Lost in translation: the presidential mandate that never was

This semester, Santa Monica College clubs were under the impression they have been mandated by President Chui L. Tsang to cease all activities after December 1.

Multiple clubs on campus voiced their frustration with this decision, such as the Strategic Gaming Club (SGC), GAX club, and the Student Veterans Association (SVA). President of the Chess Club Douglas Perez said, “We did not receive any written information regarding this matter so it was somewhat strange to me.”

Some club members, such as SVA president Jennifer Garcia felt the cut-off was “quite inconvenient”, especially since her club didn’t receive notice of the decision.

For Douglas, the decision meant not being able to participate in chess competitions with other schools.

However, in an email sent by ICC Chair Maya Kaitel last week, she explained that this mandate is actually not in place. “I was incorrect in my phrasing to call the December 1st cutoff a mandate. It would more appropriately be a recommendation that the Student Life Office has made the decision to uphold,” said Kaitel.

Upon contacting the Vice President of Student Affairs, Mike Tuitasi, he explained that, “Dr. Tsang did not mandate no activities for the month of December,” and added, “we haven’t turned down activities.”

Furthermore, Tuitasi explained that the clubs would still be allowed to have year-end celebrations or induction ceremonies. This decision, he said is more like a recommendation meant to encourage students to focus on their finals during ‘red zones’ which, according to Tuitasi, are times when studying is crucial for students.

“We’ve had numerous discussions in the area of Student Affairs about student success. One thing that came up in our discussions is the type of activities that we have on campus during the first week of school and during finals week. For example, we are very conscientious of study-time during finals week and are mindful of activities that may be noisy or disruptive,” said Tuitasi.

Associate Dean of Student Life Sonali Bridges said that when this decision was announced to A.S. directors, she did not receive opposition. “When I originally spoke with directors about this, no one came to me with complaints. They were relieved because they knew they could use the time to study. Most of them are up here now finishing essays,” she said.

How ICC members, student club leaders and A.S. directors perceived this recommendation as a presidential mandate is still unclear to advisors. “I have no idea how the message got distorted,” said Bridges.

Student Advisor Benny Blaydes additionally explained that this decision is not a “hard-hammer mandate” and is not meant to seem like a harsh rule in any way. “Its not even a policy,” said Blaydes, adding, “we wanted to encourage students to focus on their finals.”

“The only thing that we changed from last year is the calendar,” said Bridges, noting that there usually aren't major on-campus activities around finals week. Additionally, this rearrangement of deadlines was made clear to the clubs in an A.S. finance meeting in the beginning of the semester, according to Blaydes.

Some clubs suffered from not having as much time as they usually do for proposals and activities, however. Ledkins commented that the deadline move up “has made the semester feel extremely time crunched.” Many clubs expressed this feeling, including the SMC Opera club, which had to cut club activities, rush proposals, and move their final events.

Olga Belikova, president of the Global Medical Training club, explained similar frustrations. “We were never informed of this cut off and have had to deal with the last week organizing and cramming information for students,” she said. For her, this was disappointing since her specific club chapter usually does workshops and had to cancel everything.

“Going forward,” said Blaydes, “we need to be more clear about what the clubs can do off campus and on campus around finals time."