Contract Ed misinformation smears SMC democratic ideals

The hallmark of democratic decision-making has its basis in an involved and informed citizenship. Therefore, we should under no circumstance tolerate leaders who mislead us. The leaders of the recent protests have used dishonesty to gain support for their movement, treating many uninformed protesters as means to their own ends. Whether you agree or not with contract education (personally I do not completely), there is no way to justify the misinformation that was spread. Most significant was the rumor that all summer classes were being raised to $180 per unit, when in fact only 1/15 (7.5% or 50 classes out of 750) were going to be raised to this figure.

Harrison Wills, the Associated Students president, arrived at the Inter Club Council meeting last Thursday to deliver a message. Harrison explained why contract education was an intolerable policy. After addressing the ills of privatizing education, Wills personalized his arguments by saying, "I don't know about you all, but I personally can't pay $180 a unit." His statement misleadingly ignored the fact that there are still 700 state-funded classes available to Mr. Wills and all the students of SMC.

Video footage narrated by the Corsair’s Andy Riesmeyer shows that a segment of the student protesters do not fully understand the Contract Ed measure. No one involved with the protest leadership, including those in the student government, bothered to dispel any false conceptions pertaining to the program.

Furthermore, protest leadership attempted to classify contract education as an assault on poor students.

Political Science Professor Christine Schultz has a very different opinion. As she explains, students need to get classes and complete their degrees and certificates. The 50 classes that were going to be added by the two-tier system will not be funded by the state. So the protestors won us a subtraction of fifty classes, and no classes gained. Secondly, and most importantly (in my opinion—not hers), the two-tier system will reward students who are making progress toward their educational goals while also providing a second tier opportunity for students who have withdrawn from classes and not done well in others.

This is the way it could work. The state is requiring that community colleges have in place strict enrollment guidelines and, in fact, SMC already has them in place. Students with the highest grade point averages and with the greatest number of completed units have the earliest enrollment dates and best access to cheap, state funded classes. Students who have low enrollment dates due to numerous withdrawals and low grade point averages will, as they do with or without contract education, have less access to these classes.

The two-tier program is not attempting to disadvantage unwealthy students; it is attempting to give a second chance to students who have performed poorly. I would have had more respect for the protest leadership had they been willing to address privatizing education on principle, and not displayed contract education for something it is not. It is not a war on poor students, and most certainly does not mean that all classes would be raised to $180.

An example of their misinformation can be found in Michael Pronilover, who called contract education a part of some “right wing agenda.” Give me a break. Members of the Board of Trustees are paid a volunteer stipend of $400 a month. They are by no means CEO’s.

In the end, what we as a campus decide to do may be less important than how we do it. To base policy on ignorance and without a fair airing of what the true alternatives are is foolish at best and dangerous at worst. Our student leaders have won a "victory" by stopping contract education, at least for the moment, but they have failed the true test of democratic leadership: Mr. Wills used people’s ignorance to advance his own political agenda.

This is especially disappointing coming from a self-proclaimed populist.

David Cooper is an SMC student.