Political Notebook: LGBT 2-year college students focus of summit
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Students, faculty, and staff from more than 50 California community colleges will gather at UC Riverside next month for a summit focused on how to expand campus resources for LGBT students weeks after Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that requires the state's community colleges to include LGBT students in their campus equity plans.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 1018, largely flew under the radar during the legislative session and was not one sponsored by the statewide LGBT advocacy organization Equality California. In addition to LGBT students, homeless students must also be included in the colleges' equity plans they are required to develop in order to receive Student Success Funding from the state, which this fiscal year totaled $110 million.
"Although recent efforts from several school boards are encouraging when it comes to the inclusion of minorities and low-income students, AB 1018 will ensure sustained investment in communities of our state that remain neglected," stated Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), the bill's author, in a news release issued earlier this month.
The California community colleges chancellor's office will be sending out a legislative and legal summary to the 114 community colleges in the state to inform them of the new requirements under the bill. Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Laura Metune told the Bay Area Reporter this week that the chancellor's office, community college staff, and student leaders had asked Reyes to include LGBT students in her bill, as at first it only focused on homeless students.
It was prompted by staff at several campuses wanting to use their colleges' equity funds to assist LGBT students, in particular by establishing LGBT resource centers, but were unable to do so because they were not specified as a community eligible for the funding, explained Metune.
Due to Reyes' bill, the colleges will now be able to conduct disproportionate impact studies to determine if there is an equity gap in their LGBT student populations, which is the first step in seeing LGBT students included in the equity plans.
"Once a gap is identified then equity funds can support improving equity for that population," said Metune, who is straight. "The money goes out to campuses based on allocation formulas based on the number of students they serve."
For a number of years the application students fill out when enrolling at a California community college has asked if they identify as LGBT. The question is voluntary to answer, and the data is maintained by a central technology center.
Until now, it was unclear if the LGBT data could be shared with the individual campuses, said Metune. Reyes' bill clarified it can be, as the information will be key as the community colleges work on their equity plans for LGBT students.
City College of San Francisco trustee Rafael Mandelman, a gay attorney who formerly had served as president of the board, told the B.A.R. this week that he was unaware of Reyes' legislation.
"It sounds like a good idea," said Mandelman, who will be unable to attend the CCC +LGBTQ Summit next month.
The daylong event November 11 will highlight the fact that just two community colleges in California have professionally staffed centers for LGBT students. The resource centers at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut and Sierra College in Rocklin both opened last year.
"We are behind the curve on serving the needs of LGBTQ people compared to the UC and CSU systems," stated Steven Deineh, librarian at MiraCosta College in Oceanside and chair of the LGBTQIA Caucus of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. "The summit will provide the biggest and best opportunity to set the stage for change across the CCC system of 114 campuses, 2.1 million students, and 90,000 employees."
There are only four LGBT centers serving two-year institutions in the U.S. with paid staff people overseeing them, according to data compiled by Nancy Jean Tubbs, director of UC Riverside's LGBT Resource Center and one of the organizers of the summit.
Thirteen of the 23 campuses in the California State University system have professionally staffed LGBT centers, including the San Francisco and San Jose state campuses. All 10 of the UC campuses have professionally run LGBT student centers, and there are seven centers at private four-year colleges and universities in the Golden State.
"This inventory became important as we shared it. Stakeholders within the California community college system were contacting me wishing we had some event to bring people to improve how they could support LGBTQ people in the system," said Tubbs, 46, a lesbian hired in 2000 to oversee her university's center, which is the oldest on the West Coast and will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in January.
A resource center for LGBT students, whether at a four-year or two-year institution, can assist them in dealing with everything from the coming out process to confronting homophobia or transphobia on campus, said Tubbs.
"The length of time, in my opinion, you are attending a college should not be a factor in the kinds of services you are offered," she said. "What should be is the fact that some students are less successful than other students because of issues their institution can address."
Michael Paul A. Wong, Ph.D., the dean for student services overseeing counseling at Moreno Valley College in Riverside County, said efforts to establish LGBT student centers at community colleges in the state will be greatly enhanced by AB 1018. Because "data is what drives the decision-making process," Wong said it is essential that the campuses know how many LGBT students they are serving.
"We don't have a center of any kind," noted Wong, a straight ally at the campus of 8,000 full- and part-time students. "I think that is part of the advocacy internally and why, in our case, I have been particularly supportive of this forum. Because we, like so many community colleges in the system, do not have any kind of resource center staffed."
Four of the state's community college campuses have volunteer-run LGBT centers: City College of SF, Los Medanos College, Palomar College, and San Joaquin Delta College, according to the LGBTQ+@ California Community Colleges website.
Mandelman said he was unaware of any discussions to have the Queer Resource Center on the Ocean Campus of the city's community college be professionally staffed. He noted that all of the school's centers for its students could use more resources.
"During our accreditation crisis, when we were trying to get our finances in order, I don't think we provided the support to the extent we should. We definitely want to look at supporting our various minority student groups," said Mandelman. "And I think coming out of the crisis now gives us the opportunity to do that."
Like Mandelman, Wong also told the B.A.R. he had not heard about Reyes' legislation until after it passed and predicted it would be the talk of the summit. Tubbs noted that an interim vice chancellor from the California community colleges chancellor's office will be at the opening plenary for the event.
"They will be able to explore these questions of what does it mean for equity plans because of this bill," said Tubbs. "Equity plans are important because state funds are attached to them."
Other topics the summit will cover include professional development for staff on LGBT issues and teaching LGBT courses on campus. Tubbs would like for the summits to be held every two years and is hopeful the second one can be held by and at a community college.
"We chose to do it this year, because as far as I am concerned, these are our future students," she said, adding that, "the power of repeating the summit is you hold yourself accountable. In two years you can look back at what changed, what didn't change, and what we accomplished."
The inaugural summit is free to attend, but registration for it closes Friday, October 27. To register and learn more about the program, visit http://www.cccqsummit.blogspot.com .
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the re-election bid of Sacramento County's lesbian DA.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .