AS Elections 2016: Meet Student Trustee candidate Alfredo Gama

Alfredo Gama is a 19-year-old Mexican native aiming to be a Political Economics major with hopes of working in public service, who came to the U.S. at the age of 7 as an undocumented immigrant. He's the founder and president of the SMC Students for Bernie Club, he's on the board of the Homeboys and Homegirls Club, and he's a competitor on the award-winning SMC Speech and Debate Team. Now, he's one of the candidates running for A.S. Student Trustee in the upcoming week's election.

“The primary goal I would like to accomplish is getting the Student Trustee full voting powers on the Santa Monica College District Board of Trustees. This requires changes to state law,” Gama said.

Gama believes that the main issue SMC faces is that the administration underestimates students' potential to make judgments and their ability to be leaders.

“I think [the administration] contributes to the stigmatization of community college students in general,” Gama said. “That community college students aren't enough and we're pushed out instead of being empowered to take risks and make our own decisions.”

Gama said that he aspires to repair the administration's perception by organizing students to show up at administrative meetings on a regular basis. This would include District Planning and Advisory Council (DPAC) and Board of Trustees meetings and the purpose would be to establish a stronger communication pattern with the administration at SMC.

Improving the relationship between students and the administration has been on the current AS board's radar as well, evidenced when AS Director of Budget Management Sam Ross said recently that he has seen “obfuscation” and "bullying" by the administration against students.

But that doesn't intimidate Gama, who's very persistent in his advocacy.

“Bullying and intimidation tactics don’t work very well with me. As an undocumented immigrant in this country, I have had to deal with authority that has tried to tell me I don’t belong here at every stage of my life,” Gama said.

Gama told the Corsair that he will utilize his position as a board member of the Community College Association for Student Advocacy, an organization providing legislative advocacy for students, to get the Student Trustee full voting powers.

“I have the tools to influence state legislation and eventually amend Education Code to allow Student Trustees full voting powers,” Gama said.

Gama is part of the "Unity" slate, and said that its platform focuses on empowering students and increasing participation.

“We believe that through empowering students first and increasing student participation in student government, we will implement our policy ideas,” Gama said.

Some of the policies that members of the Unity slate hope to implement include increasing access to student government resources, providing financial, legal and personal counseling, and increasing awareness about student clubs. According to Gama, the goal is to ultimately change the stigma that community college students aren't capable of making sound decisions.

In this election, Gama advocates for more institutional funding of academic competitive teams, such as the Santa Monica College Speech and Debate Team and the Model United Nations Team.

“Participating in these activities is using what you learned in your Economics, Political Science and Biology classes,” Gama said. “Defending what you learned, going against what you learned, and thinking of new ways of perceiving what you have learned are simply things you cannot learn in a classroom.”

Gama also talked about hopes to improve the situation for marginalized groups such as LGBT students, low-income students, undocumented students, students of color, and women.

The Student Trustee is the only position on the AS board that has a lower minimum unit requirement of 5 units per semester, compared to the 8 units the rest of the AS directors must meet. It's also a paid position, with Student Trustees receiving compensation from the school district. Gama said he appreciates being able to take less units while being on the student government and getting compensated for the work he would put in.

“Being a student, a full-time worker, and involved in school is hard. I think that the Board of Directors should get paid for the 15 hours they are required to work every week. I think the unit requirement should be lowered for all directors,” Gama said. “Students should not choose between serving their student government or serving food on their table.”