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Holy Names University Says it Will Close; Local Leaders Want Campus to Remain Center for Higher Ed

“We have been doing our best to find a partner to keep the university functioning and continue HNU’s mission,” said HNU Board Chairperson Steven Borg in the press release. “While we’ve had interest in long-term collaboration from potential partners, we do not have the type of interest that would sustain HNU in continuing to offer its own programs and services, so we are forced to make the difficult decision to close and designate a transfer institution in the best interest of our students.”

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Aerial view of Holy Names University.
Aerial view of Holy Names University.

HNU’s site could become a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) campus, said Post Publisher Paul Cobb

By Ken Epstein

Holy Names University (HNU), which has served Oakland for 154 years, earning deep respect as one of the nation’s most diverse post-secondary educational centers, offering bachelors’ degrees, training teachers, social workers, and nurses, announced this week it will close permanently at the end of next semester, leaving the city with no major university since the recent loss of Mills College.

Responding to the news, HNU students and staff spoke at Tuesday’s Oakland City Council meeting, seeking to rescue the city’s higher-education pipeline. The council, passing a resolution authored by Councilmember Carroll Fife and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, went on record calling for the university to work with the Oakland community to ensure that the beautiful 60-acre campus can become a home for another university, rather than be sold to a real estate developer to build an exclusive residential enclave.

HNU’s administration, mostly silent as news and rumors about the university swirled around campus for the past few months, deeply worrying staff and students, made the announcement after the school closed last Friday for a holiday break, and no students were around.

The university’s Board of Trustees revealed their plans Monday in a press release produced by Sam Singer public relations. Singer has a long history as an aggressive representative of corporate clients, including Chevron in its legal battle with indigenous communities in Ecuador’s Amazon forests, and Wedgewood, the real estate company that owned the home in West Oakland taken over by Moms for Housing.

According to the press release, the Board of Trustees blamed COVID-19 and an economic downturn that disproportionately impacted HNU students for the university’s predicament.

“HNU has worked tirelessly to find pathways to help continue its mission but was forced by financial circumstances to cancel its NCAA sports programs as of the end of spring season, issue WARN ACT notices to staff beginning Dec. 1, and give layoff notices to 32 employees effective at the end of January/early February,” the press release said.

“We have been doing our best to find a partner to keep the university functioning and continue HNU’s mission,” said HNU Board Chairperson Steven Borg in the press release. “While we’ve had interest in long-term collaboration from potential partners, we do not have the type of interest that would sustain HNU in continuing to offer its own programs and services, so we are forced to make the difficult decision to close and designate a transfer institution in the best interest of our students.”

The press release said HNU is working with Dominican College in San Rafael to offer “specific pathways for students to complete their degrees at Dominican.”

HNU is also talking to other institutions to support the school’s Kodály Music Program and the Raskob Learning Institute and Day School, which “will either operate independently or in partnership with a new institution after this school year,” the press release said.

Explaining the financial hole that is crippling HNU’s operations, Borg said that there is “$49 million in debt on HNU’s property, but as a 65-year-old campus, the costs of deferred maintenance and compliance upgrades could be over $200 million.”

Tuesday’s City Council resolution, written originally while Council members and community leaders still hoped to reach out to the HNU administration to help avert the school’s closure, was modified to emphasize the need to save the campus as a site for a different institution that will graduate Oakland students and provide trained staff for local employers that need well-trained workers who are culturally competent.

The revised resolution said the Council and the community would work with HNU “to ensure that higher education continues at the current site.”

So far, the HNU administration has not responded to city leaders who have reached out with offers to help.

Many HNU staff and students as well as local residents spoke at the council meeting calling for the university to work with the community to continue higher education at the site.

Student Kayla Argueta said, “(Closing HNU) is uprooting lives. I am urging the Council and the community to make sure this stays an education institution. To see HNU closed down or sold to developers is terrifying to think of. It is an incredibly important part of Oakland, and something must be done to make sure the legacy lives on.”

Jim Stryker, chair of the HNU Faculty Senate, told the Council, “Thank you for the resolution. It is deeply appreciated by the faculty, staff, and students.”

Polly Mayer, vice chair of HNU ‘s Faculty Senate, said she was “saddened by the opportunities we are taking away from our students and faculty. It’s really a tragedy to see this educational institution close.”

Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb said, “I would hope the City Council and City of Oakland would work closely with the County of Alameda to support the educational infrastructure of the City of Oakland with hundreds of millions of dollars, like they are now spending on infrastructure for a stadium.”

He suggested they could partner with a Historically Black College or University at the site, “since HNU is the most integrated university in the country right now.”

Rev. Cheryl Ward called for the facility and property to be used for higher education purposes. “We all know there is a lack of education institutions that provide housing. The number of students who are unhoused is unconscionable in this city. Should we consider dismantling higher education in that space, since it provides housing?”

HNU staffer Nancy Schulz said “HNU is a university that really walks its talk. We have community partners and discounted tuition.” It has also provided the region with trained mental health workers.

In her remarks, Councilmember Fife, who attended HNU, said, “It’s an amazing school. It was a safe place and sanctuary for me as a working mom.”

In September, Fife was recognized as the institution’s Alumni of the Year.

Vice Mayor Kaplan said, “It would be incredibly problematic for the community to lose access” to the institution that provides the city with educational opportunities and a well-trained workforce.

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Activism

ICAC Invites Community to Benefit from Safe Car Park Program

The Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) will hold a meeting to announce a faith-based expansion of overnight safe car parking for unhoused families on Thursday, June 13, 2024, from 1-2 p.m. at Williams Chapel Baptist Church located at 1410 10th Avenue in Oakland. The ICAC President, Rev. Ken Chambers, announced that Williams Chapel, pastored by Rev. Kenneth Anderson, and members of ICAC, has also planned to open an overnight safe car parking program and day center to provide unhoused neighbors and families with wrap-around services.

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Chambers said, "ICAC's goal is to just serve Oakland by helping to make the community surrounding 10th Avenue and International Boulevard both welcoming and safe."
Chambers said, "ICAC's goal is to just serve Oakland by helping to make the community surrounding 10th Avenue and International Boulevard both welcoming and safe."

by Post Staff

The Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) will hold a meeting to announce a faith-based expansion of overnight safe car parking for unhoused families on Thursday, June 13, 2024, from 1-2 p.m. at Williams Chapel Baptist Church located at 1410 10th Avenue in Oakland.

The ICAC President, Rev. Ken Chambers, announced that Williams Chapel, pastored by Rev. Kenneth Anderson, and members of ICAC, has also planned to open an overnight safe car parking program and day center to provide unhoused neighbors and families with wrap-around services.

Rev. Chambers said additional support for the program will also come from Bishop Bob Jackson, Pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church and Pastor Phyllis Scott, head of the Oakland Police Chaplaincy Program.

Chambers said, “ICAC’s goal is to just serve Oakland by helping to make the community surrounding 10th Avenue and International Boulevard both welcoming and safe.”

David Longhurst, a member of Oakland Temple LDS Church and an ICAC board member, said

“We can make the city of Oakland safer, one block at a time, by connecting our community and neighbors.”

Chambers said ICAC has a $450,000 grant commitment from the City of Oakland and a $2.5M grant request has been presented to Nate Miley, President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley to cover and expand ICAC’s Safe Car Park Program located at West Side Missionary Baptist Church to additional locations including Center Street Baptist Church, Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, Corinthians Baptist Church, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Acts Full Gospel Church, and other congregations.

Dr. Ken Chambers said he and ICAC are assisting congregations on how to receive a one-time $5,000 grant. “ICAC has plans for several tiny homes with kitchens, living space and bathrooms that we hope will become available this fall in partnership with the State, County and City of Oakland.”

Chambers is appealing to the public to help with transitioning the unhoused populations into tiny homes or affordable housing. “If you or anyone you know is living out of a car and needs a safe place to park overnight, visit interfaithAC.org, call 510-239-6681, or stop by the ICAC hub at 732 Willow Street, Oakland, CA 94607 between the hours of 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.”

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Activism

Calif. Leaders Discuss Foster Care Reform Strategies for Black and Brown Youth

Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

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Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)
Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)

By Lila Brown, California Black Media  

 Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

During National Foster Care Month in May, Harris visited the Sanctuary of Hope in Los Angeles to host a roundtable meeting with current and former foster youth, many of whom, like Harris, have beat the odds and become successful professionals.

According to the federal government’s Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, there are nearly 370,000 American children and youth in foster care.

Nationally, Black children are overrepresented in foster care. According to datacenter.kidscount.org, Black children represented 14% of the total child population in the United States. However, they represented 23% of all children in foster care. Harris pointed out that one out of every four foster youth go homeless upon exiting foster care in California. Across the state, there are nearly 65,000 children in foster care, he added. Of the 65,000 children in foster care across California, 14,000 of them are Black American.

Harris also announced a new effort already underway to push for the removal of the term “case” in L.A. County when referring to foster youth during the roundtable which featured Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Janet Kelly, the Founder and Director of Sanctuary of Hope. The session focused on solving problems foster youth face.

Sharing personal stories, insights, and various visions for policy changes, the participants discussed numerous solutions and addressed specific concerns about ongoing challenges with the foster care system.

One top priority was how to close the foster care to homelessness pipeline for the disproportionate number of Black and Brown children in LA County’s and the state’s foster care system.

“When you see the direct connection between the disproportionate rates of Black children in foster care and the disproportionate rates of Black people in the general homeless population, there is a very clear connection there in which our foster youth are coming out of care,” stated Harris during opening remarks.

Kaka said the governor has been intentional about making sure that foster children are homeless prioritized as the state addresses homelessness.

“This is a critical moment for foster care,” said Kaka. “The systems that are working together are looking at leveraging federal, state and local funds.”

Harris said he has already begun efforts in San Diego County to drop the word “case” when referring to homeless youth.

“We are asking for a 90-day public input period, in which the county CEO and leadership can facilitate discussions with the community on replacement terminology. There’s plenty of ideas,” Harris elaborated.

Kelly said a majority of the youth who go through the Sanctuary of Hope program are young people who have experienced some form of housing instability or housing crisis.

“The goal of the work that we do is really centered around helping young people leave here with leadership skills and other forms of what we call protective factors in order for them to continue on with their stabilization journey and become loving, caring and active citizens in this world,” Kelly said.

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