On Nov. 9, America not only got a new leader, but new proposed changes in immigration and other policies. These changes have given many undocumented people, LGBT members and any other marginalized people concern for their safety.
American River College held an open forum concerning these proposed changes in Community Rooms one and two, on Thursday Jan 26.
President Thomas Green started off the forum by welcoming those in attendance, saying that “we want to create an environment that creates the conditions for all to speak in…we are here primarily just to listen today.”
Manuel Perez, Dean of Student Development, spoke next. He said he considered the forum to be a ‘brave space.’ “[A] brave space does not negate the need for safety, it invokes the need for safety, he said.’
Perez also said that there would probably be a lot of moments of silence, and that “we sit in those moments courageously together… moments of tension, moments of discomfort.”
Once the floor was opened to attendees, there wasn’t an immediate raise of hands to speak; instead there was initially just silence.
Since there were undocumented students and other people with concerns for their privacy present, those in attendance made comments on the condition that their names would not be made public.
The hour and a half was comprised of a flood of questions for which there were not many answers.
Associate Vice President of Instruction, Tammy Montgomery, offered her perspective on the forum and its quiet nature. “This is representative of where we are right now… sitting in an unknowing space,” she said. “We have to achieve solidarity in the unknown.”
One attendee asked about who they and other students could talk to. Who do they ask to find out what is going on.
There were concerns expressed regarding what it means for students tuitions, if the proposed changes will affect financial aid. The concern for this question was centered around undocumented students not knowing if their lack of citizenship will affect any financial aid they currently receive.
Many students spoke out with recommendations for faculty and staff to make announcements to their classes about when and where they can go to for safe spaces.
Other worries were expressed in regard to where the line is drawn when it comes down to first amendment rights and and hate crimes. What is the distinction and what should be done if something is said that invokes fear in another individual?
The book “Let Them in” by Jason L Riley was mentioned and recommended. The book talks about how America benefits greatly from new immigrants, and that they are among the top contributors to our economy.
Perez took the opportunity to speak again toward the end of the meeting. “When you say you’re an ally, ask yourself how’re you an ally? Don’t use the word ally if you don’t know what it means. Because I don’t have a choice if they come for me… but you do.”
President Green ended the forum and he said “I personally appreciate the step you’ve all taken to speaking out,” and that “This conversation is going to continue.”
ARC’s Public Information Officer Scott Crow added that “there will be a lot of events responsive to what’s happening.”
For the people who didn’t get an opportunity to speak here there were two buckets in the back of the room left for questions and comments. There were also cards with counselors contact information who are safe to talk to.