President Lamb reinforces Zero Tolerance Policy for Racism at DVC


Susan Lamb reflects on the recent steps taken to combat racism on campus. (The Inquirer file).

Pavlina Markova, Features editor

Following the racist graffiti that showed up in a Diablo Valley College bathroom last month, The Inquirer caught up with President Susan Lamb for a wide-ranging discussion about disciplinary actions targeting racism at the school, how politics influence campus culture, and whether addition of surveillance cameras could prevent future acts of copycat graffiti.

The individual responsible for the most recent graffiti remains at large, according to Lamb. In June, Lamb confirmed by email that police had caught the suspect involved in posting racist graffiti on campus in the spring. But after police turned him over to the district attorney’s office, the individual wasn’t prosecuted. 

Contra Costa County District Attorney spokesperson Scott Alonso told the Mercury News that because the suspect held no previous record and had agreed to write a letter apologizing for his action, all charges were dropped.

The Inquirer has sought a copy of the letter, but no college administration official has been able to provide one so far. Lamb said she herself hadn’t read it.

“I have not seen it…. I’m not sure if he wrote it to the college, or who?” she said. She also noted that “he might have written it to the (district attorney’s) office.”

As for the disciplinary action taken by the school, Lamb said that the individual has been removed from the campus. According to her, he could have faced up to three years dismissal from the college or full expulsion.

“He is not on campus, I can tell you that… I can’t say specifically what happened to that individual, but I will say that we take this very seriously.”

Surveillance cameras on campus

In an attempt to improve campus security and prevent future cases of racist vandalism, the administration are in the process of installing more surveillance cameras around the college. The cameras will both provide better coverage of graffiti and other misconduct incidents and also help police services to identify the individuals responsible, according to Lt. Ryan Huddleston.

But as Lamb noted, increased surveillance brings its own complex set of problems. 

“There are two sides to the issue. One side says, ‘Well, we need cameras everywhere.’ The other side says, ‘Whoa, I don’t want cameras everywhere,'” said Lamb.

In response, the college is working to find a middle ground between having too few and too many cameras, and is carefully deciding their placement. Administrators are meanwhile seeking to consider students’ level of comfort or discomfort with the presence of additional cameras.

“I think we need to have that conversation as a college and say, ‘Okay, where does it make sense to put them?’” said Lamb, who noted that the surveillance technology “can add some psychological security” as well as physical security to students on campus.

Political Climate impacts campus climate

Although DVC isn’t the only place where racism has impacted a community, today’s divisive political climate has had a clear influence on the way hate has started to spread on campus according to Lamb. 

“Bullying and hate and lack of tolerance is viewed as a positive thing (in politics today),” said Lamb. “Any time when we set up negative qualities as something to strive towards, I think it’s bound to have a negative impact.” 

Lamb reaffirmed that people coming from different countries and backgrounds are an important addition to American society, and to the DVC culture in particular.

“We have a long history of immigration and that has traditionally been our strength,” said Lamb. “So to suddenly be in a situation where we are not valuing the very things that make us a strong country, I think it creates stress, I think it creates uncertainty, I think it creates fear, and I don’t think we’re our best when there’s fear, uncertainty, stress, hate, and divisiveness.”

Individuals and institutions aren’t the only ones impacted by today’s toxic politics. The country as a whole also suffers, Lamb said.

“When there is a value of belittlement and bullying and racism … I don’t think that’s really healthy for us as a country,” she said. “Those characteristics on a national level are really unhealthy.”

Despite the negative message that has been sent from the racist graffiti, Susan Lamb expressed support for students who have been impacted. “We are your allies and we stand against this racist hate,” she said.