t make the news. We invite you and anyone interested in learning about the work we are doing to dismantle structural and institutional racism, improve accountability and transparency to reach out and learn more about the many and incredible success stories about our students, faculty and staff.

We are not perfect; we have our problems. At a minimum, we admit those problems and will continue our work to fix them. Although this work has been difficult, I was recently reminded by an employee that this work is affirming to the humanity of all and requires intentionality and love as its driving force. Our students, employees and community are the reason why we have and will continue shining a light on issues of inequity and accountability.

As MLK stated, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The Governing Board and I celebrate the growth and change we have made as a college and remain committed to this intentional work.

Kindred Murillo is superintendent and president of Southwestern College.

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