March 14, 2024

Building Bridges & Upcoming Spring 2024 SMC Forums

The following college-wide email was sent by SMC Superintendent/President to employees on March 14, 2024

Dear SMC Colleagues:

It was a pleasure to see many of you at the Spring 2024 Professional Development Day activities and connect in person, while enjoying delicious treats in the morning and boxed lunches at noon! For those who were not present on site, you missed the energy and good vibes. I look forward to seeing many more of you in person for Fall 2024 Opening Day. Being physically in the same place makes a difference. Thank you to all who helped plan the professional development programs that offered something for every member of the college community, with some Hyflex options allowing flexibility.

As I closed my “state of the college” remarks on Professional Development Day, I acknowledged the impact that the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has had on many SMC students and colleagues (some of whom have shared their stories with me). Further, I noted that out of the conversations I had last fall with a cross-section of colleagues and students, a college-wide forum was offered in December which provided us tools helpful in times of anxiety, pain, and divisiveness; as a continuation, I shared that some upcoming forums for colleagues and students will address anti-Semitism and Islamophobia through a historical lens with the goal of promoting dialogue, understanding, and the kind of safe and inclusive learning environment embraced in our Mission Statement (these forums are being coordinated by the SMC EpiCenter, Human Resources, Student Equity Center, and the Office of Student Life).

Please note the “Save the Date” details in the bulletin below sent by the organizers and help spread the word. I encourage you to attend the sessions.

At Santa Monica College, the diversity of our community is something in which we take great pride and it is one of our strengths. Different points of view are bound to surface as we are affected by current events in the world beyond SMC. With that being said, we likewise have a responsibility to make intentional choices about how these events impact our collective purpose at the college. As I said during my remarks, SMC’s mission—helping students who desire to change the trajectory of their lives and that of their families—is too vital to let differing opinions and viewpoints get in the way. All of us at the college have a responsibility to watch for the stereotyping that is core to hatred, identity bias, mistreatment and discrimination; to speak up against ignorance; and to protect targeted groups. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” I urge all of us to practice empathy—empathy that extends beyond our own communities of identity. Although empathy has become a term so often invoked that its meaning tends to get diluted, true empathy can create understanding and trust even in the most difficult times. I have every confidence that through dialogue, a focus on learning more about building bridges (like through these upcoming workshops), and a continuing commitment to maintaining a college-wide environment where diverse perspectives can be respectfully and thoughtfully exchanged, Santa Monica College can be a microcosm of a more just, equitable, and peaceful world.

Kathryn E. Jeffery, Ph.D.

Sent on behalf of the EpiCenter, Student Equity Center (out of the Office of Student Life), and Human Resources.

Save the Dates!

As announced during Professional Development Day on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, we are happy to announce some important upcoming workshops for employees and students organized by the EpiCenter, Student Equity Center (out of the Office of Student Life), and HR!

Marium Mohiuddin and Dr. Zack Ritter are experts in interfaith dialogue, Muslim-Jewish relations, and conflict resolution. In addition to providing historical and academic education, Marium and Zack will share their perspectives and personal experiences to create space for more understanding. This will provide attendees with a real-world understanding of the consequences of discrimination and the importance of embracing diversity.

Marium and Dr. Ritter will provide Antisemitism & Islamophobia workshops for both students and employee groups at the following times:

  • Student Workshops (Location TBA)
    • Part 1: Thursday, 4/18 at 1 p.m. - in-person only
    • Part 2: Thursday, 4/25 at 1p.m .- in-person only
  • Employee Workshops (Location TBA)
    • Part 1: Wednesday, 5/22 at 3 p.m.- in-person (hybrid will be offered)
    • Part 2: Wednesday, 5/29 at 2 p.m.- in-person (hybrid will be offered)

These two-part workshops are tailored for all college employees and students which aim to address pressing issues. The first workshop covers the history and current state of Islamophobia and Antisemitism, conflict resolution, and navigating social media versus real-life interactions. The second workshop focuses on conflict resolution, trigger terms, and understanding the Israel-Gaza conflict through discussions and activities.

Coming Soon…

We are currently finalizing dates to bring Dr. Nina Flores, Senior Fellow with the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, to SMC for the following workshops:

Where Did You Learn How to Disagree? Thinking About Repair as We Debate, Discuss, and Dialogue Together

Who Are They After This Week? Supporting Faculty and Staff During Incidents of Harassment by the Public

Additionally, we are in communication with  Michelle Deutchman, the inaugural executive director of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement (Center), to schedule Freedom of Speech workshops for all SMC employees and students. Deutchman facilitates workshops for staff, students, administrators, and law enforcement on First Amendment principles and how to safeguard free speech at universities while simultaneously maintaining a safe and inclusive campus climate.

We anticipate your participation in these upcoming workshops so we can better understand and support our students and entire college community and create a more safe, informed, and inclusive space for all.

Stay tuned - more details to come soon!

In community,

The EpiCenter Team
SMC’s Equity-minded Professional Innovation Center