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Cabrillo College Trustees Vote to Change Name

By Mary Andersen

After a two-year process, Cabrillo’s governing board voted Monday, November 14 to accept the recommendation of students, faculty, staff, and an exploration committee to change the name of the college. A new name will be selected by August 2023 and implemented at the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year. 

The movement was launched in 2020 by advocates critical of the institution’s name in honor of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the European explorer with a history of brutal subjugation of indigenous people and their lands in Central and North America. 

“After reading the extensive report prepared by the Board Name Exploration Subcommittee and conducting a robust discussion during the Board meeting, our Board of Trustees decided that the right action at this time is to change the name of Cabrillo College,” said Donna Ziel, Board Chair. “As stated in the report, the harm caused by colonial expansion is real and it is a harm that represents transgenerational trauma to this day. As many people pointed out during the community dialogues, now that we know the name Cabrillo does continuing harm to members of the College’s public, we have a responsibility to correct that harm.”

Cabrillo was suggested as the name for the college in 1959 by Santa Cruz Sentinel columnist Wally Trabing. The selection was buoyed by the vibe at the time of elevating colonialists as vaunted “discoverers” of lands for European conquest with little regard for the sovereignty of native inhabitants and their cultures. The name was also considered neutral given the campus’s location midway between Santa Cruz and Watsonville and the rivalry between the two cities.

“In reaching its recommendation, the Board Name Exploration Subcommittee adhered to its core principles of aligning with the mission of being critical thinkers; ensuring we did the kind of deep critical thinking that is expected of an institution of higher education,” said Christina Cuevas, Board Name Exploration Subcommittee Chair. “We conducted rigorous outreach to ensure all voices, demographics, and perspectives had an opportunity to receive the information and voice an opinion, and prioritized historically underrepresented and emerging student populations. This was an incredibly thorough and academically rigorous process, and I feel like all involved learned something significant about the namesake of Cabrillo College,” continued Cuevas. 

The change will come at a significant cost to the college as its signage, print collateral, athletic uniforms, and other branding will have to be replaced. But the subcommittee determined that the benefits outweighed the costs. 

Cabrillo’s President Dr. Matt Wetstein and the subcommittee will continue to seek public input on a new name prior to the final board vote in 2023. 

“I’m really proud of the education and outreach effort that the College engaged in and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to have strong community input moving forward, as we work to select a new name for this great College,” said Trustee Adam Spickler and member of the Board Name Exploration Subcommittee.

To read the Board Name Exploration Subcommittee Report, visit

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