Two-Year Terms for Student Trustee?
In an ultimate effort to enhance student involvement in the college's life, Santa Monica College student Dina Cervantes, who finished her term as Student Trustee last May 31, will propose two amendments before the Board of Trustees during their next meeting on June 6.
Cervantes has worked in collaboration with the new Student Trustee, Belinda Phillips, to propose an amendment, which would give the student trustee the opportunity to run for election after one year for a second term.
The second amendment, which will be presented on June 6, would enable the student trustee to vote before other trustees on every issue in order to give the students' perspective, as an advisory vote.
Even though she is no longer a trustee, Cervantes has not stopped using her key position, as a link between the Board of Trustees and the students at large, to empower them and advocate their best interests.
"I won't even be here next semester so it is not a selfish intention. I just want students to have a better representation on the board," said Cervantes who is transferring next fall to a four-year college. "There is so much information to learn when you are on the board that I think a second year is necessary to fully understand the process and become a better participant in the meetings."
The initiative has created much enthusiasm at the Associated Student office. A strong supporter, A.S. President Jeronimo Saldana believes that it is only fair for the student trustee to be able to serve on the board for two years since other trustees are elected for four years.
"It seems bias that the student does not have the same rights as other trustees, since he/she is our only official representative on the board," said Saldana. "The student trustee is not allowed to participate in any election on campus and their vote in A.S. elections does not even count, it is only a honorary vote."
Hector Vivero, the A.S. vice president, also thinks that their representative deserves more momentum to pursue their objective on the board.
Belinda Phillips, the motivated new student trustee, said that the current policy is frustrating because it obligates the trustee to leave the board when "things start rolling."
"With two years on the board I will go through the transition smoothly and get to see my baby into fruition."
As a Santa Monica resident, Phillips' mission on the board is to increase the enrollment of community members at SMC, as well as encourage the college to become more involved in the community.
Although the proposal has not reached the board for revision yet, trustee Rob Rader says he wants "all trustees to be as equal as possible."
"If students think it can enhance their participation in the decision-making process and have a better opportunity to voice their thoughts, then I believe it is a good idea," said Rader. "Students are entitled to autonomously decide how they want to be represented."
However, the chair of the Board of Trustees, Carole Currey, defended the current policy, explaining that a student trustee has to be enrolled for one year at SMC before getting in the office. Considering that SMC is a two-year college, a one-year term on the board seems appropriate.
"Having an incumbent trustee would take away other students' opportunity to serve on the board," said Currey. "But I haven't heard all the facts yet, so I don't have a position," Currey diplomatically added.
The diverse personalities and values embodied within the Board of Trustees will make it challenging for Cervantes and Phillips, next June 6, to have them reach a unanimous approval in favor of their two amendments. However, the strong support of fellow students will likely play in their favor.