Political Pizza Bash

The popularity of the Santa Monica College Associated Students mushroomed on Thursday when A.S. directors, professors and counselors showed their desire to serve by doling out free cheese and pepperoni pizza to hundreds of hungry students. The "Meet-and-Greet Pizza Bash" at the clock tower was the A.S.' first student outreach event of the spring 2005 semester.

A.S. board members introduced themselves to the crowd and the upcoming A.S. elections were announced just before the pies were served.

"My hope with these events is to educate, as well as entertain students," said A.S. President Jeronimo Saldana, the event's organizer. "I want to use this as a forum to inform them about the issues that affect them."

He called the well-attended event "an incredible success," and added, "I hope to get a great turnout like this for every event." He plans to duplicate the promotional strategy he used to generate a similar response to future events. "We had flyers all over, and ten minutes before it started we had a couple of loud guys wearing sandwich boards yelling all over campus. There was a huge line of people following them."

Saldana also invited teachers and counselors to participate and A.S. directors were joined by Deyna Hearn, assistant dean of student life; counselors Brian Williams and Cecile Hanrahan; and professors Oriana Kim-Rajab (Life Sciences), Carol Anne Fuchs (English), Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein (Political Science) and others.

"We're passing out political pizza here," announced Professor Tahvildaran-Jesswein to the mobs of students assembled to get a free slice. He took the opportunity to advocate student involvement in the political process, saying, "We should have a pizza line all the way to Sacramento."

But not all students felt the message was clear. "The pizza is good, but it's diverting attention away from the real purpose of the event," said SMC student Issac Profet with a piece of pizza in his hand. "People were more concerned about the food than with listening to what they were saying."

Saldana has an ambitious line up of events taking shape for the second half of his tenure to further his main goal of increasing access to education.

The main projects he has planned include protesting the City of Santa Monica which has just placed parking meters along the south side of the campus on Pearl Street and organizing students to fight President Bush's proposed 2006 Department of Education budget cut in the amount of $4.2 billion.

"Now teachers and students have a chance to unite (against the budget cut) because it will affect all of us," Saldana said. "It would eliminate scholarships, grants and programs for at-risk kids to have access to education."

In seeking to increase access to education, Saldana is proposing a donation of $10,000 of A.S. funds to the EOPS book loan program that affects 1,300 students. That proposal will be decided at the open A.S. meeting today (Wednesday) from 3-5 p.m.

He is also working with the English department to create a poetry magazine called "Persistence of Vision" featuring the works of student writers.

The next event will be the first of several commemorating Black History Month. On Thursday Feb. 24, the HBO Poets group will perform "The Human Writes Project" at the clock tower during the activity hour (11:15-12:35 p.m.).

Students wishing to take part in the protests, comment on EOPS donation, or submit poetry can stop by the A.S. office or send an email to Saldana at saldana_jeronimo@student.smc.edu.