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District Chancellor Fred Wood attended Contra Costa College’s Associated Student Union meeting Wednesday at 4 p.m. in SA-107 to explain his role as a public official, establish an open dialogue with students and remind ASU members that their local efforts can affect state and federal policies.
College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, also in attendance at the meeting, said Dr. Wood visiting the campus within his first five weeks of becoming chancellor is special for a few reasons.
“This is the first ASU meeting that he (Wood) has been to and we are the first college that he has visited in the district,” Mehdizadeh said. “Because, we’re the Comets.”
She said the chancellor plans to meet with students and college members at least once a month at each college.
After Wood gave a brief introduction, he listened to student input and sat attentively as the ASU Board conducted its business. After the formalities, he spoke about the importance of being involved with the community and establishing an open dialogue between students and administrators.
“This is a critical moment for students like you to be organized and to be thinking how we can have our voices heard,” Wood said to a board of 12 ASU members. “One thing I’ve been advocating is helping students become involved in civic engagement — which is ‘how do we get you to see a path for your voice to be heard?’”
After going to a legislative conference in Sacramento last week, Wood said he plans to hold a series of open forums on campus and invite state assemblypersons to also engage in a dialogue with students, faculty, district and state officials.
He encouraged all students at the meeting to not only sit on college committees, like College Council or the President’s Cabinet meetings, but to also share their thoughts about topics discussed at those meetings.
“The time could not be better to engage fellow students,” he said. “I’ll turn myself inside out to get to events. But if we can get students more engaged and get them to realize that their role is important — their vote is important — and their voice is important then we can turn this low situation around.”
What Wood is eluding to is the uncertain future of education under President Donald Trump’s threats to cut federal funding to sanctuary jurisdictions like the Contra Costa Community College District.
At a speical meeting earlier this year, the Governing Board voted that it will not comply with any federal, state or local policing agency that request the personal information of its students or employees.
“The resolution in January was a huge statement by the board,” Wood said. “But it also was a statement of reassurance to our students that we are with them.
“We are going to do all we can to protect our students no matter where they are from, what race they are, which dimension, religion or whatever. We are a community college and we are here for all of our students.”
He also said that when Trump issued his recent travel ban executive order, the district reached out to its international students to make sure none had left the country and were restricted from returning to campus.
“All who could be affected by the executive order were here so we were pleased. All are in U.S. and accounted for at their various campuses,” Wood said. “We still reached out and asked how they’re feeling. This is hard.”
ASU Vice President of Club Affairs Jose Arebalo said while Wood’s visit was unexpected, he is glad that he came to listen and encourage students during this time of uncertainty.
“You (Wood) have been very encouraging,” Arebalo told Wood during the meeting. “I was hoping you would bring up holding open forums and to know you are going in that direction is encouraging.”
Mehdizadeh said Wood is visiting different colleges in the district not only to get to know the communities he serves better, but to escape the silo the District Office can become.
“It’s challenge being at the district,” she said. “I remember working at the District Office and feeling like I really wanted to reconnect in some way. This is just one of many opportunities he is going to have to do that.”
While Wood, Mehdizadeh or the ASU has not confirmed the date or location of the suggested open forums, The Advocate will continue to provide updates as more information becomes known.
ASU President Safi Ward-Davis said she encourages students to email or call Mehdizadeh and Wood to share concerns, comments or ideas on how to improve the CCC experience.