A board for all seasons
With the new semester and shift in seasons, arrives a new student government at Santa Monica College. On the first Friday of the fall term, the new board of the SMC Associated Students filed into the campus Theater Arts building to pose in a photo shoot and discuss their new agenda. Gone is the administration of former AS president Ty Moura, as the era of Ali Kahn begins with new promises for the student body and new programs to impulse student initiatives, such as campus clubs. The chores of politics have already started as the board's first public meeting last Wednesday featured a heated debate on the budget.
With only a few days into the new administration, the board members are still discovering each other and building working relationships. While agendas are still being written and ideas crafted, the board members are marching into their new, imposing responsibilities with real stride.
"Everything's pretty solid," said Kahn while walking around and speaking with every member of the board as they waited for individual portraits. "We're just having fun, getting work done. The vibe is good."
"It's important to know the personalities of everyone on the board," said Jessica Meshkani, the new AS Director of Publicity. "There's a saying that you should treat others the way you want to be treated. I completely believe in that."
For Meshkani, a major goal this semester is to engage the interest of students who simply use SMC as a gateway to other universities. Another priority for Meshkani is getting this particular group more involved in campus politics and activities.
Inter Club Counsel Vice Chair Courtney King, in radiant blue hair, stepped over from the camera's eye to share her own thoughts on the new age.
"I'm looking forward to working with the Board to get a lot of awesome activities happening and to get a lot of events that have multiple clubs working together so they can recruit members," she said.
King feels the new board works well together but acknowledged that the first meetings have been focused on picking up where the last board left off.
"It's been a little tenuous because of some of the past issues of the former board but we hope to embark on a new year with more teamwork."
Photo shoots can become a tedious process and as board members filled the hall with cheerful banter, Diana Gutierrez, the new Student Advocacy Director, moved away from the chatter to talk about her own position in the government monolith.
"I am most worried about not getting the minority voice heard," she said.
When it comes to the new head of government, Gutierrez said of Kahn that "I think he's pretty hilarious and also very orderly and responsible. We're lucky to have a guy who wants to have everybody heard."
Jeffrey Lewis Jr., Director of Instructional and Tech Support, sporting a bow tie and seeming particularly enthused said, "The first few days have been nothing short of fun. We have very unique individuals on this board."
Lewis says he's most nervous about not meeting students' expectations and demands, specifically noting lingering demands from students such as wider WiFi access on campus.
"We have individuals on this board who are capable of learning from the mistakes of the previous board," said Lewis. "We're confident, but not over-confident."
In a combo dress of punk rock insurgency and proper business jacket, complete with a button of Mexican comedic screen icon Cantinflas, Andrea Gonzalez, the new Director of Sustainability, revealed that one of her project proposals will be focused on practicing sustainability, such as banning plastic water bottles on campus. Gonzalez explained, "A lot of people don't tend to be informed about sustainability," adding that, "because Santa Monica is a city that is sustainable, I feel that we should also practice it within our own campus."
When everyone's portrait was taken the board made its way out, back to the Cayton Center's AS offices. Others stayed around to share their comments.
Daniel Kolko, the Student Trustee, shared his own thoughts while walking through the quad following the shoot. "I'm looking forward to learning how government works," he said. "I wouldn't say I'm nervous."
Inside the newsroom Maya Kaitel, the ICC Chair, was glowing with sheer enthusiasm of being apart of this particular board, pointing out the need for making students aware of the benefits of being members of the AS.
"I'm always hoping to improve club life, more club events. It's about making student life as fun as possible," she mentioned, with an emphasis on making the hassle of filling out paperwork less worrisome for campus clubs.
Cinthia Magana, the AS Secretary and former President's Ambassador, said, "As the secretary, what I'm looking forward to the most is to sit in the board meetings and really learn about what is needed at our school."
The brainstorming of activities will fall heavily on Andrew Koo, who is taking over from the highly controversial tenure of Matthew Nicholson.
Emerging from the ashes of the Pizzagate scandals, Koo said "I am coming in with a new mindset and was telling some of the directors that I want to have full student input. I want to push for quality over quantity events."
Among Koo's plans is to invest time in events based on monthly cultural themes and issues like animal rights.
With full eagerness, Riz Rahshid, the new ICC Communications Officer, explained how he was not expecting to be so enthralled by the world of student government.
"You know, I was looking forward to the ICC stuff but now I changed my mind, I love the AS board and all the things that they do," he revealed. "I love the complexity of the AS itself."
For Director of Student Outreach Robert Espinoza, being on the AS board is an adrenaline kick he says will drive him to carry out motivational workshops on campus and hopefully inspire others.
"Santa Monica has the highest transfer rate yet only three out of ten transfer, it's ridiculous," he said. "I'm the only Latino male on the board. I feel at times like I carry the world on my shoulders. I like the pressure, I look forward to it. I love it when people tell me I can't do it."
With the semester now in full bloom, the new AS board is on the move towards a future only its members can write and set in stone.