Is it acceptable to say you stand against racial discrimination, and support law enforcement at the same time? There certainly seem to be voices these days that suggest the two positions must be mutually exclusive. However, at Cleveland State we believe you can both stand for racial justice and support law enforcement with respect and integrity.
Cleveland State Community College has been running its Law Enforcement Training Academy since 1990. Regarded as one of the best programs of its kind in the Southeast they have been providing basic police training for law enforcement agencies throughout our region. This summer we will graduate our 80th class of cadets. That means well over 2,000 officers have been trained to meet the needs of our community citizens. To support them further we are remodeling new offices and classrooms on campus to help the program continue its commitment toward excellence.
Cleveland State was also one of the first community colleges in the state of Tennessee to establish a campus police department. This was done with the understanding that POST certified officers provide the best protection for our students, employees and guests at our very public campus. We are proud that our former Campus Police Chief, Mike Hodges, is now the director of our Law Enforcement Training Academy.
I will also note that Cleveland State has a strong history of training first responders of many kinds. Our nursing program has been a strong and significant part of our history. We also excel in our training of EMT and paramedic professionals. Within six months, all of these programs will benefit from training in our new Health & Science Center.
We are also proud that we are the host of the annual Cleveland 100 Banquet. We support the organization by providing our facilities and event management at no cost. This allows Cleveland 100 to focus its resources toward recognizing local officers for their heroic performance and supporting the families of officers who are killed or injured in the line of duty.
Still, it is no surprise to us that our campus community is also dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. While these are values in which we have always believed, we also understand we must do a better job of reducing success gaps for underrepresented groups and creating a campus community that is more inclusive.
To support this effort we hired Mr. Willie Thomas a year ago to serve as our first chief diversity officer. As part of our new Vision 2025 Plan, we have created our first Equity Plan to guide our efforts for years to come.
Recently, we have been encouraging a campus conversation on race and justice in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. Through multiple forums, we are listening and sharing views from many employees as well as students.
We have had panel discussions and created our social media series titled “We Hear You: Voices of Cleveland State.” Nationally recognized speaker on issues of racism and equity, Derek Young was the keynote speaker for our 2020 virtual commencement. We have also arranged for Franklin McCallie to present at our all-employee in-service before the start of the fall semester. His story of building meaningful relationships between blacks and whites in our region is inspirational.
While these efforts are admirable, we want to develop lasting cultural change for our college. We have the vision, now we need to invest ourselves in the work that will make the vision a reality.
A college like Cleveland State can serve as a fine example of being respectful, inclusive and tolerant. We are without question multi-faceted in terms of our programs of study, our people and values. As a reflection of this, we greatly value law enforcement while at the same time standing firmly for racial justice.
Dr. Bill Seymour
President of Cleveland State Community College