Heartfelt and tumultuous meeting, a fitting end to the year
December 10, 2020
By Luke Wrin Piper, News Editor
On December 8th, the Peralta Board of Trustees began their meeting with the acknowledgment of Meredith Brown and Karen Weinstein, who are stepping down from their positions as trustees after eight and four years, respectively.
Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, Mayor Jesse Arreguín of Berkeley and Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft of Alameda were all present at the virtual meeting to acknowledge the work of the outgoing trustees, award certificates of appreciation and to swear in the two re-elected and two incoming trustees.
Dyana Delfín Polk is taking over for Karen Weinstein in the Area 6 seat, while Kevin Jenkins is taking over for Meredith Brown in the Area 2 seat. Nicky González Yuen of Area 4 and Bill Withrow of Area 1 were re-elected, with Withrow being the only candidate opposed.
“Karen, you know how much I absolutely love you,” Mayor Schaaf beamed. “Karen Weinstein is someone who brings people together. She was doing that long before she ran for Peralta or became an elected official herself. And I have no doubt she will be doing that long after.
“I will never forget the event at your homes, Karen, where you were raising funds to create a resource center for the undocumented students at Peralta. It’s amazing. That’s just who you are. It has just been the personal pleasure of my life, to be in the glow of your warm heart,” Schaaf continued.
Weinstein was then presented with a mayoral proclamation in recognition of her work towards equity in the community.
Carolina Martinez, founder and coordinator of the Undocumented Community Resource Center (UCRC), showed a presentation chronicling Weinstein’s active involvement with the undocumented students of Peralta, culminating in a Certificate of Recognition for “supporting the founding and continued growth of the Undocumented Community Resource Center.”
“She opened her heart and her home as well,” Carolina Martinez said. “We have so many memories with her, and we know you’re always going to be there for us.”
Gabriel Martinez, faculty advisor to UCRC and counselor at BCC, told Weinstein that she is “Tia Karen” to those at the center. “You truly have mentored so many of us. As professionals, as students, and as people more than anything. You’ve led by example. You have this really amazing ability to anticipate the next step, whether it’s something that a person needs, or a political process or a policy we’re trying to advance. You always see two steps ahead,” Gabriel Martinez reflected.
Comments on Weinstein’s record from various local officials continued until transitioning to Meredith Brown, who is leaving the board after eight years.
“Meredith has always been a champion for children, a champion for Oakland, one of the smartest, most engaged people I’ve ever known,” Mayor Schaaf said. Speaking about their shared time on the Democratic Lawyers Club, Schaaf reflected that “Meredith, like, runs the whole thing. She does 110 percent of the work. And that is how Meredith shows up to everything that she does. And it really is quite a passing of the torch.” Schaaf went on to present a Mayoral Proclamation, noting that “Meredith brings amazing skills to her service on Peralta which started in 2012. Again, a huge legacy of work.”
Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft also spoke about her personal history working with Brown, admitting that “she must be one of those people who just squeezes more than 24 hours into a day for everything he accomplishes.” Ashcraft presented a Certificate of Appreciation, “which doesn’t begin to say the many, many things that can be said.”
Dyana Delfín Polk was sworn in by Berkeley Mayor Arreguín, holding her right hand and repeating her oath of office over Zoom. Board President Julina Bonilla followed by promising “the moment that we come back into our next phase of in-person contact,” the board would throw a celebratory event for the incoming trustees, their families and the community.
Kevin Jenkins came next, swearing his oath with his son Elijah by his side, both in suits. Jenkins was sworn in by Oakland Mayor Schaaf.
The terms of Jenkins and Delfín Polk will not officially start until December 14th.
Elsewhere in the meeting, during closed session, the board reported voting unanimously to “amend” the salary of Laney President Dr. Rudy Besikof from $207,117 to $219,046. Besikof’s appointment to the position was approved by the board in early November.
There had been anticipation that the board would discuss the approval of four security firms in replacement of Alameda County Sheriff’s security contract for all four campuses. This discussion was moved, however, to a special session on Monday, December 14th.
Alycia Raya, Associated Students of Laney College President, remarked “I have a deep trust and faith that each of you will not undermine your historic and community informed decision by prolonging this process to hire the new community oriented security firms.” Raya noted that the needs of BIPOC students lie in counseling, housing and resources rather than a police state.
“As council we unanimously voted to endorse the holistic health and safety plan created by Peralta’s own staff, students and professors who are members of the Peralta Black Minds Matter group.” That group has been advocating for a transition from traditional law enforcement on Peralta’s campuses since June.
On the morning of December 8th, a chancellor announcement notified the Peralta community that “all athletic team outdoor activities have been paused for the remainder of the stay at home order.” Many of the public comments during Tuesday’s meeting revolved around that announcement, with students and faculty pleading their case that sports are essential to their mental health and their opportunity to attend a four-year university. Often, scholarships are the only means by which student athletes can financially conceive of a four-year degree.
With over 40 people signed up to speak, public comments were limited to one minute to save time. Most speakers were cut off mid-sentence while voicing concerns over what will become of their future this spring, and trustees encouraged those people to leave their entire comment in the chat.
Merritt College Athletic Director Brock Drazen commented “This decision about the spring semester is premature. What data or evidence is this decision based on?” Drazen went on to explain no one in the athletic department was consulted about the decision or about any precautions they had been taking to keep athletes safe. When informed he had ten seconds remaining, Drazen shot back, “You’ve got to be kidding. This is absurd and disgraceful. I’ll put it in the chat.”
The board will reconvene for a special session on Monday, December 14th to make a decision about security for the four campuses. Sports is still on hold for the spring semester, while non-essential career training will continue to be online.
As of December 10, the decision to hold in-person classes for specific essential CE courses in spring 2021 is still being decided by the Vice Presidents of Instruction at each college, according to Mark Johnson, Peralta’s executive director of public information, communication & media.