Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Spring semester kicks off at districtwide Flex Day

New chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson delivers personal introduction
New+district+chancellor+Tammeil+Gilkerson+delivered+an+impassioned+speech+introducing+herself+to+PCCD+at+Spring+2024+Flex+Day.+Other+keynote+speeches%2C+performances%2C+info+sessions%2C+and+trainings+were+held+throughout+the+day.+%28Photo%3A+Faiza+Ali%2FPCCD%29
New district chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson delivered an impassioned speech introducing herself to PCCD at Spring 2024 Flex Day. Other keynote speeches, performances, info sessions, and trainings were held throughout the day. (Photo: Faiza Ali/PCCD)

On Jan. 18 , Peralta Community College District (PCCD) hosted a district-wide Flex Day for the Spring 2024 semester at the Laney College campus.​​ The event featured three keynote speakers, including PCCD’s new chancellor.

Flex Days are professional development days for PCCD employees held at the beginning of each semester. They’re part of a statewide initiative by California Community Colleges to promote professional development activities. The activities included trainings, info sessions, keynote speeches, and even a faculty-hosted meetup and happy hour in Jack London Square.

The festivities started at Laney’s Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center, with three keynote presentations. Geography professor Mark Rauzon gave a presentation on climate change in the Bering Sea, while new district chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson gave a deeply personal introduction to Peralta. A special appearance was made by California Community Colleges Chancellor, Sonya Christian.

Breaking boundaries in the Bering Sea

After the event’s welcome and overview addresses, Mark Rauzon gave a presentation titled “Breaking Boundaries in the Bering Sea,” an excerpt from a new curriculum Rauzon has been developing with Delbert Pungowiyi, a tribal leader from the Siberian Yup’ik community. The curriculum is intended for community college students and based in collaboration with the Educational Partnership to Internationalize Curriculum (EPIC) fellowship program at Stanford University.

Rauzon delved into the geographical effects of global warming along the Bering sea, the root that climate change in the region has in geopolitics between the United States and Russia, and how changing conditions have impacted the indigenous populations within the Bering Sea.

An introduction to PCCD’s new chancellor
New chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson gave an hour and a half long self-introduction to Peralta, delivering an impassioned speech that gave insight into her personality, values, and goals through a collage of photos and self reflection. Gilkerson shared her experience growing up as an adopted child in a multiracial, multicultural household, which laid the background for her ambitions in the world of social justice activism.

Gilkerson spoke on the impact that students have played throughout her career in education, and the importance of listening to the unique perspectives that students are willing to offer.

In an interview with The Citizen, Gilkerson said, “I think my role as chancellor is to consistently try to elevate and center student voices and experiences.”

She added, “For me it’s across the board to humanize curriculum and instruction. It’s about looking at the whole student and how we support students’ basic needs. It’s about looking at how our district functions to be here and sustainable for generations of learners.”

Gilkerson touched briefly on her departure from Laney College back in 2020, alleging that she had been investigated for the way she talked, dressed, and “who I was sleeping with.” (Photo: Faiza Ali/PCCD)

During her speech, Gilkerson reflected on her time as Laney College President, a position she served from 2017 until 2020, when she left to become President of Evergreen Valley College in San Jose. She described her experience at Laney as “like being in an abusive relationship,” revealing that she had been investigated against.

“I was a new president. I’d never been a president before. And I was just being myself. And myself, for some folks, wasn’t good. And that’s cool, like I get that. That’s part of the learning process, right?

“But it became where folks were like […] ‘she slept with the chancellor, that’s how she got her job, the way she dresses, the way she talks.’ These were the things that several years of my life were spent being investigated about.”

Gilkerson told The Citizen, “I think it was very painful to me, after all of the work that I had been doing. To have had people talking about and investigating those kinds of claims.”

Yet since then, she has moved on and believes the experience allowed her to grow and come back better.

“I think the opportunity to leave and be a president of another institution made me better and stronger for the work that’s ahead of us,” Gilkerson said.

When asked if the district had a comment on Gilkerson’s statements that she was investigated for the way she talked, dressed, and whether she obtained her position by “sleeping with the chancellor,” Mark Johnson, PCCD’s Executive Director for Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations did not address the allegations.

In an email, Johnson wrote, “Chancellor Gilkerson gave an electrifying and deeply personal Flex Day speech about her work on behalf of students in our community. I’ve received universally enthusiastic and positive feedback about her flex day speech from inspired colleagues throughout the district.”

Antonio Watkins, an English Instructor at Laney, was in attendance for Gilkerson’s speech. He shared his reflections in an interview with The Citizen.

“She brings back the spirit that uplifted me when she first came here during her initial tenure here as Laney’s president,” Watkins said.

Sonya Christian’s Vision 2030
The final keynote speaker of the day was Sonya Christian, Chancellor for the California Community Colleges. Christian, who began her tenure on June 1, 2023, came to Laney to showcase her plan for Vision 2030, which includes creating greater accessibility for disenfranchised communities and creating a pathway for low income Californians to find economic success.

State chancellor Sonya Christian answers a question from a panel of academic senate presidents. (Photo: Faiza Ali/PCCD)

During Christian’s presentation, a panel of the five academic senate presidents of Peralta asked pre-prepared questions, followed by a Q&A for the audience to get involved in the discussion concerning her plans for the future of California Community Colleges.

When asked about Christian’s visit to Laney campus, Laney College President Rudy Besikof told The Citizen, “The opportunity to have the State Chancellor come to your district is rare and I certainly appreciated the opportunity to hear from Dr. Christian.”

More events

(Photo: Faiza Ali/PCCD)

Several other events were held throughout the day. College of Alameda’s Dance Department shared a performance highlighting the Asian-American cultural experience through the expression of dance. Lunch was held at the Laney Student Center, provided by Laney Catering and featuring a performance by Laney’s Student Pop Music Ensemble.

In the afternoon, the District held a slew of hybrid sessions, including: Narcan Training, What’s New for Student Accessibility Services, and the Future of the Faculty Diversity Internship Program.

Recordings of many training and info sessions are available online.

About the Contributor
Ivan Saravia, Staff Writer
Ivan Saravia was born in Berkeley and lived his whole life in San Leandro. He is a freshman at Peralta, with strong ambitions of becoming a writer. Ever since he was in elementary school, he’s had a deep fascination and desire to understand all the little nuances in language and communication. In his free time nowadays he loves writing and deciphering music, especially artists like Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan, and Lou Reed. As the child of an extremely prideful Oakland Native, it was a given at some point in his life he would end up attending an Oakland School. He’s always had a great love and appreciation for what he considers his “second home,” and would be deeply proud to serve the community of Oakland. He is beyond excited to be a part of this publication and learn as much as he can from his peers and this given opportunity.
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