Renton Technical College begins its fall quarter with an even more intentional commitment to creating an inclusive community. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the center of RTC’s new five-year strategic plan, and were the focus of a staff and faculty workshop last week.
“The value of community is one of the things that drew me to RTC and continues to give this institution its core strength,” President Kevin McCarthy told faculty and staff at the fall kickoff event. The audience also heard from Dr. Eddie Moore Jr., an acclaimed speaker on issues related to diversity in education.
“Having these conversations is essential to having a more inclusive environment,” said Angel Reyna, vice president of instruction.
McCarthy reflected on the hateful acts that took place over the summer, including the violent white supremacist rally near the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., where he went to college. He also noted that after the recent hurricanes and flooding in the South, people from all walks of life came together to care for, protect and love other residents of their communities.
“It is this unity of community to which I am drawn, and it is the unity of community that RTC can continually strive for,” McCarthy said. “By this unity, I don’t mean sameness. Rather, I mean a community that has internal compassion and empowers individuals’ full identities rather than reducing them to simplistic ones that might lead to exclusion.”
Moore, who has researched, written, and spoken about white privilege and diversity for many years, encouraged audience members to think about their own inherent biases and to read, talk, and listen to people from different groups to better understand themselves and others.
“We can’t change the structure if we don’t understand it,” Moore said. “If an institution makes a commitment around these issues, there should be some clarity around it.”
Moore urged people to confront discrimination – whether it is a coworker’s sexist comment, a family member’s racist remark – head-on.
“The best friend of hate is silence,” Moore said. “This year make a commitment that you’re never going to let oppression pass you by.”
RTC engages a diverse student population through educational opportunities for career readiness and advancement, with more than 60 percent of students of color. Among the core values outlined in the new strategic plan are creating an inclusive environment where all are celebrated and welcome; nurturing an academic and work environment that promotes fairness and removes systemic and institutional barriers; and valuing the diversity of people, perspectives, and ideas.
Last year, the RTC Cross-Cultural Dialogue Series provided students, staff, and faculty dedicated time to learn about and discuss important topics that impact the campus, region, nation, and world.
That work will continue. The College recently was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Campus Compact Fund for Positive Engagement to support a storytelling series designed to foster empathy and understanding of students’ experiences. Students will share their personal stories on topics such as the experience of refugees and/or undocumented students in the U.S., at several events throughout the year.