Cabrillo College derives its name from the 16th Century explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, an expedition leader who visited several prominent locations on the California Coast in the service of Spain in 1542. Cabrillo's voyage included stops in San Diego Bay and Monterey Bay. The college sits on the homeland of the indigenous Awaswas and Mutsun communities who were taken by force to Missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during the Spanish colonization of the Monterey Bay region. Today, their descendants form the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, and they maintain close ties to this land. The college was named during an era when colonizers and their stories were commemorated and valued above those of indigenous peoples. For example, in 1935, the state legislature designated September 28 as "Cabrillo Day" to provide an annual recognition of Cabrillo's exploration of the California coast. Similarly, portions of State Route 1 are identified as part of the "Cabrillo Highway." The college was named not long after that state highway designation, resulting in the title Cabrillo College.
I felt blindsided by not only the decision, but also the way it was justified. After earlier offering community members a chance to express their opinion (which resulted in a majority stating their wish that the name not be changed) the board dismissed that result as coming from “older persons” and voted 6-1 to change the name.
The trustees justified their votes as something that “other colleges” were doing. Besides, they said, “majorities aren’t always right.” Maybe not, but using ageism (“older persons”) to combat racism is just flat-out wrong. And I was further saddened by hearing Trustees declare that they felt “ashamed” to be associated with the college.
An Open Letter to the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees and President Matt Wetstein:
The Five Names.
I was disappointed with the five names the committee is trolling around the county. They have the overall feeling of being developed by a committee, which, of course, they are. Committee processes winnow. In fact that’s exactly the way it was described – several hundred submitted names being winnowed down to five with all personalities and edges removed by the process. Like cheese.
Interestingly, in direct defiance of the rules you instituted, 20% of the submissions suggested keeping Cabrillo. Imagine the result if Cabrillo had been permitted?
In the public sessions I attended, most personal choices were prefaced by the phrase, “Well, if we MUST replace the present name, then, I pick …”
None of the five winnowed names have even a hint of the breadth, reach and yes, diversity of the college district. One name in particular (Santa Cruz Coast), reflects an insensitivity to the rivalry between Santa Cruz and the Pajaro Valley.
- Donna Ziel, Area One - email@example.com
- Adam Spickler, Area 2 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Christina Cuevas, Area 3 - email@example.com
- Rachel Spencer, Area 4 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Martha Vega, Area 5 - email@example.com
- Dr. J. Dan Rothwell, Area 6 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Steve Trujillo, Area 7 - email@example.com