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021417 ahc board meeting

Allan Hancock Joint Community College District board of trustees passed a resolution Feb. 14 supporting diversity, unity and the nearly 400 undocumented students at the college. 

Allan Hancock Joint Community College District's board unanimously passed a resolution Feb. 14 supporting diversity, unity and the nearly 400 undocumented students at the college.

The vote by the board reportedly represents a three-month effort on the part of students and faculty that follows similar decisions adopted by the Santa Maria Joint Union High School, Guadalupe Union and Lompoc Unified school districts. 

“Allan Hancock College truly values diversity, and I am grateful for the leadership of our faculty and students,” said Hancock Superintendent and President Kevin G. Walthers. 

The resolution states the board of trustees “reaffirms its commitment to the values of inclusion, diversity, open discussion and success for all students.”

While federal policies already are in place for institutions of education regarding the issue of undocumented students, the resolution reiterates that no confidential student records will be released by the district unless a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order are presented. College officials neither will cooperate with any effort to create a database of individuals based on national origin, religion or race.

As an added protection, the resolution states the Hancock College Police cannot detain, question or arrest any student, faculty or staff based on suspected immigration status.

No public comments were made at the Feb. 14 meeting in opposition to the resolution.

“The resolution reaffirms the district’s values and ensures there is no question that the district remains committed to standing behind all of our students,” said board President Gregory A. Pensa. “Our students deserve the opportunity to pursue an education and improve their lives at Allan Hancock College without being afraid.”

Walthers added, “We can confidently tell our students and community that their ability to pursue an education at Allan Hancock College will not be impeded because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or political views.”

Prior to the resolution being presented to the board of trustees, a similar resolution was passed by the Academic Senate as well as the Associated Student Body Government of Hancock College. Both groups are the voice of faculty and students on Hancock’s campus, respectively.

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In early December, the college held a workshop for undocumented students after postelection fears began to present themselves in the form of discussions between students, faculty and staff.

Workshop participants reassured students that Hancock supports them and also offered advice about where to go from there, which ultimately led to the decision made Feb. 14.

Area 1 Trustee Hilda Zacarias said prior to the vote, "Let this just be the start of what we do for the community, and let this sentiment go forth. This is serving as a model for how we can live with one another; this is the first move."

The rest of the board agreed to continue to move forward in the college's efforts in diversity and unity.

“Through the process of shared governance, the college has ensured overwhelming campus-wide support of diversity, unity and undocumented students," Walthers said. "Hancock has a unified message -- we remain committed to excellence in teaching and learning by promoting an environment of mutual respect."

"We support all of our students."

Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat.