Jaylene Collins / The BC RIP
California Governor’s Council for Post-Secondary Education hosted a webinar via Zoom with California student leaders to discuss their plans for how higher educations systems in California can recover after the pandemic with equity on May 11. The panel included Dr. Lande Ajose, Michael Wiafe, Dr. Hayley Weddle, Aidan Arasasingham, Zahraa Khuraibet, and Stephen Kodur.
The webinar began with Ajose, the chair of the Governor’s Council for Post-Secondary Education, and a Recovery with Equity Task Force member, discussing the Recover with Equity Task Force’s findings and their suggestions for schools to take on the road to equity.
“What we wanted to do was develop up a set of practical, actional steps that were both around policies and practices that could actually help our higher education systems upon recovery really move with a more equity-centered focus,” Ajose stated. “It is not enough to go back to the way things were pre-pandemic. We must learn from this experience, address inequities, build on assets, and reimagine the future.”
Ajose said the task force found that low-income, first-generation, Latinx, Black, and Indigenous students are the most disadvantaged. The task force’s studies found these students were less likely to graduate, complete, or have access to A-G coursework, and enroll or graduate from college.
To combat these problems and others, Ajose said they came up with 11 recommendations for all California higher education schools to take. A few of those recommendations included, improve school faculty diversity, unify the college admission process, create more inclusive learning environments, and improve college affordability.
The webinar then shifted to Wiafe, a former president of the Cal State Student Association, and Weddle, a former student regent of the University of California Board of Regents. With both of them starting on the task force as students, they shared they think the road to equity is important and the importance of student involvement.
“The changes that they’re looking at, the levers that they are able to pull in order to reach the same destination, requires that student informed input from the institution level to truly know what are the changes that need to happen,” Wiafe said.
The current student leaders, Arasasingham, the University of California Student Association President, Khuraibet, the Cal State Student Association President, and Kodur, the Student Senate for California Community Colleges President closed the webinar by sharing their thoughts on the task force’s recommendations.
All approved of the task force’s recommendations and their equity-focused approach. They were particularly happy to hear some of the issues they wanted to focus on were addressed in the 11 recommendations.
Khuraibet closed her thoughts with a message to students. “To our students, your voice matters and your story is important,” Khuraibet said. “You can use that to create policy changes when you engage and share your experiences. We are truly the experts of our own experiences. In order to help implement those recommendations, I encourage our students to reach out to their respective student groups and meet with their legislatures- both in Sacramento and in their districts as well. The times that we see the most changes is when our student voices are elevated. So I encourage those all listening today to get involved and start advocating for change.”
More information on the task force, the recommendations, a recording of this webinar, and ways to help are available on the California Governor’s Council for Post-Secondary Education website.