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Discrimination policy under revision

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By Vanessa D. Overbeck & Michael Diggin

By Vanessa D. Overbeck & Michael Diggin

Riverside Community College is one step closer to adopting a new discrimination policy.

At the Board of Trustees meeting on May 17, the policy passed its second reading with amendments.

The Feb. 28 report released by the Office for Civil Rights prompted the Academic Senate to propose that the final review of discrimination complaints fall to a three to five person panel.

Currently, these final decisions are made solely by Chancellor Salvatore Rotella.

Academic Senator, Kathy Brooks, said this change needed to occur given the severity of the Office for Civil rights’ findings.

In a faculty forum dated April 18, Brooks emphasized that it’s important that leaders in high positions set the tone for the college.

“This has not been done at RCCD,” Brooks said. “The discriminatory and retaliatory acts described in the OCR report pale in comparison to the years of administrative indifference … It is no wonder that OCR is requiring RCCD to use an outside independent group or individual to assess discrimination complaints.”

After heated discussions at committee and Board of Trustees meetings, the Academic Senate amendment was accepted and adopted.

Initially, the college’s attorney questioned the legality of the proposed change, but later he simply advised against it.

The college is scheduled to adopt the amended discrimination policy in June.

Debbie Whittaker, associate dean of Early Childhood Education, said a clear and widely publicized policy is the students’ and faculty’s best protection.

“It would empower us if we knew what the process is,” Whittaker said. “When you’re scared, your only protection is information.”

She also said that the discrimination policy must do several things in order to be effective.

Whittaker said these items will help faculty and students feel secure at RCC.

“The discrimination policy must follow due process, protect those involved, emphasize current and ongoing training, provide clear publications of procedures and communicate to the college and the community that the process was handled well,” Whittaker said. “If these things were done, I would be satisfied with the policy.”

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