Exodus of ICC leaves hole in AS student government
If you’ve been attending the regular Associated Students (AS) meetings at the Cayton Center since the start of the spring semester, you will have noticed something during AS Secretary Wave Baskerville’s opening roll call at the start of every meeting: all of the Inter-Club Council (ICC) seats are currently vacant. This isn’t due to ill health, holiday, or an important ICC conference out of town. None of the ICC members on the AS Board of Directors – ICC Chair Kevin Picard, ICC Vice Chair Lahari Indraganti, and ICC Communications Officer Isaac Medeiros – remain in their positions, each having resigned over the winter semester.
The reason for the mass exodus of ICC heads?
According to AS President Jesse Randel, it has to do with overly demanding unit requirements for eligibility that students serving on the ICC and AS boards must live up to. Requirements that Randel says put too much pressure on those who participate in student government, especially those majoring in STEM fields or with learning disabilities.
“This AS board has eight people who are STEM majors," said Randel. "Well, not anymore it doesn't. And one who was a learning disabled student. But not anymore. All because of the eight unit minimum requirement.”
According to the ICC Constitution, the eligibility requirements are the same as in the AS Constitution, which stipulates that all AS Board members must “be enrolled in at least eight (8) units at SMC and must be in good academic and conduct standing with at least a 2.0 G.P.A. during both the Spring semester directly preceding the beginning of their newly appointed term, as well as in the Fall and Spring semesters of that term.”
By the end of the fall semester it turned out that each of the three ICC Chairs may not have met these requirements. They were subsequently asked to submit letters of resignation by Associate Dean of Student Life Dr. Nancy Grass. In the case of Medeiros, who provided the Corsair with a copy of the email Grass had issued to him regarding his resignation, he was told by Grass that he may officially resign “due to personal matters.”
“We lost our entire ICC and not a single one of them was technically ineligible,” said Randel, who disagreed with the fact that the ICC heads were actually violating regulations.
The AS President also felt that there had been undue pressure put on the ICC heads over the issue saying, “I have talked to Lahari. She said it was her own decision, but in my personal opinion, she was influenced. She was pushed, convinced out of her position.”
Indraganti — who had failed a math class in the fall, which reduced her passing units to 7 with a 3.0 grade point average — told the Corsair that she agreed that her duties in student government were taxing saying, “I felt I was doing the job of about four people instead of just doing my own job . . . it was killing me.”
Indraganti confirmed that Grass had asked her to resign using the “personal reasons” excuse. However she disagreed about the nature of the request, saying it was Grass “extending courtesy” and that she willingly left her position of her own accord in order to salvage her mental health and GPA.
Indraganti said, “The thing is, I could’ve argued about it . . . an "F" is a letter grade, and you argue that it is technically completing the class, and you could make an argument about staying in. Maybe I could have been kicked out, maybe not, but it was a wakeup call to me more than anything else for me to pick up and leave.”
While Medeiros agreed that he was likely technically in violation of the bylaws after initially disputing the situation, he was insistent that he was pressured by Grass to leave. He also stated that he and Grass had not gotten along after a recent dispute over an AS event.
Said Medeiros, “I just don't feel like I want to be in a place where I know a person dislikes me. I would have left no matter what. That's what I want to say, but the unit requirement was a problem."
The Corsair attempted to contact former ICC Chair Kevin Picard, but he did not respond to requests for comment by the time this went to print.
Grass was unwilling to speak as to whether or not she had pressured the ICC heads into resigning, claiming that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevented her from commenting on the events. The only opinion she would give on the general situation was conciliatory saying, “It's awful, I would have liked to have seen them not have to resign. I would have liked for them to be here. They were doing a great job and were wonderful. I love them.”
The ultimate result of these events is that much of the work of the ICC, which would normally handle the upcoming AS election, has fallen onto Randel’s shoulders until replacements can be found.
“It's kind of a bad situation for the students and it happened at a really bad time because there's few things more important in our student year than the AS elections . . . and that has been thrown into a doubtful stage," said Randel after the AS Board meeting held on Monday, Feb. 29.
For his part, Randel stated both in interviews and during discussion at the year’s first AS meeting that he feels very strongly about altering the AS and ICC constitutions to prevent this disastrous situation from ever happening again, specifically by lightening the eligibility requirements for acting AS members to match the requirements of the Student Trustee position, which is only five units completed in a semester.
Specifically, Randel felt that the case of Indraganti — a learning disabled student diagnosed with Panic Disorder and majoring in a STEM field — represented a particularly egregious example of the inequity of the eligibility regulations. With the full-time student unit requirement for learning disabled students being nine units per semester, Randel feels that the AS requirement of eight completed units puts too high an expectation on Learning Disabled students to participate in AS effectively.
“It screws over learning disabled students. Who better to represent learning disabled students than learning disabled students? We need them involved in student government."