As president of one of the most diverse colleges in our state, it is imperative that we fight for what is right when it comes to equal opportunities for all.
I may not be black, but I see the frustration, fear and anxiety in the students we serve. On average, Gateway serves 21,000 students, of which 40% are minorities. They become nurses, firefighters, engineers, business professionals, etc., just like their white counterparts.
You might think they have the same opportunities, but they do not. Students choose Gateway for many reasons, but the primary one is to obtain the necessary skills to compete for a job and build a career.
We also know that equality in the job market is not always fair. We also know the completion rate for black students at Gateway is 19% and we’ve worked to increase our effort to support students of color in a number of ways.
We’ve invested in multicultural centers on all campuses, focused on diverse hiring practices of faculty and administration, expanded the number of multicultural resource professionals to serve students and broadened social and student life activities to celebrate differences.
I recognize this is not enough and that we must do more to engage our community in dialog around the systemic injustice that impacts all people of color. We must stand up and lend our voice through words and actions.
Each of us has a responsibility to uphold the ideal described in our nation’s Declaration of a Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal.”
These are the words we live by, but what more will it take for us to take action and fight for what is right and stop the oppression?
Gateway hosts a celebration each year to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and to recognize individuals and groups in our community for standing up and taking action. People like Deontrae Hamilton, for his work in mentoring youth through Project Restoration, and the Kiwanis Club of West Racine, for its work in supporting Special Olympics. Actions like these build hope that there is a better future.
These may be challenging times, but I am confident that if we, as a community and as a nation, want to live our lives as a free society, then we must take the necessary steps to change the systemic culture of racism. Together we can support causes working toward racial justice and equality.
As president, I pledge to listen, learn and take the necessary actions to strengthen the inclusive culture of Gateway Technical College.
Dr. Bryan Albrecht is the president and CEO of Gateway Technical College.