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

In tense meeting, Cabrillo College votes to put off renaming until at least 2028

After a lengthy and heated discussion Monday night, Cabrillo College’s governing board voted 6-1 to delay any talk of renaming the college until at least 2028.

The Cabrillo College governing board voted 6-1 Monday night to delay any talk of renaming the college until at least 2028.

A subcommittee of the board recommended last week that the board delay renaming the college and instead start focusing next month on developing programs, services and courses that support Indigenous and Native students.

Trustee Steve Trujillo was the lone trustee to vote against the recommendation.

“The idea of postponing this five years is utterly ridiculous,” he said. “That’s like kicking the can down the road.”

Board chair Adam Spickler said he feels that allowing the community five more years to discuss the issue will be productive and help many people better understand why the board made its decision to change the name.

“Let’s spend five years talking about it,” he said. “I think we will see some phenomenal change.”

College leaders have faced mounting criticism of the decision to drop the name of 16th-century European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and the public consultation process the college has used since it started exploring the idea of a name change more than three years ago.

Both name-change supporters and opponents were vocal in public sessions, letters to the editor and on social media. Several major donors, upset by what they felt was a lack of community engagement before the school voted to change its name last fall, told Lookout in July that they were weighing whether to stop donating to Cabrillo College Foundation, the nonprofit that raises as much as $6 million annually for student scholarships and programs.

Board members also voted to end the current Name Exploration Subcommittee and launch a new subcommittee of the board in October. That subcommittee will lead the development of the programs, courses, as well as plans to establish an endowed professor position in Indigenous and Native studies at the college.

Lookout coverage of efforts to rename Cabrillo College.

The Cabrillo College governing board first received a petition to change the name in 2020. The board then created the subcommittee, which launched months of research and community engagement events leading up to their recommendation last fall to change the name of the school.

During their November 2022 meeting, board members voted by a majority to rename the college and to choose a new name by August. But instead, ahead of a meeting last month, a community task force recommended Cabrillo not change its name because of how divisive the issue had become in the community.

On Monday night, the board heard just over an hour of public comment from more than a dozen people. Many who support the name change said they were disappointed the subcommittee was recommending the delay, but some also thanked the committee for their work. Those against the name change thanked the committee for the recommendation to delay.

Trujillo made a motion to shorten the timeline to 11 months. It “doesn’t take five years to educate a county of this size,” he said. No other trustee supported the motion so it failed.

Trustee Christina Cuevas emphasized that the subcommittee remains committed to the name change.

“I know that many people were surprised by the recommendation,” to rename the college, she said. But she added that she thinks it’s the right decision to delay to give the community time to engage in person.

Trustee Rachael Spencer said she loved the five-year plan — partly because by 2028, each of the trustees will have been up for reelection. She said she felt that people need a clear mind to move forward with the process and that a chance for the community to vote for its board after the name change process could help people feel like they’re starting with a “clean slate.”

“It’s going to be five years of turmoil,” she added.

Spencer motioned to add a statement to the recommendation that the board rescind its decision to change the name and agree not to rename the college. Trustee Martha Vega seconded Spencer’s motion, saying that delaying the decision was a bad idea. No other trustees support the motion, so it also failed.

Trustee Dan Rothwell said the one concern he has about the whole issue is the lack of funding.

“So to me, the delay makes a heck of a lot of sense,” he said. “We don’t have the money. And if we don’t have the money first, this is just a verbal exercise.”

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