Enter Parker Jean, new AS President. “I had no idea I was going to win.”
Incoming Associated Students President Parker Jean won’t have to go far for leadership advice from outgoing President Harrison Wills.
That’s because they’re roommates.
Even with a ringing endorsement from Wills, victory wasn’t always certain for Jean. “I had no idea I was going to win,” he says, earnestly. “If I thought I would have won, I wouldn’t have campaigned.”
The Texas native beat out Honor Society President Ernie Sevilla and outgoing AS Director of Sustainability Marjohnny Torres-Nativi in a heated election on the heels of tense controversy over the school’s attempted implementation of self-funded classes, a proposal Jean opposes.
Jean was commissioner for President Wills and says he inspired him to run for office earlier this year. “I observed what he did and learned a lot from watching him,” he says. “He really went above and beyond in his position as president.”
Wills endorsed Jean and campaigned with him, which Jean credits as helping him win the election. The two appeared at recent Student Organizing Committee protests together, drumming up support for his platform, which he says is based on “activism and giving the students a voice.”
One of the ways Jean says he’ll help students is through an attempt to restructure the AS. “I’m thinking about rewriting the constitution to give more power to students.” he says. Jean adds that he’d like to delegate more power to the Inter-Club Council, a group that governs campus clubs.
“I’m a little less power-oriented and I think students sense that. I have ideas and goals but I want the students to be able to achieve theirs too.”
Jean says one of the biggest challenges he foresees is figuring out a way to unite the various groups at SMC, including students, faculty, administration and classified employees.
He says plans might include bringing a farmer’s market to the campus, made up of local growers and students. “It’s an opportunity to build community; we’d reach out to SMC clubs to try and get internships for students with the farms.”
Jean says he and Wills have been championing a “sustainable food policy” program for the school that would increase the amount of organic food available in the cafeteria. “It would be a program where we would ask the school to require the vendors to offer a certain amount of organic food,” he says. “If they didn’t adopt the policy, we’d ask the school to not renew their contracts.”
On the issue of SMC’s budget troubles, Jean wants to explore options other than the self-funded Contract Ed program. “It isn’t a solution,” he says. “It’s a bandage on a gaping wound in the crisis of education.” However, Jean says it could be a last-ditch effort to combat cuts only if it was approved through the shared governance program at the college. “I’m battling with it. It’s a difficult call,” he says. “At the end of the day you don’t want the doors to close but I’m worried about the long term effects a program like that would have.”
He says that he thinks the school will probably try Contract Ed again in the fall. “Community College Chancellor [Jack] Scott ruled it illegal.” he says. Though Scott didn’t actually rule on the program, he did publicly say it was not in line with the community college mission statement.
“If I’m not against it, who will bring it to student’s attention?” says Jean.
Jean says he’d support the program if it was structured to charge more for tuition and fees for students who could afford it. “We’d find out how much they make and take their tuition and redistribute it to students who can’t afford to go here,” he says.
Jean ran at the top of a slate called “Paradigm Shift” that was also heavily endorsed by Wills. Paradigm candidates won 11 of the 13 positions.
All but one member-Parker’s brother Grant Jean, who ran for Student Trustee- was not elected. “He’s sad about it, but he’ll be around,” Jean says. “He’s not going to let something like this get him down.”
Instead, the position went to Michelle Olivarez, the only winner from the “Hope, Experience & Change” slate. Olivarez is one of three women elected this year, and is the only new member who is pro-Contract Ed.
Ernie Sevilla, whose presidential bid found him at the top of “Hope, Experience & Change” ticket, spoke to The Corsair after the results were released. “I challenge them to do the will of the students who voted,” he said. “Focus should be on tuition fees and classes. They should keep their personal agendas to themselves.”
Jean distances himself from the accusations that he’s too much like outgoing leader Wills. “I’d say come and talk to me, they’d know that I’m a lot different than Harrison,” he says. “We’re different human beings. We’re both passionate about what we believe in, but we have different ways of doing that.”