In a campus-wide email sent Tuesday morning, Clark College President Bob Knight announced a series of campus meetings to address challenges around recruiting and retaining employees of color.
The decision is in response to reporting this week from OPB on the college’s struggles around diversity and inclusion.
“I want you to know that, while the story was difficult to hear and read, I am committed to ensuring this college is a safe and inclusive place for everyone,” Knight wrote in the email.
He went on to write that OPB’s reporting made clear that employees of color have not felt welcomed or valued at the southwest Washington community college based in Vancouver. He said that issue also aligned with feedback from the college’s most recent employee “climate survey” and comments made during exit interviews.
Extensive interviews and documents reviewed by OPB showed a culture at Clark College that alienates people of color and prompted the resignations of seven prominent women of color from the college in the last year. It also outlined the school’s history of white supremacist activity on campus.
“Please know that I take this issue seriously,” Knight wrote. “We cannot expect to retain employees if they are encountering systemic oppression or feeling demoralized.”
Knight said he plans to hold a debriefing session to give current faculty and staff a space to offer feedback, either at an in-person meeting or anonymously.
He also said the school’s Office of Diversity and Equity will be holding an upcoming community gathering to discuss changing the campus culture.
“I am committed more than ever in supporting this work and I ask that of all staff and faculty to actively participate in changing and improving our college culture,” Knight wrote.
Clark College Board of Trustees Chair Royce Pollard did not respond to a request for comment from OPB on whether the board planned to take action or discuss the issue at their next scheduled meeting Oct. 17.