On May 21, 2015, Bellevue College held a public hearing for students of African and African American descent. 42 students and faculty members met in room C120 to discuss issues that students have been having with discrimination. Faculty member Kimberly Pollock, an English teacher at Bellevue College and David Joseph, program coordinator for the Black Student Union, organized the public hearing.
Bellevue College this year had a total of 33,364 students. Out of those students 12.5 percent are of African American descent.
All students who spoke at the hearing asked to be kept anonymous.
The first student quoted Bellevue College’s mission statement, saying, “‘we will not treat people differently on basis of race, ethnicity, sexual preference, orientation,’ but yet I see time and time again in race and sexual preference that there are clear lines of offense that happen on a daily basis.”
“As a student you feel the sting of racism at all levels of the institution, from the instructors to the administrators, to the support staff. It is difficult to find a place where we can be heard and be treated with the dignity that we deserve. I’ve been here for three years and it happened the first year, the second year and the third year,” the anonymous student explained.
Out of all the departments at Bellevue College, it seemed the math and business departments were the most discussed. When asked how many students have had an issue with discrimination in the math department, 12 students raised their hands.
A third student spoke up that day for the first time and said, “A lot of people are afraid to speak because going to school is a big decision. You have your financial aid at stake and everybody is trying to succeed. That in itself is very tough on its own,” the student continued, “When you add on top of that the fact that you have to deal with discrimination, it is difficult.”
Students explained the different solutions that were given to them from staff members when their issue with discrimination was brought to light. Suggestions included “Stop complaining,” “Drop the class” or “I can’t do anything if more people don’t report it” were a few to note.
“Everyone is trying so hard to be successful in school, which makes it even tougher because you say to yourself, ‘if I say nothing and just get by maybe I can make it.’ But it is so frustrating to come to school and think in your head ‘what am I going to have to deal with today,’” said the third student.
Students voiced their fear of asking questions in the math lab as well as in their classrooms because they were afraid of being discriminated against if they asked, and weren’t sure if they would receive the help they need because of their color. “People are really afraid because of how many years they have to deal here with the school. Then when you speak up, they stick a label on you,” shared the third student, “They label you as a troublemaker. Students here go through hell every day and still somehow make it out of this school with 3.5 and 4.0 GPAs.”
Pollock and other present faculty members plan to discuss the issues.