It is my pleasure to declare the Spring 2017 semester officially open. Our journey begins today as our students stride purposefully in the direction of their dreams at graduation, which will be held this year at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. As I shared at All College Day, we are in the midst of a stormy, but temporary weather pattern and through it shines the accomplishments of our faculty and staff. On Friday, we recognized Melissa Salcido, Alfred Forest, and Susie Tong as our Oak Tree Award winners for their outstanding service to the college community. We also celebrated Larry Handa’s national championship math team, and the recognition of Chris Cruz and Lou De La Rosa from their professional organizations. I was also pleased to announce the receipt of a $300,000 major gift from Arthur Wang and Christina Qu to expand the science garden project and another major gift from former faculty member and soccer coach Dick Schwendinger to build a new scoreboard at the soccer complex. Along with a $400,000 gift to support the child development program, the college has raised over $750,000 in the last quarter alone to support exciting new initiatives. In addition, we also announced that the Land Corporation has pledged major support for three new initiatives including a study abroad program, a summer bridge program for Latino and African American students, and the Middle College Transition Program, and will also continue to support our Community Grant tuition remission program. The state of California, through its Strong Workforce Program, has also provided us resources to expand our entrepreneurship and drone technology programs, develop new certificates in biology, chemistry, and payroll services, and to secure national accreditation for our Cilker School of Art and Design. Congratulations to everyone involved with these stellar projects.
There is much to be proud of at West Valley, however, my enthusiasm is tempered considerably by the distressing political vortex enveloping our country at the moment. There is much trepidation as divisive rhetoric and oppressive action becomes more common than ever before. Many of our students are disillusioned, afraid, and angry as they observe important scientific, cultural, and personal freedoms abridged or swept away entirely. In response, West Valley College and all institutions of higher learning must recommit to our core values of inclusion, free exchange of ideas, and the pursuit of scholarship.
We must exceed our previous commitments to equity and diversity. As such, it is incumbent upon all of us to strengthen the lifeline we provide to our DACA and undocumented students, disabled students, students of color, immigrants, students of all faiths, LGBTQ community, women, veterans, and all others under attack or scrutiny to show them support where the federal government may not. We are and will continue to be a sanctuary for all students. Our internal practices will be consistent with existing FERPA and Dream Act law to ensure that we are not divulging any private student information or cooperating in any program that harms our students or makes them feel unwelcome or threatened. If we are to fully commit to assuring all individuals feel welcomed, accepted, and supported each of us must avail ourselves of professional development that raises our awareness and develops skills and strategies to provide informed and culturally competent assistance. I have personally written President Trump on behalf of the Bay 10 community colleges asking for him to continue DACA and other programs, and I will continue working with local elected officials to ensure our voice is heard. In addition, I encourage everyone to get involved in their own way to support our students by attending our upcoming forums and development opportunities on these important topics, and directing students to Counseling Services, the Student Health Center, or the Office of Student Equity should they have questions. Employees seeking counseling or legal assistance my consult the Employee Assistance Program in Human Resources. At his point in time, we know of no member of the campus community that has been detained as a consequence of the recent Executive Order. Should you know of a member of our community who may need assistance, please contact Gloria Gutierrez in the President’s Office.
We must recommit also to the principles of our scholarship that demand critical analysis and informed inquiry. In all of our dealings, we must be objective, careful, and precise with our facts. We must avoid alternative fact patterns. We must resist the urge to trade honest differences of opinion for personal disparagement, to move beyond the rancor that sometimes persists across political aisles and remember that our students are seeking stability, not turmoil. I aspire for us to always be advocates for change and an inspiration for our students seeking to cultivate those ideas that truly change the world.
Thank you for all that you do in support of our students. I look forward to working with each of you this semester.