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QCC President Decries Marginalization at Prestigious Barton Lecture

September, 2020
  • QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja stops to visit with a group of QCC students in this 2017 photo.
    QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja stops to visit with a group of QCC students in this 2017 photo.

 Advocating for the under-privileged and underserved has been a hallmark of Quinsigamond Community College President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja’s career. Dr. Pedraja was the recent keynote speaker at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology Barton Lectureship. He spoke on the multiple pandemics plaguing our society in a webinar, “Living in the Margins: Equity, Education, and Theology in the Age of Pandemics.”

The Roy D. Barton Lectureship was established in 1995, to honor Dr. Barton for his service to the seminary and his service to the Hispanic United Methodist Church. Through these lectures, participants have heard from the leading Hispanic/Latino scholars in theological education and church leaders who have made a significant impact on the Hispanic/Latino church and beyond.

“I had the pleasure of working with Roy and considered him a colleague and a friend,” said Dr. Pedraja, who taught religion, philosophy, and theology at SMU from 1994–2000.

Dr. Pedraja’s webinar defined and explored the topic of the "margins," as it relates to economic gaps, changes in ethnic and racial demographics, and the roles of the Church and higher education in the new decade. He focused on the historic racism that has plagued society and looked at racism through the lens of education, addressing issues such as underfunding K-12, diminished resources, lack of educational role models, legacy of segregation, criminalization and labeling, high stakes tests, cost of education and underfunding of minority serving institutions.

“These barriers and many others contribute to the growing equity gap in colleges,” he said.

He used the example of the higher education equity gap in Massachusetts, a state known for its contributions to higher education.

“The college attainment gap between white females and Latino males exceeds 40%. These gaps are not accidental, they are the result of a broken education system that intentionally marginalizes segments of the population,” Dr. Pedraja said, noting the declining state investment in public and higher education for educational institutions that cater to the under-served populations.

Today, community colleges serve close to 50% of all undergraduates in the nation and serve over 30% of minority populations. Dr. Pedraja added that at QCC, the minority percentage is 40%, higher than any other population sector yet in terms of state funding, all 15 community colleges in the Commonwealth only receive 25% of state funding allocation.

“We educate the most, yet we get the least support,” he said.

Addressing why these equity gaps should matter to society, Dr. Pedraja said that beyond the immorality of continuing to allow this to persist, in the aftermath of the pandemic if this continues, the economic gap will continue to grow.

“Education is essential to economic and social stability. In order to dismantle marginalization, we must be as intentional as those who marginalize others. Our task is to equitably and continually expand our notion of ‘we’ until we include those that we define as ‘they,’” he said. “The equity gaps that exist in our society must be acknowledged and dismantled in education and even in theology.”