Cabrillo College's Aptos campus from above.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Cabrillo College

Cabrillo College unveils shortlist of potential new names

At a community meeting Wednesday at Cabrillo College’s Aptos campus, officials unveiled five potential new names for the school: Aptos College, Cajastaca College, Costa Vista College, Seacliff College and Santa Cruz Coast College. There will be two more public forums before Cabrillo’s governing body is slated to vote on a new name.

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Cabrillo College revealed a shortlist of five potential new names for the school Wednesday evening.

They are: Aptos College, Cajastaca College, Costa Vista College, Seacliff College and Santa Cruz Coast College.

Cabrillo President Matt Wetstein and other campus leaders revealed the names publicly for the first time at a community forum attended by about 60 people at the community college’s Aptos campus.

The unveiling comes after a 24-member name selection task force narrowed a list of about 350 names down to five during a series of private meetings in April and May.

The task force plans to launch a survey for the public to vote on their top choices among the five names. Cabrillo’s governing board is scheduled to vote on a new name in August.

In its presentation to community members, the task force said the name Aptos spoke to the location of the campus and also acknowledged the region’s Indigenous history — Aptos were among the larger tribes of the Awaswas people and the word is an Ohlone term that means “the people.”

The name was popular with students in mass communications classes, the task force added, but might be seen by some in the community as “geographically exclusive.”

Cajastaca College (pronounced Cay-ya-stockah) honors the first inhabitants of the area surrounding the college. It is named for a village of the Aptos Tribe, which is believed to have been located at the site of Aptos Village and the entry to the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. Its English translation means “place of the jackrabbits.”

The task force said it preferred Cajastaca over other potential names referencing the college’s geography and Indigenous roots: Aulinta and Calendurac.

Costa Vista (translated as “Coast View”) pays homage to the region’s natural landscape and Spanish roots without making a specific geographic reference. Members of the task force said they consistently ranked it highly through multiple rounds of voting. It also “maintains a ‘C’ for the college’s athletics program,” the task force added.

Referencing the unincorporated area near the college’s Aptos campus, the name Seacliff “identifies the location of the campus while also invoking the ocean and a view from a cliff,” task force members said. But they added that, like Aptos, the name could be seen as geographically exclusive as it doesn’t reflect the entire district.

Task force members noted that the name Santa Cruz Coast College “might enhance marketing and brand potential” for the college given its clear association with Santa Cruz. But they added that the name Santa Cruz, which translates to “Holy Cross,” carries a religious connotation that could be a drawback for some.

Cabrillo College started its name-exploration process in 2020 after receiving a community petition to change its name. The board of trustees voted in November to change the name of the community college, citing the continuing harm the school’s namesake, European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, has on students because of the legacy of colonialism.

Cabrillo, who historians say was born either in Spain or Portugal, led an expedition to the California coast in 1542. His exploration and the description of the West Coast from that trip is considered the first European written record of that region and helped pave the way for the colonial conquest of California and the violent treatment and enslavement of Native people.

The Cabrillo College campus in Aptos

Upcoming Cabrillo College renaming community forums

  • Wednesday, June 28, 6 p.m. at Cabrillo’s Watsonville Center, Room A-130, 318 Union St. in Watsonville

  • Wednesday, July 12, 6 p.m. at the Felton Library, 6121 Gushee St. in Felton

A subcommittee of the board made up of members Christina Cuevas and Adam Spickler led the research into the history of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and what other colleges have done when they decided to change a name. The subcommittee then sought name suggestions from the community and appointed community members to serve on the name selection task force.

The next two community forums will take place at 6 p.m. on June 28 at Cabrillo College’s Watsonville Center, located at 318 Union St. in Watsonville and at 6 p.m. on July 12 at the Felton Library located at 6121 Gushee St. in Felton.

Following the last community forum, the task force will meet one last time July 28. During that meeting, members will discuss the feedback from the community and then decide which name (or names) to recommend to the college’s governing board.

The group’s recommendation will be published the Thursday before the governing board’s Aug. 7 meeting — when the board is scheduled to vote on a new name. It’s possible that the task force includes more than one name in its recommendation to the board.

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