A.S. candidates respond to Contract Ed

Candidates for leadership positions on the Associated Students board are gearing up for next week’s election while tensions over budget cuts and self-funded education remain high at Santa Monica College. Members from various campaign slates have spent time talking to students, explaining how student government should deal with pressing issues if they are elected. The budget crisis and the Board of Trustee’s implementation of Contract Ed—a catalyst for student protests earlier this month—are central to the debate.

Parker Jean is a candidate for AS President running on the “Paradigm Shift” slate, and says the issue of student’s rights is paramount to his campaign. “The way that Contract Ed was passed without shared governance can’t happen again,” he says. “I want to empower students to make decisions on their own, I don’t want to run the school; I want the students to run it.”

Jean, who was a commissioner for outgoing AS President Harrison Wills, says that he’s learned a lot from his experiences but adds he has his own style of leadership.

“We have a crisis in education; one of my number one things on my platform is political activism,” Jean says. “Anything you’re willing to fight for should be handled in any way possible.”

Wills endorsed Jean Tuesday. “Parker is an incredibly honest, hard working and intelligent guy,” he says. The two appeared together at a Student Organizing Committee meeting later that day in support of the upcoming May 1 protests against Contract Ed.

Challenging Jean is Honor Society President Ernie Sevilla, who is running on the “Experience, Strength & Hope” slate. “I’ve worked with many diversities and communities,” he says, adding that his experience in the “working world” helps him find solutions to problems.

Sevilla is a vocal critic of the current AS administration, and publicly condemned both the AS and Wills for their actions leading up to the April 4 protests in which 30 students, including a 4-year-old, were pepper-sprayed by college police. “That’s not how you get things accomplished,” he says. “We need to act like adults.”

Sevilla, who says he is against Contract Ed, proposes the budget crisis can be helped by putting pressure on corporations to fund higher education. “We need to go to the oil companies and urge them to set up scholarships,” he says, adding, “We need to get people to vote and support the tax initiatives that fund public education.”

Current AS Director of Sustainability Marjohnny Torres-Nativi is also running for president. Torres-Nativi is running on a slate called “The Mango,” and says that his success in lobbying the administration for eco-friendly campus additions like doubling bike parking and the Organic Learning Garden is evidence of his leadership.

Torres-Nativi says he’s against the self-funded education system, but offers a caveat. “I understand it may be in the students’ interests,” he says. “I want to be a leader who listens to their needs and represents all of the students at SMC, not just a small group.”

“I’ve always stood for what the students want,” Torres-Nativi says. “I’m always thinking of ways for students to save money, and for them to be able to speak their minds.” Torres-Nativi adds that he thinks the protests have helped bring public awareness to the issues facing the schools and empowered student activism.

Candidate for Student Trustee, Michele Olivarez, is also running on Sevilla’s slate. “I was actually against Contract Ed until I found out more about it,” she says, adding that she is running on a promise to inform the student body of pressing issues responsibly.

Also like Sevilla, she criticized the SOC and the way they’ve handled the protests. “If people actually found out what Mikail Pronilover’s motives, are he’d lose a lot of followers,” she says, referring to one of the group’s most vocal members.

Jesse Allen Ramirez, candidate for Director of Publicity, and also running on the “Paradigm Shift” slate, says that if he’s elected he’ll make sure that funding for the AS is used towards “classes and students.”

“I want to get information about the activities of the Associated Students out to the public better,” he says. Ramirez founded “Project: Dreams Made Reality,” a club aimed at assisting financially disadvantaged members of the SMC community.

Students will be able to vote for candidates online through Corsair Connect starting Monday. Voting closes Thursday night, with the results released Friday.

The SOC continues to refuse our repeated requests for comments or interviews.