Students draw ire at Board of Trustees meeting

Standing in front of the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees (BOT) and the students and faculty assembled in the boardroom of SMC, Courtney Aravena, an SMC student, described herself as “poor,” with no financial aide, “nothing.” “If you pass this measure, what happens to my education?” Aravena asked the Trustees before her, her eyes welled with tears and her voice choked with emotion.

Aravena, along with a large contingent of students, attended last night’s BOT meeting with the sole purpose of voicing their concerns over two items on the agenda. The items, described on the official BOT agenda as “Guiding principles for open-enrollment contract education programs,” drew considerable ire from students, and not least of all the Associated Students.

By the end of the meeting, the BOT voted to postpone the motion, which elicited cries of “stop the cuts!” from the group of students.

AS president Harrison Wills claimed the item was part of an agenda to privatize education at SMC, and that the cost per unit could climb to $200. He did not offer details to this claim.

“What are we supposed to do? We’re not going to outsource public services to private companies,” said Wills in his public comments to the BOT, drawing applause from students assembled in the adjacent room.

Mikhail Pronilover, a student who also spoke during the meeting, went as far as to describe the BOT as “shock troops” for a campaign to privatize public services, in this case public education.

In response to the claim that private companies would become involved in the measure, and therefore be in a position to provide courses at SMC, President and Superintendent Chui L. Tsang said “that must be a new initiative that I am not aware of,” and that he had “no knowledge” of it.

Nevertheless, Tsang was unable to calm the atmosphere of fear and mistrust. “You are literally taking students out of this community,” said Robyn Barrios, a student who spoke during the meeting. “I will stand and defend the students of SMC until I no longer can.”

The AS and students were still upset after the meeting, despite the motion to postpone the measure. “There will be a strong response and strong resistance if mission statements are not met,” said Wills. “We will have to take direct action to oppose this.”

Wills described “direct action” as students occupying public spaces, reaching out to media organizations, and petitioning local communities and elected officials to promote their position.

Pronilover also announced after the meeting that there would be an open gathering at the quad Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

The goal of the meeting is to create awareness for students, and to educate students in the issues surrounding class cancellations and unit prices escalating to “200 dollars per unit.”

Wills addressed the crowd of students at the end of the meeting: “I’m willing to give up everything for this.

“I’m tired of asking for permission for what’s rightfully ours.”