(Image By Ryan Barba/The Citizen)

April 11, 2021

By Misha Berman, Staff Writer

The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees meeting on March 23rd included a study session that focused broadly on the “organizational vision” and goals of the district, a review of the mission statement, Asian American Solidarity and issues with repairing the elevators at Laney College.

During the special study session before the open session, consultant Dr. Jim Riggs of  PPL Consultants gave a presentation on what he called “updating strategic goals and master planning.”  Riggs and another PPL Consultant, Robert Griffin, discussed planning with the trustees.  

“It’s going to be a different world when we come out of this pandemic with student flow, with economics and so on,” Riggs said.

Riggs’ slides included goals such as “improving the student’s matriculation/journey/success”  “advancing equity and social/racial justice” “strengthening resources” and “assuring a safe and healthy environment.” 

Next, the trustees discussed the PCCD mission statement, which was tabled at the November 10 meeting pending further discussion. BCC Articulation Officer Joseph Bielanski then did a presentation on the reviewing of the mission statement of the district, where he pointed out that two things that were brought up were “accreditation” and “accountability.” He also stated that there was a Taskforce that was supposed to do a mission statement review in 2018. Dr. Tina Vasconcellos in the presentation shows a timeline of the different reviews of the mission statements including approvals.

During the Board of Trustees meeting on November 10, 2020 there was a discussion on whether to keep the existing mission statement at the time or review the mission statement that was submitted to be reviewed and considered in April 2020.

Interim Chancellor Dr. Carla Walter stated that any of the mission statements chosen would help with the accreditation needs, which is needed for their “strategic goals and master planning.” 

“We really want to have the trustees either affirm the current mission statement or the one that is proposed in April so that it would help us in our accreditation and move forward with our strategic planning,” Walter said during the November 10, 2020 Board of Trustees meeting.

The board decided to wait or “table” their decision on whether or not to “affirm” the current mission statement or to use the one proposed in April 2020 until further discussion.

The recent string of attacks on Asian Americans including the March 16 shooting in Atlanta, Georgia has sparked discussions on racism against Asian Americans. Both Associated Students of College of Alameda (ASCOA) Senator Lauren Wallace and Associated Students of Berkeley City College (ASBCC) President Liam Zhu gave reports about how their specific campus expressed solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and different events for the AAPI community or “safe spaces” the AAPI community or anyone who wants to show support to the AAPI community can use. 

During “3.12 Chancellor’s Reports” the four college presidents of the Peralta District expressed their support on behalf of their college and spoke about how to move forward in support of Asian American/Pacific Islander communities, in light of the rise in racial violence. 

“I think that the crimes that have been perpetrated here in our community, in Atlanta and across our nation really underscore the need for us not to only express our full-throated condemnation of hatred, intolerance and xenophobia, but also take steps to actively confront it…” Merritt College President Dr. David M. Johnson said.

Later in the meeting, Trustee Kevin Jenkins then brought up his concerns on how the elevators at Laney College had been flagged by California as not safe since March of 2020 but it is only being brought up now.

The Laney Tower (the predecessor to The Citizen), Staff Writer Jordan Hankston wrote in his article “Tower Watch — Inconvenience And Inaccessibility Plague Laney Campus Elevator Systems” about how Kone, the company that has been contracted by the school to maintain the elevators, was going to fix the elevators that had not been working in March 28, 2019. Hankston wrote that “An effort to repair Laney’s dysfunctional system of elevators is underway. Of the campus’s 10 elevators, six are fully operational at this time.”

“So it looks like we were given a no bid contract to a company that’s not based here in our service area and so I want to know if the elevator has been tagged since 2020 why is it that we are just now addressing it and on top of that, why aren’t we going out to bid for it?” Jenkins said. 

A “no bid” contract according to “The Audipedia” is also known as a “sole source contract” which means only one company or person can give the necessary services specified in the contract. 

Laney College President Dr. Rudy Besikof pointed out that fixing the elevators was an issue that was in discussion before COVID-19. Besikof explained that a series of elevator jacks need to be replaced, primarily due to the “age of the system.” Besikof went on to explain that elevator repairs on Laney’s campus has been an ongoing issue, and that leadership transitions at the college and district as well as the pandemic threw a wrench into the process of getting them up and running.

Trustee Linda Handy brought up concerns over an apparent lack of diversity within the elevator company and union.

“This has not changed in the entire time I have been here. The union is like an exclusive club that you don’t get to get into and it’s very troubling for me that we are forced with a limited amount of people that we can work with and no real change has happened,” said Handy. “It’s a very well paying job our students would love to have.”

Handy then pointed out how she does not disagree with the fact the elevators need to be upgraded but wants to keep racial and gender equity as a priority when supporting companies through contracts with the school.

“Motion 7.1: Consider Approval of an Agreement Incorporating Master Agreement for Elevator Repair and Modernization Services with Kone, Inc.,” was approved.

The next Board Meeting will be April 13th.