Students who participated in the Social Justice in Action
Retreat have returned to Mills demanding access and equity and
opened the floor to a new discussion, “Am I Mills?”
Fifteen students representing various ethnicities and
backgrounds retreated to the Marin Headlands from March 26 to March
28 to increase self awareness of multiple identities, increase
coalition building, foster a Mills community, incorporate personal
and global stories into learning and create a plan of action for
social justice inside and outside of Mills.
“The 15 students have enthusiasm for Mills and its possibilities
and are working to spread that enthusiasm to the entire Mills
community,” said Lisa McRipley, director of student diversity
programs and co-organizer of the retreat.
As a result of discussions throughout the retreat, a new
organization was formed called the Equity and Access Committee. The
committee was created to ensure that people of color and people of
low-income/working-class backgrounds have access to attend Mills
College. The recent tuition increase has prompted a heightened
concern in this area.
“We want equity and access to Mills for every student. Obviously
with the tuition increase, we will be losing many students who are
an asset to Mills,” said Daisy Gonzales, a freshwoman.
The committee is also creating strategies to make resources for
current students more accessible by analyzing the strategic plan
and school budget reports. The group has also set up meetings with
campus resources such as the President, the Provost and Financial
McRipley said, “Another goal for the committee is providing
access for Mills students to get connected to the Oakland community
and that Oakland residents have access to our campus as well.”
The “Am I Mills?” campaign is another outcome of the Social
Justice in Action retreat. Several students have been seen on
campus wearing t-shirts or stickers bearing the question.
“We came up with this theme because at times we question whether
or not we are part of the Mills community. We countered the “I am
Mills” campaign that the college uses with “Am I Mills?” to
encourage dialogue among students,” said retreat facilitator LeAnna
Perez, a senior.
One result of this dialogue is a petition sponsored by Perez
targeted to Mills College President Janet Holmgren requesting
yearly mandatory diversity and sensitivity training for all staff
and faculty. The petition states that, “In line with Mills College
stated commitment to diversity and retention it is necessary to
train all entering and current staff and faculty members in order
to better prepare them to deal with issues of racism, classism,
sexism, heterosexism, and ableism that occur on campus and that may
occur within themselves.”
Other future plans resulting from the retreat are underway. “In
the weeks to come and next semester, we will distribute a chart of
the “hierarchy” of Mills – who and where you go to in order to get
things done. We will also be creating a SJIA [Social Justice in
Action] web site and list serve,” said Perez.
McRipley said, “The evaluations of the program and comments from
the participants proved that we achieved all of our goals.”
“We really became close and created community that I still feel
is present. There were also a lot of really articulate and smart
freshwomen, which was outstanding because they will pick up where
others left off,” said facilitator Veronica Williams, a junior.
“We had amazing conversations that allowed us to realize that we
were all there for one reason, to make the world a better place by
starting with Mills,” said Gonzales.
For more information on the Equity and Access Committee e-mail