Plan for Gender Equity and Social Justice Center Causes Turmoil

The Associated Students meeting on Monday November 27, 2017 spent an hour and twenty-three minutes of their three hour and twenty eight minute meeting discussing Major Action Item 7.3: Approval for Construction and outfitting of Social Justice/ Gender Equity Center and Computer Lab, which states a budget of $500,000, which would come from the Associated Student yearly budget of approximately one million dollars. The proposal was a popular topic of discussion on the unofficial Santa Monica College Facebook page which correlated to 32 public comments that were exercised at the beginning of the meeting, both in favor and opposing.

Prior to this meeting, Ben Kolodny, a current SMC student, created a petition to, “stand up against the associated students and their attempts to interfere with the functioning of the Cayton Center computer lab, which is still going to happen as I understand from Jennifer Chen,” according to Kolodny. The petition, which was available online and on paper, received 400 signatures within three days.

Kolodny received a call from Chief Johnnie Adams, from the Santa Monica College Police Department, regarding a possible disruption during this AS meeting. “I had heard that there was a possibility that there might be some disruption… so, I just asked him if he was going to have any kind of disruption and he said no,” Chief Adams said. He also stated that there’s an officer assigned to regularly attend AS meetings.

Doctor Nancy Grass, the AS advisor, filled out the proposal form, which was created to fund a Gender Equity and Social Justice Center, in the back portion of the Cayton Center Computer Lab. Mysterie Peña, President of the Gender Sexuality Alliance Club at Santa Monica College, stated, “We’ve been trying, we thought it was going to be done last year.. but it unfortunately kept on getting pushed back. So, we’re hoping on getting it pushed forward today.” When asked about those opposing this policy, Peña said, “I understand it, I think whenever there’s change, there’s always going to be people who are scared of it, or feel attacked by it.” Peña lastly told The Corsair, “I know there’s been talk of putting it where KCRW was, but... we’re in a room where we don’t have access to an elevator, so a lot of students are LGBT who are disabled are not able to come and access our resources.”

The people who were opposed to this policy disagreed with how this policy was handled. “I have no problem with an administrative policy to make a gender equity center… My only problem is the secrecy that this has been handled with and the cost to the AS, as well as the seeming corruption,” said SMC student Ben Kolodny. 

After the public comment portion of the meeting ended, students called to a “point of information.” Students were denied to voice their points of information multiple times by the AS Board. Jennifer Chen stated, "We are not making point of information. And that was clear in the beginning of the meeting.” A former AS Board member stated that action directly went against the AS constitution.

Jennifer Chen, AS President, called a recess at around 4:30PM, after an audience member, former AS President, Jesse Randel, was threatened to be removed from the Cayton Center. Chen followed Randel, former AS member, Adrian Restrepo, and Ben Kolodny outside of the Cayton Center. Randel told Chen, “I am not pro administrative manipulation. This is ranked number three in the school’s master plan, number three… Why do we have to pay 500,000 dollars… why isn’t administration giving anything.” Chen responded by stating that the school would be funding the staffing and everything that would come after the construction. She also addressed Kolodny’s petition, by saying, “You say, AS is planning to take some of all of the computer lab. Where did you get that information?” Kolodny then stated that he received that information from a poster. Chen then agreed to take their questions to bring to the board’s attention after the recess ended at 4:45PM.

During the voting process of item 7.3, former AS President and SMC alumni Jesse Randel reacted to the policy passing by saying, “Y’all just got used like a towel.” At 5:25 PM, the AS Board unanimously voted to pass Major Action Item 7.3.

After the three and a half hour long meeting, Chen addressed those in opposition of item 7.3 by stating, “I think some of it is a little bit personal to them. I have no problem for the, you know, the administrators, Doctor Grass, to fill the proposal, because I was there, I saw everything when she tried to put it on… I appreciated what she did, and then they’re accused by the previous board saying that the administrators trying to, you know, manipulate the board. I don’t quite agree with them, but I see where they’re coming from.” The current AS President also stated that this AS meeting has had the largest crowd all semester.