People’s College Initiative aims democratize campus

The plan consists of four major campus constituents to create change


Skyline College

The Lotus Blossom visualizes the process and newly revamped system.

As the spring semester begins, Skyline College continues to move forward with a new program focused on transforming the school into a healthier learning environment.

The People’s College Initiative (PCI) is a campus-wide plan developed by Skyline President Dr. Melissa Moreno, which was first introduced last semester. The idea revolves around the college’s goal to address challenges in a different way — one that involves almost every major council on campus.

To create more transparency and access within the administration, the PCI has focused on key issues to improve the quality of the decision-making processes. As a part of the democratically-run system, four major goals accompany the initiative.

“I started thinking about the principles upon which community college and the whole system was built on: principles of democracy,” Moreno said. “And we were not functioning as a democracy at Skyline. Now we are and we’re starting to get the democratic wheels turning.”

Creating an antiracist and equitable culture has been a top priority, along with the act of engaging in climate reviews to make sure Skyline’s environmental transformation is up to par with the current scientific suggestions. An emphasis has also been placed on graduating students with civic mindsets. In doing so, participatory governance was formed to make sure each possible organization on campus was heard.

There are four main senates and councils that make up the College Governance Council:

  • Associated Students (ASCC)
  • Classified Senate (CS)
  • Academic Senate (AS)
  • Management Council (MC)

The Classified Senate is responsible for representing the needs, concerns and viewpoints of classified employees at Skyline. The senate raises money for scholarships, produces lesson plans for staff professional developments and provides other general support.

“The classified professionals are excited to be part of this initiative and engage in this critical work in improving our campus culture; becoming an antiracist institution, and developing a civic mindset for our students,” said Sherrie Prasad, president of the CS. “We look forward to helping to create an open and transparent environment where our classified voices will be heard and be able to make an impact.”

When she took over as president in June 2020, Moreno embarked on a year-long listening tour for any noticeable discussion regarding how to improve the campus. In her investigation, she uncovered that many believed there was secrecy and one-way communication happening within the school, creating a strong anti-faculty and anti-administration sentiment.

A negative climate report was sent to Moreno’s desk on her first day as president, a survey that is infamous and usually kept out of the public eye. Moreno, however, released the information for all to see. The move was among the first to trigger transparency with the administration as a key item touched on in the PCI and they feel they’ve been more accessible.

“All of us in the administration are walking the campus and joining students and college hour trying to just be way more approachable and accessible,” Moreno said.

In the first year, Moreno dismantled her cabinet’s votes during College Governance meetings. Since it’s a body that recommends ideas and plans to the president, Moreno felt she was “double-dipping” if the hierarchy wasn’t rebuilt.

Skyline created a diagram of a lotus blossom that visualizes the process and newly revamped system. The college feels that the blossom is symbolic in describing the transformation of the school through the work of the PCI. All of the petals on the design are centered around the aspect of community engagement.

“We are excited to engage in the work with the long-term goal of transparency and increased participatory governance campus-wide,” said Lindsey Ayotte, Academic Senate president and communications professor. “The conversations I have been a part of are looking at the past, and reimagining what a healthy campus climate can and should look like moving forward for students and employees.”

The AS focuses on the philosophy related to all things education. They tend to discuss policies related to grading, curricula, and other development matters. Ayotte says the PCI meetings are in full force and have begun discussing many of the key issues related to campus.

“My goal is to create a future for Skyline that is sustainable, that is created by the people, with the people, for the people that sustain, that’s democratic, that’s fair, that listens to people’s voices far after I’m gone,” Moreno said.