Joyce Coleman, the vice president of Santa Barbara Community College’s Extended Learning program, is being investigated for offensive comments targeting the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
The comments being addressed were said at the SBCC’s Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee on March 23, according to Santa Barbara Independent.
At the meeting, the committee formed a new affinity group on behalf of the AAPI community in the wake of the March shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.
“About time,” Coleman said as her response in the formation of the group. She then commented on why the Japanese people that were held in concentration camps during World War II “did not just leave,” stating that the fences seemed small when she visited one in the past.
Coleman also noted how in contrast, Black American slaves resisted by forming the Underground Railroad.
Campus employees were offended by Coleman’s comment, which they described as harmful and “victim-blaming.”
“My sincere apologies to all the people who were deeply hurt by the comments,” Superintendent-President Utpal Goswami said in an apology email, SBCC’s student newspaper The Channels reported.
In a statement, SBCC spokesperson and interim VP for the School of Extended Learning, Luz Reyes-Martín, confirmed Coleman was put on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. Coleman agreed not to comment until the investigation is completed.
“Upon learning of the reported incident and due to the serious nature of the circumstances, Ms. Coleman was placed on paid administrative leave pending a thorough investigation, by an outside party, into the incident,” Reyes-Martin said.
The statement also said the college takes the matter seriously and that Goswami had directly reached out to the people impacted by the comment.
“He communicated to the campus that ‘SBCC aspires to be a welcoming and equitable community’ and that this ‘requires us to hold ourselves to high standards and work towards building a community that supports each other,’” the statement added.
In an email to The Channels, Michael Shanahan, the chair of the committee, said there were no recordings when the comment was made but has been addressing the incident and the pain it has caused to attendees. He declined to give any further details on the matter.
“We take those feelings seriously, and Dr. Goswami has begun conversations with the involved individuals,” Shanahan said.
With over 28 years of experience, Coleman was selected as the VP of SBCC School of Extended Learning in November 2020. When she was chosen, she reportedly expressed that she along with Goswami share a “commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity” and that those weren’t just “catchy phrases,” according to the Santa Barbara Independent.
Featured Image via SBCC