By Jennipher Vasquez
The head of the California Community College system discussed the difficulties students are facing amidst the current social, economic and political climate during a student press conference Sept. 24.
He emphasized the need to keep students enrolled in classes and said the Chancellor’s Office is campaigning to ensure students are aware of support systems available to help them navigate online education.
“This is the time to get enrolled and stay enrolled,” Oakley said. “We want our colleges to be as open and as flexible as possible.”
Oakley also discussed the need for student input on current social crises including race and discrimination. Oakley would like to help students actively participate in efforts to diversify campuses.
“We have to take hold of this moment and make sure we do everything possible to change the direction of systemic racism in our system and in our communities,” Oakley said.
He called on staff and California Community College leaders to have an honest and open dialogue about race and ethnicity to find solutions that achieve advanced diversity among students and faculty alike.
Oakley also brought attention to the efforts made by the Chancellor’s Office to promote action from federal and state government to support undocumented students. He said his office will continue to press for better protection.
“Students are encouraged to put forth their ideas, feelings and solutions to college leadership about what’s going on and what you’d like to see moving forward,” Oakley said. “We will continue to support the increase in diversity of our students in California and set the stage as an example for the rest of the nation.”
Oakley emphasized the significance of voting in the upcoming election. He highlighted colleges’ efforts to inform students of how to register to vote.
“The only way we’re going to change the narrative moving forward is if each of us shows up and votes,” Oakley said. “Not just because of the presidential election, but who is going to represent you in Congress and the Senate in California.”
Oakley encouraged students to research information about the propositions on the ballot and focus on how those propositions, particularly Proposition 16, might affect them. The proposition aims to bring affirmative action back to public education and jobs in California. He emphasized the importance of being an informed voter.
The state chancellor explained colleges’ Student Services Offices and the state system’s Student Senate are actively encouraging students to vote.
Oakley also warned that students and colleges should expect the effects of COVID-19 to last for several years.
“We should expect to see impacts of COVID-19 through 2024,” Oakley said. “We will be living with this in some form or fashion for a while. What we told our colleges is that that is what they should be planning for.”