The Cabrillo College board of trustees in the packed Horticultural Center on Aug. 7.
The Cabrillo College board of trustees in the packed Horticultural Center on Aug. 7.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Cabrillo College

With delay in Cabrillo College renaming, what are supporters and opponents of the change planning?

More public engagement around the proposed name change, and a possible new survey, are under consideration by Cabrillo College trustees. Keeping the Cabrillo name is not. Meanwhile, opponents of the name change say they have not settled on a new strategy.

Ten days ago, the Cabrillo College board of trustees voted to delay the school’s renaming process, deciding to consider an updated plan at its Nov. 6 meeting.

That Aug. 7 meeting lasted more than 2½ hours and elicited many passionate views — for and against the renaming. Now, as three months loom before that November meeting, what are the supporters and opponents planning to do in that span?

In short, the board’s renaming-process leaders are beginning to plan new rounds of public engagement, while opponents are waiting to see what comes out of their plans.

The board’s name-exploration subcommittee, led by trustees Christina Cuevas and Adam Spickler, aims to emphasize more in-person communication about the name change and consider new surveys to gauge community sentiment. It could also add either one or several board members to the subcommittee, on which Cabrillo President Matt Wetstein serves as secretary.

Explained Wetstein, “What we’ve learned — not that all the Zoom meetings weren’t useful — but I think when people are in a room together for an hour and a half or two hours, and asked to engage with the issues and talk to each other and listen, it’s a better environment for engagement on issues like this than Zoom.”

Cuevas said that when the public attended three community forums, held in June and July, regarding the new name candidates, the level of engagement and listening improved.

“We saw that in the forums that we had this summer — the tone of those conversations was really very different from some of what we were hearing from people in their emails or in the newspaper,” she said. “People stopped and listened, and we actually heard people change their minds.”

Cuevas and Spickler both said that the subcommittee will neither consider whether to keep the name Cabrillo nor the question of putting the renaming on a ballot.

“I think the message that we heard from our task force and from our board is that the decision that the board made originally in November to change the name, was the right decision,” said Cuevas. “The timing has not been good. So what we’re now considering is the selection time, not about shifting that decision.”

Community members listen to a discussion of the five potential new names for Cabrillo College on the school's Aptos campus.
Community members listen to a discussion of the five potential new names for Cabrillo College on the school’s Aptos campus in June.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

About the ballot option, Spickler offered his view that, historically, before a ballot measure produces a result that is socially just, a long period of active public education has to happen — as was the case for marriage equality.

“There are models for that all over the place — it’s not just something that I’m espousing,” he said. “When you look at other minority issues that have gone that far, they do so with a long education campaign.”

As the subcommittee proceeds, opponents say they are anxiously awaiting updates.

At the college’s early August meeting, some opponents called for a public vote, presumably in a 2024 election. Others have brought up the idea of recalling board members who voted 6-1 to move ahead with the name change.

Lookout reached out to several opponents, but none said they were aware of any related organizing.

Former Cabrillo College history professor Sandy Lydon said he’s waiting to see what will happen and that he isn’t aware of opponents starting any campaigns.

“I think the challenge for the trustees — including the subcommittee — is to restore some sense of trust, which they broke in November 2022 when they made the decision,” he said.

Linda Burroughs, former president of the Cabrillo College Foundation board and current Santa Cruz Symphony board president, said she hopes the college will keep the name. She added that while she’s heard rumors of people wanting a recall or a ballot measure, she doesn’t know of any campaigning or organizing at this point.

Earleen Overend, a Cabrillo College Foundation donor, said she hasn’t heard of anyone working toward recalling candidates — adding that it would take a “huge amount of effort,” but it could be done.

“I would love for them to put it on a ballot,” she said. “But that would cost money.”

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