Letter to the Editor: President denies saying EDI committee had too many African-Americans

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Dear Editor:
I would like to write in response to the recent article regarding InPartnership and “racial tension” at Southwestern.  Your article states that there has been underlying racial tension for 25 years.  I cannot personally attest to the veracity of that comment but I have heard the same and was informed of a perception of bias against African American employees by the African American Alliance when I first arrived in 2012. 
I did bring what I felt was a very divisive rumor about committee representation to the college leadership team.  But I would like to be very clear that at no time did I say I thought there were too many African Americans on the EDI committee.  I exposed the rumor and stated that I was deeply concerned but I did not agree with the idea of “too many”.  I apologized to anyone that was upset due the discussion at that meeting.  You have stated that I was thinking “statistically” about the diversity committee.  I do not believe this is a direct quote.  I believe by “statistically” you are referring to the demographics of our community which some feel should be the basis of representation for a diversity committee.  I have not stated that I support this approach.  The EDI committee is a committee of the Shared Consultation Council, therefore the committee membership is based on constituency representation from the faculty, student, classified, and management employee units, not race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or the myriad of other factors that we identify with as human beings and individuals.  We could have an engaging debate as to what basis of committee membership would be “better” but at this time all standing committees of the SCC follow the constituency representation model.
I fully support the work that InPartnership is doing as does every member of the leadership team.  We have an opportunity to move out of the tension of the past and into an authentic appreciation of diversity and the richness it brings to our college and our community.  We need to understand that equity is fairness, not “equal-ness.”  We are not the same and we need to embrace all that makes us different in an appreciation of our shared humanity.
Thank you to the Sun for your commitment to free speech.  The work of changing an organization’s culture is lengthy and often difficult.  I hope that your future articles might serve as markers of progress being made as this College openly, bravely, and with determination confronts and understands our tension and ultimately resolves it with appreciation, acceptance, and admiration.
 
Melinda Nish
Superintendent/President Southwestern College

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