This year, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2864, which requires state universities and community colleges to implement new “cultural competency” standards, and MHCC is responding.
In the legislation, cultural competency is described as “understanding of how institutions and individuals can respond respectfully and effectively to people from all cultures, economic statuses, language backgrounds, races, ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, genders, gender identifications, sexual orientations, veteran statuses and other characteristics in a manner that recognizes, affirms and values the worth, and preserves the dignity, of individuals, families and communities.”
The bill requires institutions to set up goals and have training and professional development for staff and faculty to understand cultural competency expectations.
According to Felisciana Peralta, Mt. Hood’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, “This is more than just protecting based on discrimination: This is about education and providing professional development and also classes and engaging that into cultural competency within what we do as a functioning college system.”
Efforts to help students feel more welcome start during the first day of class, she said.
“The moment that roll’s taken,” when sometimes an instructor can’t pronounce a name, so they say something like, “ ‘Can you give me another name,’ or ‘Do you go by another name?’ That’s taking away that person’s name,” is one example, Peralta said.
In the classroom, instructors will have to practice culturally responsive teaching.
“How do you effectively teach and engage education that’s more holistic around multiple populations versus dominant culture?” she said. Instructors will work on “being able to be a little bit more thoughtful in engaging within different viewpoints as well as different populations and perspectives.”
Peralta said that with constantly changing demographics at Mt. Hood, the institution needs to work on being ready for the students, rather than expecting the student to assimilate to the culture of the college.
Even before HB 2864 was passed, MHCC already had some systems in place to push the same efforts.
“Some of these guidelines, we’ve already been doing. We already have access and (a) diversity council, we look at intercultural competency, we look at lots of different things,” said Peralta. But the new work is welcome and needed, she said.
“Mt. Hood is 50 years old, and (has) policies and procedures that are about that outdated. We’re in a different place and we need to respond to that, and we need to also be responsive to the different populations we serve,” she said.