Tensions high as Planning Council discusses campus climate, racism

Kai Zheng, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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Emotions escalated at the College Planning Council meeting Tuesday, as members argued over how to respond to issues such as the budget crisis and the results of the recent campus climate survey sent to staff and faculty members.

The survey was sent out to 2,294 City College employees garnering 771 responses, with the general consensus showing the staff and faculty’s distrust in senior administrators and the way recent equity issues on campus have been handled. 

Potential “healing” solutions with a professional facilitator were briefly discussed before the meeting quickly changed to a discussion of racism. 

“You don’t know how I feel as a person of color,” said Interim Superintendent-President Helen Benjamin, addressing a council member’s statement about how having a white facilitator for equity-based discussions would reflect on the college. “[The black community] doesn’t need you talking for them.” 

During Benjamin’s speech, several council members began to tear up. 

“I might as well just stop the meeting here,” she said. 

The attention then turned to Lyndsay Maas, Vice President of Business Services, who apologized to the council regarding statements made at an equity meeting last November. 

“Every time I say something, it ends up being the wrong thing,” Maas said. “It’s at the point where I’m deathly afraid to say anything in a group setting.

“I’m sorry, and I have been sorry. I’m so sorry.” 

For time’s sake, this part of the meeting was cut short, and discussion then shifted to the results from the ad hoc committee created at the Oct. 1 council meeting. 

Jason Walker, the Budget Input Subcommittee chair, presented the findings, looking at the survey results containing a complete list of budget reduction and revenue-generating ideas.

The survey was sent out to full time and part-time staff, classified/confidential staff, administration, and students.  

Using the results, the committee compiled a list of the most popular and least popular ideas from each group. 

Nearly all of the groups agreed on revenue increasing ideas such as increasing the number of international students and were strongly not in favor of ideas like raising student parking permit prices and charging staff and faculty to park on campus. 

Budget reduction ideas like layoffs and reducing health care were very unpopular amongst all groups as well. 

The council then discussed the recent visit from the State Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who spoke to City College about what the state is doing to help students succeed. Council members deemed that while his visit was a breath of fresh air, none of them were thrilled with what he had to say. 

“He didn’t really solve anything,” said Patricia Stark, president of the Academic Senate. 

The meeting adjourned with Benjamin commemorating Academic Senate President-Elect Raeanne Napoleon, recognizing the work she has done on campus with Tiffany’s Closet and the Food Pantry

The College Planning Council will reconvene at its next regularly planned meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

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