Cabrillo College board members say name-change process prioritizes community feedback, college’s values

Cabrillo College's Aptos campus
(Thomas Sawano / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Cabrillo College is embarking on the second phase of its name-change process: proposing and approving a new name. This week, officials began publicizing a survey — open to anyone — to solicit new names for the school. Trustees Christina Cuevas and Adam Spickler gave an update on the process.

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A Q&A with Cabrillo College trustees Christina Cuevas and Adam Spickler

Cabrillo College is embarking on the second phase of its name-change process: proposing and approving a new name.

This week, officials began publicizing a survey — open to anyone — to solicit new names for the school. The survey, which closes Feb. 22, also calls on community members to apply to be part of a 25-member advisory group that will narrow the list of suggestions to submit to the board in August.

Two members of the college’s governing board, Christina Cuevas and Adam Spickler, form the subcommittee that for the past two years has been leading the research and community engagement efforts on whether or not to change the name. In November, they recommended that the board change its name, and the majority of the board agreed. Now they’re leading the effort to come up with a new name for the board to vote on.

“We’re suggesting that it not be an individual’s name,” said Cuevas, speaking on the single parameter for suggestions. “Geographic, cultural — something other than an individual’s name is what we’re going to be looking for.”

They spoke with Lookout to discuss their thoughts on the controversial decision to change the name, how they envision the renaming process might go, and why a new name won’t change the college’s place in the community.

After the survey closes, Cuevas and Spickler, as well as Cabrillo College President Matt Wetstein, spokesperson Kristin Fabos and Cabrillo College Foundation Executive Director Eileen Hill, will help review and select the members of the task force. Cuevas and Spickler said they want the body to have representation from a wide variety of groups, such as two current Cabrillo students and two faculty members, two alumni, two Cabrillo Foundation members, and people from the wider Santa Cruz County community.

Once selected, the members will meet five times to narrow a list of names, eventually to three to five options. Cuevas said the group will meet March 10, April 7, April 21, May 5 and May 19. A trademark lawyer will then review the name options to make sure there are no conflicts.

Following those meetings, in late May or early June, they’ll host at least one in-person community forum to discuss the final list of names. Then the name change task force will select one, or multiple, names to propose to the board.

Cuevas and Spickler also acknowledge that there are still many people in the community who are against changing the name, and that a majority of respondents of an earlier survey said they wanted to keep the name Cabrillo.

Lookout asked Cuevas and Spickler about their decision to support the name change despite opposition and what they could say so far about the process to come up with a new name.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Lookout: The survey results show the majority of people surveyed should keep the name. So why change it?

Adam Spickler: I think Trustee Dan Rothwell really put it best. ... When members of our community hold fast to something emotionally near and dear to their hearts, when held up to the mission of our college, for example, it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. But it’s understandable that there are folks in our community who have a real emotional, significant connection with the name of our college. They’ve brought up concerns that I think, on their own, make a lot of sense.

I think that those concerns, while they make sense, were voiced prior to Christina and I having the ability through our recommendation, to say, “We’ve been hearing these concerns all along. We understand them, we see the validity and we want to try to find a win-win which is to meet those concerns around the cost, around preserving the good name and standing of the college and the ways in which our name is really infused with our community. We want to try to find the win-wins and preserve as much as possible, pay for this without impacting the students or the college as much as possible and yet still do the right thing.”

As Rothwell said, sometimes the community isn’t necessarily going to agree. Just because there was a loud voice, that doesn’t make it the right voice. That’s a really tough thing to say because some of those loud voices are people I respect greatly, and I don’t mean to dismiss their feelings or say that they in and of themselves are not right. Our majority board voted in disagreement with them on this issue.

Lookout: How did you decide to have 25 people on the name-change task force?

Christina Cuevas: We had an advisory task force working with us earlier in Phase 1, and we wanted to again be more inclusive and engage more people in this next process.

Spickler: We’re also not inventing a new wheel here. We’ve been lucky in that other colleges around the nation have done this. We’ve been able to review, meet with and discuss with a number of other colleges who are now a year or two into having chosen a new name.

We’ve heard about their process, we’re taking a little bit of what sounded like has been real successful for them. We’ve also been figuring out how to take that and fine-tune it and make it fit our region and our community college’s needs. That’s our approach in putting this next task force together: We’ve heard how important it is to have wide involvement and that’s been our experience going through this whole process. It feels like now is the time. This is the right juncture to have “bigger is better.”

Lookout: How will they be selected?

Spickler: We’ve not really specified criteria. Let’s wait and see if we’re lucky enough to find [someone from] each group of folks or stakeholder group that we’d like to make sure is represented. Perhaps we’ll get more than two. Maybe what happens is kind of a natural form of selection where, as it turns out, there’s in fact only one person who’s actually available to attend all five meetings. So we’re actually going to look to backfill that, where it looks like we had five applicants for that one group.

It’ll be Christina and myself, but also President Matt Wetstein, [spokesperson] Kristin Fabos has been involved in our stakeholder group, the director for our Cabrillo Foundation, Eileen Hill, has been directly involved. It’s not just us in a bubble. But it’s not a large group who’s going to be looking at these names either to say who joins us in this next leg of selecting the name.

Jules Sherriff on the steps at Cabrillo College on Nov. 22, 2021.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Lookout: The board has said it intends to use an “iterative” process to choose the name. What does that look like?

Cuevas: I think that’s still to be determined in that first meeting where you set parameters around values and principles and how we’re going to operate. That’ll become more clear then. But we haven’t said, “This is exactly how we’re going to facilitate that process.”

Spickler: It could be a Google Drive form. It could be everybody in your own manner, bring your top five [name choices], and one of us will be [a] scribe during the meeting. We haven’t gotten quite that specific yet.

Lookout: Is there anything else about this process that you think people should understand?

Spickler: I feel like it’s worth saying the timing is really interesting. Since having the board vote and making this decision, and moving through this first leg of Phase 2, we’ve also, as a community, faced this incredible atmospheric river storm disaster where our college, per usual, stepped up to be an evacuation site for countless people in our community.

I feel like when you asked, “Is there anything else we’ve learned?”, taking that bigger step back, looking at the big picture of the name-change process and decision juxtaposed with all that our college is in our community. And how, Lord knows, of any of the folks impacted by the storm who wound up at Cabrillo for evacuation support, where they felt in this name-change process. And the likelihood that the services they received reminded them that no matter what happens as we move through this process and rename the college, the college is still there for our community in every way that matters. It always will be, for everyone.

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