Guild Protests Board of Trustees Appointment
Dozens of LACCD faculty and staff, joined by members of the community, packed the downtown Educational Services Center on July 11th to protest the Board of Trustees’ appointment of David Vela to replace trustee Sydney Kamlager-Dove, who was elected to the State Assembly.
For over an hour, speakers addressed the Board, expressing anger and disappointment at the Board’s decision in June. Many noted that they “had nothing against Mr. Vela” but were upset that the trustees passed over highly qualified African-American women, educators, and community activists. Faculty, staff, and community members, including a skid row activist and a social worker, voiced their dissatisfaction that the seven-member Board now has only one woman and no African-Americans.
“I’m an African-American faculty member and I don’t see anyone like me up there,” said Sandra Lee, AFT Chapter President at Southwest College. “What’s going on right now in this district is unprecedented. I’ve never seen a situation where the African-American community and our voice and our seat at the table has been so blatantly and arrogantly and boldly disrespected and dismissed.”
Ruby Christian-Brougham, LAVC Chapter President, asked why there are no African-American college presidents at any of the nine colleges, a situation noted by other speakers as well.
For weeks last spring, the Guild’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) interviewed 24 interested candidates to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Kamlager-Dove, the board’s only African-American member. After consideration of their experience and knowledge of LACCD colleges and the communities they serve, the Guild recommended several well-qualified candidates, including African-American women with decades of experience advocating for students and public education.
Its first choice was Dr. Melina Abdullah, according to Natalina Monteiro, Guild Political Director. “She’s African-American, a professor of pan African studies at Cal State, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter here in Los Angeles, and is very active in the community,” said Monteiro. “Vela was the least qualified candidate put forward. The Board’s decision was clearly an example of cronyism. We are not going to forget this.”
Although nearly every speaker (including faculty, staff, students, community activists, politicians, and even religious leaders) who addressed the Trustees at their June meeting spoke overwhelmingly in support of Dr. Abdullah, the board members appointed Vela, who had previously tried and failed to win public election to the board. “More than 20 speakers expressed overwhelming support for Dr. Abdullah’s appointment, so we all were disheartened that the board so blatantly ignored the importance of gender diversity, equity, inclusion, and qualifications in appointing a replacement for Sydney Kamlager-Dove,” said Guild President Joanne Waddell. “By ignoring the Guild’s recommendations, in one vote they disrespected labor, women, and the African-American community.”
“You can’t out-mobilize us – you will have to deal with us every single day,” Dr. Abdullah said at the July Board protest. “This is an erasure of black representation. Karma will visit you and so will we.”
The protests have garnered national attention, with articles appearing in the Los Angeles Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education.