As I reflected on three recent Community Voices pieces by faculty at Bakersfield College and Bakersfield College’s highlighting of building of bridges between groups as part of the Gandhi 150th celebration, I took another look at BC’s core values and the three-year strategic directions. While some may want to use the Community Voices pieces to further divide people, I think the pieces illustrate BC’s core values and our passion for improving the success of all of our students and transforming lives for the better.

BC’s core values and strategic directions are given at www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/about. The top two strategic directions BC are Student Learning (a commitment to provide a holistic education that develops curiosity, inquiry and empowered learners) and Student Progression & Completion (a commitment to eliminate barriers that cause students difficulties in completing their educational goals). Guided Pathways, Early College, Rural Initiative and Inmate Education are just some of the innovations BC has created to achieve those goals and they come from our core values.

I’ll address four of BC’s six core values that apply most directly to the three pieces. BC’s first core value is Learning, which includes inquiry and critical thinking so that all have a voice and power to transform our community. The second core value is Integrity, which includes placing the collective well-being above the self and creating the environment for open, constructive conversations. The fourth core value is Diversity, which includes the recognition of multiple perspectives and listening to difference experiences to better understand access and barriers to resources and opportunities. The fifth core value is Community, which includes a commitment to the well-being of all members of our community and the democratic engagement of all members of the community (These are just brief summaries!).

In an earlier Community Voices piece, I wrote about finding peoples’ “interests” instead of focusing on their stated “positions” as a way to build bridges. BC’s core values are those common interests. Now, we may come to different positions as illustrated in the three CV pieces but notice that they were all well thought out and respectful of the other. No name-calling or demonizing of the other. You don’t see that on Twitter!

BC is a big institution with more than 33,000 students and more than 1,000 full-time employees that includes more than 350 full-time faculty. It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will be in agreement on every last detail or political view but talk to any of the BC employees and you’ll see they all have a genuine desire and drive for educating our students and improving student success in order to positively transform the communities of Bakersfield, Delano, Arvin, Shafter, Lamont, McFarland, Wasco and more. Those shared interests — shared core values — that engage the heart along with the rigorous intellectual inquiry that engages the mind is why I enjoy working at BC.

In order to sustain our democracy, we need to figure out a way to have a dialogue about controversial issues such that we build each other up and trust that we’ve really heard each other. I think that I can safely say that we should not look to our current crop of political leaders (left, right or center) as models to emulate.

Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi is a much better model recognized worldwide as one to emulate and that’s why we’re celebrating his 150th birthday. He perceived that “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind” and that it’s only “in a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

BC is bringing Paula Green to Bakersfield on Oct. 23 to provide practical examples of how to do this gentle dialogue that “shakes the world” in today’s politically fractured U.S. environment. Her time with us will be another example of BC acting from the core values of learning, integrity, diversity and community.

Nick Strobel is professor astronomy at Bakersfield College and writer of the bi-monthly star-gazing column.