Throughout the California community colleges, from the Chancellor’s Office and Board of Governors to local colleges, determination has been renewed to dismantle institutional racism in recent months. At virtual town halls in the new online world, student voices have called for the community college system to identify and eliminate the bureaucratic inertia that perpetuates barriers disproportionately for students of color. Now more than ever, colleges must accept the reality that systemic racism, among other things, prevents student success. Thus, if colleges are committed to student success, they have to be committed to the anti-racism agenda.
Proactive work by community college stakeholders is necessary for removing barriers caused by racism. In response to the need for culturally responsive teaching and in line with commitments on anti-racism, a cultural curriculum audit is a model practiced at some colleges, like Long Beach City College , that is relevant to redesigning the student experience in the classroom. This model gives faculty the opportunity to examine and redesign curriculum at the course level in order for it to be more inclusive, racially equitable, and representative of the students who are served. Faculty members are allowed the opportunity to look at courselevel success data for their own courses to identify opportunities for advancing equity. This and similar equity-minded work will be recognized as effective practice to ensure learning, which is commonly thought of as the fourth pillar in the guided pathways framework.
A guided pathways mindset incorporates the student voice in all aspects of implementation and redesigns the institution to better support students entering, progressing through, and completing their academic journey. Opportunities to pursue this goal would include creating brave spaces for students of color to call out the systemic barriers they are facing. These spaces may be physical indoor, physical outdoor, and virtual. When allowed, students can be their own best advocates and help center the local implementation of guided pathways. By institutionalizing the student voice, particularly that of students of color, as a central feature of guided pathways implementation, colleges will help ensure that the recent re-energizing of anti-racism efforts does not wane.
Of course, student-centered redesign must also address student needs. Support services, such as Umoja programs, should be expected at every college throughout the state as a core element of guided pathways implementation. Redesign to meet basic needs is essential for student success, particularly for disproportionately impacted students. This process will entail wraparound services with mentorship and emotional support. Colleges will also need to address food insecurity, housing insecurity, and the technology divide that is excluding too many students, particularly students of color. Bold anti-racism commitment from the leadership of the California Community Colleges system needs to materialize into support for student needs, including for colleges to employ students of color in capacities where they serve as mentors to their peers. State leadership on this matter is particularly important, as some colleges may be planning at this time to do the opposite and slash student employee budgets due to the decline in state funds.
As colleges seek to ensure measurable change in the effort to remove systemic racism, particularly during the unique challenges brought about by the pandemic response, they will be well served to heed the observations of Jessica Ayo Alabi (2020) about the prevalence of explicit bias. Little progress has occurred in closing equity gaps despite the best of intentions. To ensure the success of the Student Equity and Achievement Program and its capacity to support implementation of guided pathways, state leadership is needed to support effective measurement of the impacts that result from the activities and practices funded by the program. For instance, thus far the metrics and annual evaluation templates have seemed confusing at times and comparable to a superfluous exercise in report preparation that does more to create a burden than advance equity. Perhaps if the Chancellor’s Office could facilitate the statewide adoption of a technological platform for case management, the equity data could be self-generating for each college. With this support, colleges would be better able to identify how to shift resources to make equity gains in accordance with guided pathways.
The success of guided pathways as a vehicle for advancing anti-racism will require elevating the effectiveness of faculty leadership in reconstructing colleges with the students’ end goals in mind. The faculty voice on academic and professional matters, and therefore on guided pathways, is an opportunity for advancing implementation that infuses equity-minded practices throughout institutions. Faculty professional development, such as the cultural curriculum audits, will be an essential component of this project. As revealed in a recent survey conducted by the ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force, ASCCC Guided Pathways Liaisons and local senators believe professional development activities centered on equity considerations will be instrumental in improving academic senate leadership in guided pathways implementation. Notably, the survey was constructed and implemented before the death of George Floyd and the expanded awareness and commitment to anti-racism as being necessary to truly address students’ needs. In light of the current movement for real change, guided pathways professional development on equity considerations should be understood by academic senates and guided pathways committees as necessarily promoting anti-racist and anti-hate practices along with other barriers students encounter in their journey toward completion.
Ayo Alabi, Jessica. (2020, July). “Explicit Bias.” Rostrum. Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. Retrieved from https://asccc.org/content/explicit-bias.
1. Further information can be found at https://lbcc.instructure.com/courses/45048/pages/cultural-curriculum-au… and