To Our SMCCCD Colleagues, Students, Community and Friends:

Like many of you, in reflecting on recent events that led to the tragic, senseless and preventable deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed and Tony McDade, we are trying to find the appropriate words for our thoughts and emotions. While we know and understand what is happening across our country, we struggle to comprehend it. It is vexing to start a note by admitting that we are at a loss for how to adequately convey our feelings; nevertheless, this is where we find ourselves.

All we can say is if you are angry, then you are in good company because we are, too. If you are heartbroken and in pain, then you are in good company because we are, too. If you are struggling to understand a world in which this can continue to happen, we are, too. If you feel helpless, we do, too. If you want change and accountability, we do, too. And if you want to stop the senseless killing, oppressing and marginalizing of people of color and you want to condemn racist, bigoted and hurtful words and deeds, then you are in good company because we do, too.

We understand that we must reconcile words and actions because both matter. The words we say to one another matter. The words we say about one another matter. The words we say about our community and culture matter. Those words we say are reflections of our values. Those words inform and explain our actions, and taken together, define who we are and what we believe.

Let’s be clear about our values and beliefs. We have always—and will always—fight racism and bigotry and homophobia and xenophobia and all transgressions against people where we find it. We remain committed to ensuring our classrooms, our campuses and our offices are places where a person from any background can seek our trust and realize our kindness. We value every person as a human being and believe in their right to exist, be treated with dignity, and to have resources they need to live safely and thrive. We value a community and culture that builds social justice and ensures equity, diversity, opportunity and inclusion.

We have made meaningful strides in our District, and we have much more to do because we recognize that, like other institutions of higher education, we may unintentionally perpetuate structural racism or other forms of oppression. We are committed to immediately and critically examining our policies, procedures and practices to eliminate those structures that perpetuate racism and present obstacles to progress. We must engage in thoughtful, courageous and tough conversations about how we treat each other and how members of our District family and community are treated. We must take the time to truly listen to and understand our colleagues, students and neighbors with open hearts and minds. And we must be willing to step into the moment to stop wrongs where we see them and support those who need our help.

This will not be the only time we speak on the issue of dismantling racism and discrimination—it simply can’t be. The range of emotions that are going through each of us is testament to the need for transformation and healing. It is our responsibility—to ourselves and to our future—to harness this anger and frustration and hurt and despair, and use it to bring about real and lasting change.

In that spirit, we will need your inspiration—your thoughts and ideas—on how to bring about that change. But before we get to actions and solutions, we believe it is essential to express this panorama of emotions—through words, art, music and whatever means best allows you to express yourself. Each campus will be holding a series of community conversations and all are encouraged to participate.

We can’t guarantee the work we have been doing and will continue to do will bring about the perfection we seek, because it won’t. We can’t guarantee that our actions will be quick and precise, because they won’t. But we can guarantee that if we all support each other and force the tough conversations and decisions, then we can give this struggle a hell of a fight.

In solidarity and hope,

Mike Claire, Chancellor
Jamillah Moore, President, Cañada College
Jannett Jackson, Interim President, Skyline College
Kim Lopez, Acting President, College of San Mateo
Jeramy Wallace, President, District Academic Senate
Mitchell Bailey, Vice Chancellor/Chief of Staff
Tom Bauer, Vice Chancellor, Auxiliary and Community Services
Aaron McVean, Vice Chancellor, Educational Services and Planning
Jose Nunez, Vice Chancellor, Facilities and Public Safety
Jing Luan, Provost, International Education
Bernata Slater, Chief Financial Officer
David Feune, Director, Human Resources