Board of Trustees votes unanimously to postpone Contract Ed.
After a week of protests, a violent encounter with campus police that ended with 30 students being pepper-sprayed and three students being hospitalized, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Friday to postpone the controversial Contract Ed program that has captured the attention of the national media. The public meeting, which was held in the Theater Arts Department’s main stage to accommodate a large amount of students and faculty members, lasted well over four hours.
What happened during last Tuesday’s trustees meeting was “a truly regrettable event,” said Santa Monica College Superintendent and President Dr. Chui L. Tsang at the opening of the meeting. As a result, Tsang will be appointing an independent review panel to conduct a review of campus police activity, independent of the internal investigation by the SMC Police Department.
The independent review panel will be chaired by Campus Counsel Robert Myers, and will include nursing professor Eve Adler, trustee Dr. Nancy Greenstein, Dean of Work Force and Economic Development Dr. Patricia Ramos, and student trustee Joshua Scuteri.
He also went on to explain that Contract Ed, the pilot program that would supplement the regular 700 state-funded classes with 50 additional at-cost classes during the upcoming summer session, was created due to the dire financial straits that currently affect the district.
“A tragic number of students are being turned away,” said Tsang. He added that the program was meant to increase accessibility to the college, however there was still “much misinformation about the program.”
Contract Ed, according to Louise Jaffe, a trustee, was meant to be “additive, not subtractive. Trustee Rob Rader said and that since the program will be cancelled for the summer, there will now be “50 classes gone this summer, and 1500 students who won’t have those classes.”
He said that the program was meant to be “utterly progressive.”
Public comments at the meeting covered a broad range of topics and opinions. From praising the trustees to vilifying them as “fascists,” the podium was open to anyone willing to come up and speak their mind for two minutes at a time.
There was a heavy police presence at the meeting, which drew criticism from members of the Student Organizing Committee, the group that has predominantly led the student protests at SMC this week.
Associated Students President Harrison Wills was not present at the meeting, but out of town visiting family.
The trustees voted to postpone Contract Ed, and to have the District Planning and Advisory Committee thoroughly weigh the merits and cons of the program, as well as have faculty and students thoroughly study the cost-effectiveness of the program.
Members of the Student Organizing Committee, however, are only half satisfied with the meetings results. “We want a referendum,” said Christine Deal, a student protestor. “We want the two-tier program thrown out completely.”
The Student Organizing Committee are planning to meet every Tuesday and Thursday at the main campus clock tower to decide what to do next to oppose the measure.