Letters to the Editor: City College responds to editorial criticizing communication

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The editorial “Fearful SBCC fails to recognize The Channels as valuable tool”, published on Feb. 26, 2016, makes many assertions. It is important, for the benefit of the City College community, to clarify some of the statements presented and provide additional information about the College’s communication efforts.

It has become apparent over the last several years that segments of our community hold misperceptions about the College that are not aligned with our mission and purpose as an educational institution. City College’s priority and focus have always been providing an enriching educational experience for our students. In an acknowledgement that the College needed to evaluate our communication efforts, President Lori Gaskin brought on a public agency communications expert to assess our current efforts and give recommendations for how the College can move forward with an improved communications approach. The consultant met with the Channels editorial board and their plan specifically recommends improved flow of information to students, faculty and staff via the Channels. This effort is not about changing our “image”, as we are a highly regarded academic institution. We are nationally recognized for our educational excellence and have been named the #1 Community College. This effort is about how the College can be more effective in communicating across many segments of our campus and local community.

As to the specific instances cited in the editorial, I wish to provide clarity to the two most recent incidents.

The editorial makes note of the unexpected passing of an City College staff member. The food service worker referred to in the editorial was Dustin Green. Dustin, who tragically died earlier this semester, was a beloved member of the City College staff and a City College Alumnus. In the Editorial, the Channels alleges they “reached out to several sources in attempts to investigate but was shut down by all” and that, the College, “prevented the student media from fulfilling our duty to provide the community and student body with information.” On that day, I communicated several times with the Channels editor and sat down for an in-person interview. Early on, I informed the reporter that the College was respecting the wishes of the family in not disclosing his name or any further details until his entire family could be notified. His death warranted the utmost respect for the wishes of his family. In the days after his passing, City College staff and faculty came together to support fundraising efforts to cover expenses for Dustin’s family. I would have loved to see a tribute to Dustin Green’s life and contributions to City College covered by the Channels.

As to the presence of SBPD on campus, officers were following their regular protocol in responding to an unresponsive individual – information I shared with the Channels. I acknowledge the increased presence of police vehicles on campus may have been alarming to many students. I would welcome a discussion and feedback that we can communicate to SBPD for future responses to Campus.

Additionally, recently there was a nonspecific threat made to Santa Barbara schools. Notification of the threat was made directly to the Santa Barbara Unified School District, not to City College. As with all situations like this, City College did not and should not release any information that has not been confirmed by law enforcement. We shared the confirmed information we had, at the time we had it. Again, on that day I spoke with a Channels reporter and relayed this information. I spent most of the day speaking with parents, students, faculty, staff and media to answer questions. On several occasions, members of the outside community shared their appreciation that City College had been expedient in relaying what limited information we had.

It is disappointing that The Channels’ editorial did not inform readers of the direct communication I provided to reporters on each of these occasions. My interactions with Channels reporters have been respectful and I have been available in person, by office phone, cell phone and email whenever there has been a question. I would have welcomed a discussion about any frustrations reporters were feeling about timely information, a follow-up interview, or even a Q&A where we could engage the broader campus community in a dialogue about some of these very important issues.

I sincerely hope to bring a fresh perspective and willingness to engage with the Channels – as with all of our local media. This is an approach I have followed since my first day on the job. The Channels plays an invaluable role in highlighting newsworthy campus and community happenings. The College has a genuine wish to move forward and strengthen this relationship. I am committed to working with Channels staff and believe that an effective partnership must be based on open communication and a dedication to present the full picture of any story.

 

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