Dr. Adrien Bennings started her tenure as KCC’s new president on January 6th, just as a controversy was erupting in the community over the actions of the college’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer.   Jorge Zeballos had posted a selfie holding a profanity-laced protest sign, outside the Battle Creek Trump rally.    Many in the community viewed it as just a citizen exercising free speech.  Others felt it was contrary to the mission of the office, and would compromise the college’s efforts toward Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.    Dr. Bennings decided on February 17th to eliminate Zeballos' position of Chief Equity and Inclusion and take over the leadership of those efforts herself.    She was a guest on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins on Wednesday.

She was asked what went through her mind as she was first made aware of the Zeballos controversy as she prepared to move to Battle Creek to start her new job.

“Well, you know, I’m from Texas so it was like, I brought the go big or go home mentality.  It wasn’t anything that I was deterred from.  I would also say that an asset to me being an athlete and a competitor was taking on challenges—whether those are good or bad---just taking it on as a challenge that, at the end of the day, would be overcome.”

Dr. Adrien Bennings, Eric Greene KCC-TSM Photo

Dr. Bennings and Communications Chief Eric Greene were all dressed up in what she likes to call “Swat Swag”:  Black T-shirts with a KCC designed logo with SWAT in big letters.  She said the shirts, worn by the SWAT task force signifies:

  • Our approach must be STRATEGIC
  • Our plan must be WELL informed
  • Our team must be ACTIVELY engaged
  • Our actions must be TENABLE.
Dr. Adrien Bennings, SWAT Shirt KCC-TSM Photo

“The next step will be shaped by the strategic plan.”  She says faculty reviews of their curriculum and syllabi are already in place, to make sure they are equitable. My goal is to have the principles of equity, inclusion, and diversity embedded in the culture, meaning that everyone has accountability.  That might be different in a different context.  Equity and inclusion could be different for HR versus different for a faculty member in the classroom, versus various student demographics and groups.  So, having the principles established and defined and clear so we’re all on the same page and create that unified message is very first and foremost.”

“The community piece is a very critical piece of our strategic plan.  We already have two community sessions already scheduled for March 3rd and 4th.  “Dr. Bennings says that those sessions will be 90 minutes and will be held at 5:15 pm each day at the Kellogg Room at KCC.   “I invite those voices, especially those voices who have been voices with the controversy to come out.  Let’s use your voice in a productive manner, a more productive manner that will shape what that looks like for KCC, and how it can help to shape our strategic plan.”

Dr. Bennings says her long term goal is to “really look at the institution as a whole and take an internal approach to look at:

  • What are we doing?
  • How are we doing it?
  • Are we doing it well?
  • How do we need to change?

Those who would like to RSVP for the March 3rd or 4th community sessions, may do so and choose a session by emailing swat@kellogg.edu.

Dr. Adrien Bennings, SWAT KCC-TSM Photo