AS, VP Debate Financial Solutions
Executive vice president of Santa Monica College Randal Lawson appeared before leaders of the Associated Students Monday to discuss possible solutions to the budget crisis and the elimination of winter session.
Lawson said that the administration understands and sympathizes with students whose progress has been affected. “I think we’re all sad and disappointed that any classes had to be cut at anytime,” Lawson said.
Lawson also emphasized that although winter session was originally designed to accommodate extra demand after removal of caps on enrollment, there are simply not enough resources to continue the program without jeopardizing spring, summer and fall sessions.
Former AS president, Harrison Wills, attended the meeting and spoke during the public comments section. Later, he sat behind the board and spoke directly to Lawson as he addressed the officials.
Wills, who is roommate to the current AS president, Parker Jean, has pledged to remain an active member in championing causes he from his administration.
The former AS president challenged Mr. Lawson’s contention that the college did not have the funds to pay for the winter session.
“We have extra money for a rainy day and it’s hailing out,” Wills said in an interview.
Wills proposed using up to $3 million from both the college and AS reserve funds to pay for the shortened class sessions. SMC used reserves to pay for winter session last year.
The exchange between Lawson and Wills recalled tensions that mounted between administrators and students over Contract Education. The program, which was designed to offer more classes at cost rather than at state-subsidized rates, led to student protests.
Jean does not regret the opposition the program faced because he believes that it was a “step in the wrong direction” for the long term.
“If they implemented the program it would have been terrible,” Jean said. “If students are paying it themselves, then the government’s not going to.”
Jean said that it’s a “shame” that the decision was made to cut winter session, but he believes that it reflects state budget and that there needs to be a collective focus on the future budget.
At the meeting, Lawson pointed out that the college is running an operating deficit of $4 million, and only a set number of SMC classes are funded by the state. If the administration had kept winter semester, sessions from fall and spring would have offered fewer classes.
London Tran, AS director of academic support and shared governance, believes that SMC could handle their budget better, alluding to salary raises among the faculty.
“I just want a solution to be found that will better students and get rid of this downward spiral,” Tran said.
Students, faculty and administrators are awaiting the outcome of Proposition 30, which would increase the state sales tax and income tax on the wealthy to fund public safety and education. The newly adopted budget is staked on the passage of the proposition, and should it fail to pass, deep cuts could take effect.
If Prop 30 does pass, Lawson said that winter sessions could be restored relatively quickly, within two to three years.
Beyond the cuts themselves, the AS leaders voiced their suspicion that most students on campus don’t really understand why winter session was cut, and that some simply don’t care. Without understanding the budget crisis, students eligible to vote may not fully grasp future consequences within the college if this Prop 30 is rejected.
“I don’t really feel like it matters to me because I don’t take winter classes anyway,” student Steven Mayorga said. “Do I think it’s fair? No. But I think people can transfer without winter.”
The AS has yet to propose any solutions to the cutting of winter session, but all are disappointed. Tran said that SMC is the most fortunate community college in California, but understands the school’s decision.
“I’m disappointed that the opportunities are not there, but we can’t have everything all the time,” Tran said.