A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Inflammatory DEI email causes controversy among SRJC faculty and administration

Hana Seals

Controversy erupted over an inflammatory, faculty-wide email sent out by Santa Rosa Junior College business instructor Steven Fichera stating “DEI MUST DIE. IT’S RACIST,” on Feb. 15.

DEI, an abbreviation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is an institutional addition to the educational and career sectors in which people of minority status are hired into positions where they have historically been underrepresented, the implementation of which has led to controversy in the public sphere.

The Oak Leaf reached out to Fichera, who said,  “In hoping to set the record somewhat straight, there are a couple of things I’d like to share. I was quoting – as best I could – Elon Musk in a jest among my friends.”

He added, “Had I known my message was going out to the campus email, I would have chosen to express myself with clarity and collegial respect.” 

As for his opinion of DEI and how it manifests in his classroom, Fichera said, “My professionalism in the classroom and my dedication to student success remains unwavering.”

The controversy started when Michael Ludder, associate faculty in social sciences, sent an email containing a PBS NewsHour report in which two men debated the implementation of DEI in the educational environment; the email was on a faculty-wide thread, with no further context.

Fichera’s response was sent school-wide, generating more than 30 responses from fellow faculty members expressing shock and disgust.

Mary Churchill, humanities and religious studies instructor, replied to the thread, “The post is harmful to the minoritized staff and faculty of our college, especially BIPOC colleagues.” Churchill concluded her email by writing, “I call on our institutional leaders to address this harm and its impact on the staff and faculty who were its targets.”

Alice Hampton, child development instructor, wrote: “I am even more frustrated and angry that we continue to employ people at this public institution who are not prepared to educate our diverse student body. SRJC is a community college and a public institution. It’s essential for our instructors — and all of our employees who interact with students and colleagues — to understand the impact of race and other forms of discrimination in our social systems.”

SRJC President Dr. Angelica Garcia also weighed in to say the college was “unequivocally committed” to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism, and Accessibility (IDEAA). 

Garcia hosts monthly “Cafecitos,” events open to all members of the SRJC community that focus on community building and engagement. She adjusted her Feb. 20 Cafecito to address  IDEAA-centered work and practices.

With the amount of widespread backlash, and faculty members continually sharing their feelings on Fichera’s comments, SRJC President Dr. Angelica Garcia sent a statement saying, “I want to unequivocally affirm Santa Rosa Junior College’s commitment to building inclusivity and belonging among our students and employees.”

She further committed to:

  • Organizing additional SRJC Voices sessions to further this conversation during the remainder of the Spring 2024 semester.
  • Addressing communication norms and usage of email with critical partners.
  • Conducting a campus climate assessment with an anticipated launch date of Fall 2024.
  • Delivering EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Training to the Board of Trustees by June 2024. 
  • Evaluating and determining the need to create a District IDEAA body by May 2024. 

Finishing her email, Garcia said, “I call on each of us to continue engaging in intentional and focused efforts centering equity and the student experience. Together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable college community.“

Nearly two weeks after the initial email chain, the SRJC ethnic studies department made a formal statement featuring a call to action. Dr. Moises Santos, an instructor in the department, sent the following email on behalf of his department, highlighting several demands from SRJC administration before April 30. They include:

  • Create policies that protect LGBTQIA+ — particularly the trans community in light of recent comments made by faculty — BIPOC and other marginalized community members. For example, create a statement that must be signed by all SRJC employees, that clearly details that hateful language and actions are cause for termination.
  • Grant tenure for the entire Ethnic Studies department in year 3 to provide protection to its BIPOC members, support its departmental values, and display SRJC’s commitment to anti-racism.
  • Make a commitment to provide the Ethnic Studies Department an annual $20,000 budget to continue the work initiated by the seamless transfer of Ethnic Studies Project funds to grow the department, and improve inclusive curricula, pedagogy, and practice.
  • Hire a Chief Diversity Officer to coordinate DEI efforts who is committed to creating system-wide equity and improving the conditions for all of SRJC’s underrepresented community members. This Chief Diversity Officer must be hired by a committee composed of Ethnic Studies faculty, SRJC students, as well as representatives of underrepresented communities at SRJC. 
  • Protect SRJC faculty, students, and staff attending Ethnic Studies courses with a Community Advocate trained in de-escalation methods for safety.“

Santos finished his email by saying, “In the Ethnic Studies Department’s urgent desire to concretize structural change at SRJC, we specifically call for a meeting with SRJC’s Board of Trustees, its President, its Union’s and Academic Senate’s leadership, and its Student Government leadership by April 30, 2024,” Moises Santos said.

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About the Contributors
Hana Seals
Hana Seals, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hana Seals (she/her) is in her fourth semester at Santa Rosa Junior College, and is preparing to transfer to a four-year school with a major in Journalism. She mainly covers breaking news, community issues and local crime. Outside of writing she spends her time watching documentaries, drawing and opening time with friends and family. Professional content consumer.
Jesus Lopez Cruz
Jesus Lopez Cruz, Reporter
Jesus Lopez Cruz is in his third semester of taking The Oak Leaf. He's majoring in journalism and hoping to transfer to Chico State in 2026. Holds hopes to move to Nashville Tennessee and find a reporter job there.

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    MannyApr 4, 2024 at 11:28 pm

    I think Steven Fichera was correct and what he said. Majority of people think that’s the way Stephens does. People should be hired based on their ability and experience, not the color of the skin. Even black and brown people want to be hired based on their achievements, expertise, education, and skill. Majority of society is very tired of the few that speak out and the majority that are afraid to speak out against this DEI stuff. Stephen, and anyone who believes everyone should be hired on ability, is not racist. We don’t care what color is hired. Just make sure you are the best person for the job.