“This is the beginning of a greater student unity,” Laney student Andrea Calfuquir said of the student meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 16. She referred to the growing number of students who came to the meeting of the Laney Community Engagement Leadership (CEL) Cohort.
CEL cohort interns meet weekly with their faculty mentors, Alicia Caballero-Christenson and Paul Bulick, to create a more united and active student body and to appeal for increased student participation and community action.
The focus of last Thursday’s meeting was to build a student coalition movement to support undocumented and Muslim students by establishing Peralta colleges as sanctuary campuses.
Sanctuary campuses adopt policies that protect undocumented students, including non-coope
Opening introductions created an atmosphere of camaraderie. Students expressed what they wanted to accomplish with the cohort, their goals as well as well as their apprehensions.
Some found it a safe place where they could talk about their personal stories. One student imparted the story of police misconduct that caused her PTSD. Until that meeting she hadn’t been able to talk about it. Another student spoke of a misogynistic faculty member’s abusive behavior in class that left her shaken. She needs to address it before it becomes overwhelming. Her first step: the cohort.
Laney CEL cohort has listed demands that include a Peralta district ban on all ICE agents from college campuses. At the meeting this was expanded to include respectful treatment of students, faculty and staff by all law enforcement officers. In addition, the cohort demands that staff, faculty and administration undergo mandatory sensitivity training with respect to our sexually, racially, and culturally diverse campus population.
The Laney CEL cohort was formed in Sept 2016. Ten students were selected out of 54 applicants for paid internships based on their extraordinary leadership qualities.
A retreat followed, where they worked together to outline the role of the CEL cohort at Laney. Four action groups were proposed at the retreat: Political Education, Peralta System and Institutional Change, Healing and Direct Action, and Membership Mobilization.
The cohort organized a sit-in after the November election cycle, wherein students gathered and outlined a list of demands.
Since Trump took office, the list of demands has increased. As the safety of immigrants in our country becomes more uncertain, students need to know their rights. More student involvement is required to meet increased student demands, including collecting personal stories, motivating fellow students, and planning future events.
The CEL cohort is currently seeking more applicants to fill ten paid internship positions. They are specifically appealing to African American students to apply, so that the group reflects the diversity of the Laney campus.
A subsequent meeting of the Coalition took place the following week, and included representatives from the four Peralta colleges. Students tried to unify some of the demands that all of the campuses share. Laurel Levitan and Eddie Chao, both dynamic and charismatic leaders, became the next in the rotation of intern facilitators.
Two more meetings have taken place since, including one on Feb. 23, where they talked about how they could be stronger through cross campus cooperation.
Participants also discussed goals that included: funding for education instead of war, erasing student debt, free education, and teaching a culturally relevant curriculum.