Attending to the Welfare of our Students

I can only begin to imagine what it must be like to be a Latino/Latina in America following the tragic shootings in El Paso where it has been documented that the suspect “…told authorities that he was targeting Mexicans…” The rise of domestic terrorism as witnessed in Gilroy, also apparently fueled by hate and violent ideologies, is creating a pervasive sense of public fear and angst among the Hispanic community inclusive of U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants. Recent events also bring back deadly memories of the terror at the Pulse nightclub, Mother Emanuel AME church, and the Tree of Life synagogue.

While it is highly unlikely that Paradise Valley Community College would ever be the dreadful scene of domestic terrorism targeting Hispanic, African-American, Jewish, or LGBTQ community members – all victims in recent mass shootings – it does cause us to reflect on how all students are welcomed on campus. Is our campus perceived as safe? Do our students face overt or covert micro-aggressions? Is there space for critical, yet empathetic discourse on the current state of ethnic relations in America?  Do students feel comfortable talking about their fears? How is learning impacted by students’ perceptions of their safety?

When PVCC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was drafted several years ago, none of us ever thought to include human safety as a function of ethnicity, religion, or sexual identity as part of our mission. In times of the growing social and political polarization around who belongs in America, I ask that we continue to commit to our Diversity and Inclusion goals and to pay extra special attention to the welfare of our students – especially those who may be fearful, isolated, or doubting whether they belong.