The South Puget Sound Community College’s Diversity and Equity Center offers an abundance of services to its students. The Diversity and Equity Center, also known as DEC, is not club at all, but an office that serves the whole college and all who feel like they are little different.
The DEC office is in building 27 on the SPSCC campus, and is open to everybody. The center does a lot for the school including offering a space for students, a meeting place for lots of other clubs on campus, and a place where regular students of the office come to talk.
Most importantly however, the DEC is a place for students to feel comfortable to talk safely about any issue from race, sex, gender, and cultural awareness. This office is a place for people of all backgrounds to feel welcome and offers services to veterans, those with disabilities, and anyone who asks for it.
Jose Gutierrez has been the DEC’s program coordinator since 2011. Gutiérrez has done similar work at other colleges, like he does with DEC, and teaches some diversity classes at SPSCC. Gutiérrez says that his work with the students and their, “energy and enthusiasm”, makes the job “rewarding”.
A big part of the DEC office is focusing on student life by hosting events on campus that often bring awareness to different cultures. Gutiérrez says about 4-6 campus events are put together by DEC. These events include the Chinese New Year’s festival that happened last week on campus, the school’s first African American student Conference, and the Students of Color Conference from April 11th-13th.
Gutierrez says that one of the main goals of the Diversity and Equity office is to make it a place for everybody to feel comfortable on campus. A place people can go to communicate with their peers and share differences. He says it is a rare find, to have a place that welcomes diversity, like the DEC does. Gutiérrez says in the DEC office is different than most places, that ask politely if others can be respectful, in this office respect is expected by all of its members.
The directors at the office include Eileen Yoshina, John Rajcich, as well as Gutiérrez and he said they mainly help the students run their activities and help facilitate a comfortable welcoming environment. The students that are part of the DEC help with numerous campus activities and use the office for studying and holding presentations. The DEC students are also mentors for the campus’s Clipper Crew, a program SPSCC has to help new students get involved and feel welcome at school.
The DEC office helps host a lot of leadership groups. Gutiérrez has seen many students become successful role models through DEC. Gutiérrez says the office helps cultivate empowering leaders who have been very successful in their journeys beyond SPSCC.
Gutiérrez wasn’t positive when the DEC was first established but said Yoshina was doing a great job expanding their office. He said while the office use to be a lot more empty just a year ago, now it is a common place for students to come hang out. The original idea to start up a diversity and equity center at SPSCC came from the campus’s current Vice President of Student Services, a big supporter of having diversity awareness in schools.
While the office’s popularity has increased, Gutiérrez says marketing and recruiting people to join their office is always a mission. Gutiérrez says popularity for an office that embraces diversity and equity will always be growing because talking about racism hasn’t typically been “dinner table talk”. Their office allows these discussions to be managed so that students can have healthy debates with each other. Even as just a part-time worker for the office, Gutiérrez feels doing this kind of work is his “duty” and “responsibility” because he says “a multicultural community is part of my existence”.
The South Puget Sound College has its adversities no different than most college campuses. Gutiérrez says the thing about addressing diversity equality is it’s all about the attitude students have towards one another. He says it would be, “ideal if we didn’t need the [DEC] office,” so that everyone would just treat each other with respect.
Gutiérrez gave his own thoughts on whether our Lacey-Olympia-Tumwater area was diverse or not and noted that while people of the South Puget Sound area open-minded and responsive to diversity issues, they are also quiet about talking about them. He says that just because people in this area are a little less willing to address race and cause tension, that doesn’t mean that racism and inequality doesn’t happen here.
(The picture for the featured image is from the SPSCC page about the DEC team, here’s a link for more information about this great service offered at an Olympia community college, http://saw.spscc.ctc.edu/diversity/index.html)