Lookout Update: Cabrillo College down to 85 suggested new names for school

The football field at Cabrillo College
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

A task force of Santa Cruz County community members has narrowed a list of 350 new names for Cabrillo College to 85, with three meetings left before it announces its top three to five choices to the public this summer.

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Lookout Update on Cabrillo College renaming

A task force of Santa Cruz County community members, which has been helping select a new name for Cabrillo College, has narrowed a list of about 350 potential new names down to 85 as of Monday evening.

The 24-member task force has three more meetings — the next one on Friday — before the college will announce the top three to five names during community forums this summer. The forums will be the first time the school publicly releases a list of potential names.

After the forums, the task force will meet again before making a recommendation to the Cabrillo College governing board. The board plans to vote and adopt a new name at its August meeting.

Board members Christina Cuevas and Adam Spickler, who have made up the subcommittee leading the name-exploration process since 2020, described their progress and next steps during the governing board’s regular meeting Monday night.

“Our discussions have been really very, very fruitful,” said Cuevas. “I just feel very positive about the direction of the task force and looking forward to the next meetings.”

In 2020, the college launched its name-change process after a community petition called on the school to change its name in light of the history of its eponym, explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Because his explorations of the California coast contributed to the enslavement and colonization of the region, the college’s governing board voted in November 2022 to change the name, saying that the name doesn’t reflect the values and mission of the college.

That decision then launched a name-selection process that included seeking community members to serve on the name-selection task force, which held its first meeting April 7.

Cuevas told Lookout after the April 7 meeting that the guiding ideas in selecting a new name include diversity, inclusiveness and social justice. The selection framework also emphasizes selecting a name that reflects both that the college is a Hispanic Serving Institution and that the college serves students and faculty from across the county and at two campus locations — Aptos and Watsonville.

She said the task force wants to strive for what the founders tried to do, which was how to “find a name that’s unifying, not divisive.”

The college solicited name suggestions from the community through a survey and then eliminated names of individuals, names already used by other colleges and potentially offensive names. From there, the college presented 350 names to the community task force at its first meeting April 7.

At that meeting, the task force agreed on its guiding principles and process to narrow down that list over the next several months to about three to five. The members then brought their top 10 names from the list of 350 to the April 21 meeting.

During their second meeting, they discussed challenges to selecting names that reflect the entire geographic area the college serves and that appeal to new students. They also talked about the need to engage tribal leaders regarding the appropriate use of potential Indigenous names. The group is now choosing its top five names out of a narrowed list of 85 names to discuss at the next meeting on Friday.

The group’s meetings are closed to the public. Its members, said Spickler, are asked to describe why and how they felt a name that they chose fits their guiding framework and the college’s mission.

“People are going to have to really negotiate with each other and justify choices,” he said.

They’ll continue to use the same framework to cut down to a smaller list of potential names to then present to the community forums over the summer. The subcommittee and task force haven’t decided meeting dates and locations for the forums yet.


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