Ensuring equity effectively

Valley College’s Student Equity Plan facilitates institutional changes on campus.

By Dede Ogbueze, Staff Writer

Valley College has made a commitment to narrow its equity gap with its Student Equity Plan, an ongoing program to improve the academic experience for underperforming and “at-risk” students.

The majority of Valley students are from low socioeconomic communities, according to SEP’s executive summary. Campus-based research indicates that Hispanic and African Americans (especially males), veteran students, foster care youth students and students with an identified disability have lower performance and participation rates than other students.

“One of the main issues that needed to be addressed was access,” said Dr. Llanet Martin, Valley’s SEP coordinator. “Making sure the community college is representative of the community it serves, in terms of student success.”

Valley primarily services the San Fernando Valley. Research reveals that Hispanics account for 47 percent of the SFV population; blacks account for 8 percent. However, the college’s enrollment shows the student body is only 42 percent Hispanic and six percent black. Whereas, whites had the highest participation rate, accounting for 29 percent of the SFV population with an enrollment of 33 percent.

The SEP defines equity as, “ensuring all students have the opportunity to achieve the same level of success regardless of demographic factors that put some students at a disadvantage,” in its 2014 mission statement.

SEP intends to eliminate the equity gap by implementing resources aimed at keeping students in class and on-track to completing their educational plans. These resources include: comprehensive counseling, financial assistance, transfer guidance and culture-specific “educational cohorts.”

“The plan timeline starts the cohorts in fall 2015 with 40 African-American students and 80 Latino students and scales to 200 African-American students and 320 Latino students in year five,” says the SEP executive summary.

Martin stresses the importance of students understanding the logistics of how college works before they step on campus instead finding out as they go. In addition to on-campus equity programs, SEP is in the early stages of its outreach program, working with TRIO and 3SP (student support programs) to inform local high school students of the enrollment and matriculation process at Valley. This includes summer bridge programs facilitated to prepare students for the math and English assessment tests.

The executive summary addresses cultural competency among faculty and staff as another key component to achieving equity on campus. Participating faculty will attend training workshops and forums on cultural competency and “culturally-responsive teaching” to better assist underrepresented students.

“What we’re seeing is that students sometimes feel that they are not fully connected to faculty or staff or administration,” says Martin. “Part of what we’re trying to do is to develop this level of awareness and understanding of different people, because that will help us all be able to work together in a more effective manner.”

SEP will also be working alongside the Associated Student Union to reach an agreement on what programs students most feel they need. According to Martin, there will be an elected official delegated to overseeing student outreach and involvement.

The first SEP event this semester, hosted by Black Scholars Program and the Black Student Union, is a series of student-led forums called “Speakeasy.” The forums are an outlet for students to address issues affecting minority communities. The first “Speakeasy” is scheduled for March 15 in the Writing Center, LARC 229, at 1:00 p.m.

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