Forum Held to Discuss Issues with Gen-C
Santa Monica College student, Ben Kolodny, also Vice-President of the unofficial club named the Small Government Club at SMC, welcomed the students to his forum to address grievances to the AS program, which began at 11:15 AM in Santa Monica College’s Liberal Arts building in room 239. He stated he created this event entirely because of AS’s decision to pass Major Action Item 7.3: the approval for the construction and outfitting of Social Justice/Gender Equity Center (GEN-C) and Computer Lab, on Monday November 27, 2017.
Prior to this event, Kolodny told The Corsair he was prompted to hold the event because, “At first, this was just a way for me to express the things that I was not allowed to express at the AS meeting... but since then it seems to be growing into somewhere where we can all have a conversation and dialogue and talk about the future of SMC, the future of GEN-C. What I hope to get form this is a larger understanding by the attendees as to the problems and [an] increased interest by the student body in the way that this is being handled.” Kolodny has previously stated that he is not opposed to SMC having a gender equity and justice center, his issue is with the way AS handled the policy, Major Action Item 7.3.
Kolodny started off the meeting my telling those in attendance, “I’m mostly interested in the problems I’ve been seeing with the way the Associated Students handled [item 7.3]." The problems he referred to were the uncertainty surrounding the actual number of computers in the Cayton Center that would be lost as a result of this motion. “All we know is that there is going to be a loss of resources in the Cayton Center Computer Lab,” said Kolodny.
The Forum focused on the students' ongoing concerns about the lack of transparency, location, and cost of the new Gender Equity center. The potential loss of computers, well as the curiously steep development budget of $500,000, were among the key talking points of the meeting. Former AS Board member, Adrian Restrepo, voiced that he is not against the center, but that the issue issue is that this conversation did not happen before AS voted on this proposal
Melissa Tapia, President of the Intersectional Feminist Alliance at SMC, was heavily involved in her support for the development of the center, as were other members of her club. She was in attendance to give out her statements on the process of AS's decision.
Tapia mentioned the potential fear among the students about the how the A.S. is handling the development of the new center, and how they are addressing to the students. The students discussed these alleged theories throughout the meeting. "I think a lot of misconceptions were definitely addressed," Tapia said, "When I was talking about the kind of fear-mongering that was occurring... [I was] talking about the fact that 'our computer spaces are gonna be taken over,' about the fact that 'there's this nefarious corruption within the administration,' there's a lack of transparency of course... So I think addressing a few of those needs, a few of those concerns and myths and rumors, was definitely a little bit productive."
After the Grievance Forum ended, Kolodny told The Corsair, “It was peaceful, everyone got a chance to talk and I think that’s really what’s important. We had disagreements, but they were civil, rational, and were largely talked through… One of the big things that we’ve been seeing is that opposition to this has been conflated with homophobia and [an] anti-immigrant sentiment, and I think that that’s not at all present here and anyone who watched the live stream would be able to see [that].”