A.S. Hold Extensive Discussion Over Decision Not to Fund Graduation Catering

Tensions were high as board members and students alike expressed their opinions on the controversial decision made at last Monday's board meeting on April 30. Students used the public comments section to express unhappiness at the decision. Board members explained their votes and openly argued on a comment that A.S. President Jennifer Chen made on the Santa Monica College unofficial Facebook page regarding the integrity and commitment of her fellow board members. 

The public comments section at the beginning of the meeting were unusually active, as three students raised their concerns regarding the result of last week's vote. Student Volunteer Leann Bogart echoed the concerns that many students have expressed on the unofficial SMC Facebook page. "I can find no reason why there was, without comment, [a vote] which denied my friends who are graduating [the banquet] which they've had for the last three years," Bogart said.

After public comments concluded and other action items on the agenda were addressed, the board moved on to an hour-long discussion of the reasoning behind last week's vote. As the board went over an itemized quote from the banquet proposal, Director of Instructional Support Jialing Li, who voted against the proposal, voiced her concern that the items such as cellphone wallets and fidget spinners, which the school had purchased instead of food, were going to be sold back to students, rather than given away.

Other fellow board members echoed this concern due to their previous experience attending graduation ceremonies where the school was selling commemorative trinkets. However, A.S. Faculty Advisor Dr. Nancy Grass quickly refuted that claim, "They have a separate booth for selling stuff - but they're not selling this stuff, this is the stuff they're giving away."

Dr. Grass also expressed her opinion that it would have been a good idea to invite a representative from the Alumni Association back for Monday's meeting, given that some board members had questions that could only have been properly answered by those representatives. 

One such question was regarding the ability of the school's administration to pay for food. Some board members, such as Sustainability Director Alexa Benavente and Student Trustee Chase Matthews, were under the impression that either the school or the alumni association would be able to provide food for the event whether or not A.S. chose to fund it. But it is currently against district policy to provide food for these types of events. 

While the board discussed the reasoning behind their respective votes, Director of Outreach Max Gong and Student Trustee Chase Matthews expressed their displeasure with recent comments made by President Chen on the SMC unofficial Facebook page. Gong said, "You don't ask me and don't talk with me before you write [the comment] and you post these things online, you just said that I don't know what's in the proposal, but you didn't ask me."

Matthews was even more direct, saying, "I think it's sad that you singled out two people on your board - when you want to talk about integrity, I question your integrity." Vice President Jorge Sandoval followed up after Matthews, stating, "You're a leader, I found that comment very unprofessional, you should stand by your board."

Chen defended her post by saying, "I feel like students had question[s] about the decision that we made - I want this to be as public as possible, I want students to be aware this is happening."

Secretary Ryan Ang expressed his opinion that the whole discussion of Chen's post at a board meeting was improper when he said: "Honestly, I think it's not really professional for us to be questioning the character of one another - if there's any animosity or any unhappiness we have towards another board member, I think we should talk to that board member in private instead of airing it out in public."