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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Racial tension, emotions erupt as protesters flood trustees’ space

Student protesters surround Board of Trustees members Thursday while holding signs in silent protest of the return of Vice President of Business Services Lyndsay Maas to the college. Maas has been on unpaid leave since November after using the un-abbreviated version of the n-word at an equity meeting.

Roughly two dozen silent protesters swarmed the City College Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, holding signs and standing intentionally close to members in a poignant display of outrage.

Each speaker took a turn circling the panel of Trustees while shoving signs in front of their faces. The others simultaneously stomped their feet in unison, with growing intensity around Trustees Craig Neilson, Veronica Gallardo and President Anthony Beebe.

During public comment, the protesters remained silent and held up a sign for their allowed five minutes rather than speaking. As each protester took their turn, the minutes quickly added up into hours of silence for the public comment portion of the meeting.

The protesters are angry with the decision to allow Vice President of Business Services Lyndsay Maas’ return to campus Friday after she used the unabbreviated version of the n-word during an equity meeting in November. They demanded Maas’ resignation or termination.

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Sage Gaspar, a protester, took a moment to address the trustees.

“We are here to invade your space and your meeting the way hate and bigotry has invaded our campus,” she said. “Where we are supposed to be learning and growing and evolving into members of this society.”

The trustees fidgeted as students maintained intense eye contact. Shortly after board member Gallardo said she didn’t have enough space to move her chair, board chair Robert Miller called a five-minute recess.

Trustee Craig Nielsen closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair as though he was sleeping, and placed his head in his palm, which forced some students to crouch down to make eye contact.

“I appreciate all the input from the students that were here this evening,” said Nielsen. “I didn’t enjoy it, in fact I was rather annoyed at first but it got better.”

Multiple staff and faculty members in the audience held up signs in solidarity.

Tiani Mora, a member of the Black Student Union and college employee took the microphone to direct her displeasure at the trustees.

“It’s only been 27 minutes since the meeting started,” she said. “And you guys are uncomfortable. Well you make us feel uncomfortable every single day because of what you have yet to do.”

Mora’s peers snapped their fingers in agreement as she spoke.

“We are embarrassed that you all are our Board of Trustees members,” she said.

She said that she has not seen the trustees at any clubs, events or activities sponsored by the students, and because of that, she does not believe they understand the students they represent.

“So yes,” she said. “We are silent protesting because you silence us and you are adding on to the institutional oppression that we face everyday.”

Several students proceeded after Mora, using their allotted five minutes of time to hold up their signs towards the audience and towards the trustees. They stood silently, their faces pensive as they looked around the audience, then to the trustees.

The protesters targeted Trustees Nielsen, Beebe, and Gallardo, the only trustee who had not gone to the anti-racism retreat.

Ellen Carey, a City College librarian and prominent activist, spoke in support of the protesters.

“After months of hearing about the racial hostility directed at people of color on this campus day in and day out, you can’t handle a few minutes of racial tension?” she asked. “If you genuinely care about our students, staff and faculty, learn to sit with your discomfort.”

Carey reminded the board that they were elected, and that she and many others will be voting in the next election.

After public comment had ended, the protestors left the room, taking most of the audience with them. The trustees then reflected on what they had taken from the meeting.

“No one is here,” said Trustee Jonathan Abboud. “So, I can’t thank the students for their pretty powerful action. I thought the silence gave me personally, time to think and reflect…We haven’t done as well as we could at all, because I know we have a lot of potential to do good.”

Kenny Igbechi, interim student trustee, was the last speaker, addressing the board on behalf of the students.

“The students are not here to cause destruction, they are just here to listen and to ask you to listen to them,” he said. “They came with silence today and I hope that silence was very loud.”

Igbechi’s voice began wavering slightly as he begged the board to do more, as he felt powerless because he is unable to vote on the board.

“I’m tired of seeing students come and complain about racism, and hearing you say you don’t have all the facts. What more do you want?” he asked. “You say we only employ the best people, but if there is still someone mistakenly using the n-word, then we are not hiring the best.”

The meeting got off to a rocky start when community member Celeste Barber requested during public comment that the board reinstate the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meetings.

Barber said reciting the pledge is how “[they] are committing to uphold and defend our country’s constitution.”

As Barber was speaking, Raeanne Napoleon, a chemistry professor, began shouting her objections from the back of the room. She said the pledge was racist and “how they sell flags in schools.”

Barber continued her piece, finishing off by holding up a small flag and inviting anyone to recite the pledge with her. As she began with tears, the student protestors took a knee, and did not rise until she stopped talking.

The board will reconvene at its next Feb. 14 meeting to continue this discussion.

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