Thirty-seven percent of public university students in Massachusetts experience food insecurity, according to a recent report by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, and the MA Department of Higher Education. This stark reality, combined with the opportunity at the federal and state level to tackle food access as a basic need on campus, led to the filing of comprehensive and visionary legislation titled, “An Act establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative.”
“Sometimes, carrying on, just carrying on, is the superhuman achievement.”
-Albert Camus, The Fall.
Writing in an age of pandemics, topics abound. Whether it is trying to offer a word of encouragement, looking towards the future, or tackling challenges, the options abound. Finding the words, however, can be a bit harder. In the past months, I’ve shared with you some of my experiences, celebrated our accomplishments, and tried to address topics relevant to this moment, such as racism, equity, strategic planning, critical thinking, and leadership. With the pandemic continuing to rage havoc, the uncertainty of economic recovery, the continuing struggle against racism, and a growing equity gap, it is hard to imagine the future. Sometimes it seems we are living a bad version of the movie “Ground Hog Day.” For the next few weeks, I hope to offer some insights rooted in my life journey that I hope are relevant to our lives in this age of pandemics and might help us navigate these difficult days.
It is hard to believe that it has been three years since I joined the QCC family. It seems like it was just yesterday that we embarked on our joint journey. As I prepared to assume the presidency, I sought advice from experienced presidents. In their advice, common themes emerged: seek the advice of experts and listen to them; surround yourself with capable people and empower them to get the job done; live with integrity and humility; be visible and accessible; be fair and consistent; when possible seek input, data, and make informed decisions in a timely manner; be respectful; take
criticism gracefully; do what you believe is right for the college and the people it serves; give credit to others when things go right, take responsibility when they don’t; be courageous; etc. But the most important lesson I learned is that leadership is about serving others, not yourself. I do not know if I’ve always been able to live to these ideals, but I will always strive to do so. Throughout the years in various roles, I have learned that while a position might give you authority, respect and trust has to be earned. I hope to continue to earn yours.
QCC's President Luis G. Pedraja, Ph.D., released a strong statement denouncing the recent guidelines by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that will force international students to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their college or university offers classes entirely online this fall. According to the guidelines, international students will not be issued new visas for those colleges and universities that are offering all programs completely online.
“The new guidelines are a direct violation of our students’ human rights. Our international students should not be subjected to such blatant discrimination. The decision of colleges and universities to continue with remote instruction this fall is for the health and safety of all students; not a chosen few,” said President Pedraja. “Our international students are an integral and valued part of our higher education system. They expand our students’ and our campuses horizons by opening them up to worldwide perspectives, which is so important in today’s global economy. Additionally, they typically pay out-of-state tuition, and do not receive financial aid. International students free up much needed resources, to allow the under-served and underrepresented members of our community the ability to access higher education. To put this type of pressure on international students and institutions of higher education is reprehensible.”
QCC has chosen to continue with remote instruction this fall, with a limited number of labs and clinical experiences that require direct hands-on participation offered in-person. The decision was made by the college to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and the community.
“No one should have to choose between pursuing an education or deportation. Forcing students to choose between education and their health is unfathomable. In this current scenario, if there is a surge in the virus and in-person classes are moved to remote instruction, what are these students supposed to do?,” President Pedraja said. “We must all stand together to support our international students and decry this vicious attack on individuals trying to realize their ‘American Dream.’”
Feeding those in need within the QCC community is the mission of Quinsigamond Community College’s food pantry. An April 2018 study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that 49 percent of
[Pictured Above: PTK student Ashley Forhan, food pantry manager]
The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Other terms for food insecurity are “struggling to avoid hunger,” “hungry, or at risk of hunger,” and “hungry, or faced by the threat of hunger.”
According to an April 2018 survey*, 42% of community college students had experienced food
[Dr. Luis Pedraja observes students Shawn Reese and Christian Hulett's demonstration]
In the news, on factory assembly lines, opening doors and even vacuuming your floors. Robots are just about everywhere and are becoming more and more commonplace in today's society. What was once the future is no longer a science fiction story-line. They have left the fantasy world of the big-screen and are making their way into the workplace, our homes and the classroom.