Student Expresses Concerns Over SMC's Admission Protocol

While nervous and struggling to hold her composure, Monica Lancaster gathered herself as she spoke to the Board of Trustees during the public comment session of their meeting, on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

Lancaster is 17 years old and still in high school. She began taking classes at Santa Monica College during the last summer semester, and was hoping to continue during the current term as a full time student.

She is now considered a High School Concurrent Enrollment Student, which means that she is enrolled in both her regular school as well as the college. To do this she had to pick two classes, and then get those classes OK'd by her principal as well as a counselor and a parent, after that she had to be approved by the administration at SMC, and get a special code to enter online. If her classes were already full from the time it took to go through that process, then she would have to start all over again. She describes her situation as "unconventional," but then goes on to say "no, I don't regret it."

Lancaster's grievance, at first, appears uncomplicated; she simply wants to take more than the allotted six units or two classes that SMC offers students in her position. As it stands now, she doesn't feel like the number of classes she is taking are equivalent to the time she has spent in Santa Monica, away from her normal school. According to the California Education Code, Concurrent Enrollment Students are only allowed to take "less than 12 units," while still enrolled in high school, so she has found herself wanting to know why, as she puts it: "SMC chooses to punish us by making us grovel for 1/2 of this."

Currently Lancaster has been trying to find some sort of way around the established two classes or six units rule at SMC. Originally she tried to become an exception to the rule, but then, later decided that she would fight to have the policy changed altogether, as she said: "Sure, it was time consuming and frustrating, but the rules don't get there by themselves." Her first effort was to contact Kiersten Elliott, assistant dean of enrollment services and matriculation; however she was referred by Elliott's secretary to the Committee of Special Consideration. After filling out the paper work for an appeal with the committee she then received a letter of rejection from the Admissions and Records Appeals Committee. Lancaster contends that the letter did not give an explanation as to why she was rejected; however she did not let this slow her down as she began to seek out higher powers. Her next step was to send a business letter directly to College President Dr. Chui Tsang, however she promptly received another rejection letter, this time from Vice President Teresita Rodriguez.

Finally, Lancaster attended last week's Board meeting, in what she calls her "last hopes." There she spoke before the trustees and explained her situation, as well as her love for the school, and what she has done to try and get answers for the rule that she feels is unfair. The board listened to her in all seriousness, and then referred her to Vice President of Student Services Mike Tuitasi who is currently looking at her case, his reply still pending. Lancaster remains hopeful that she made a difference. "If I'm lucky," she said, "I may be able to add a course from the second eight-week session of classes."

Oddly enough, the young student is not bitter about her situation instead she looks over the experience she has had this semester as a positive one.

As she said, "I got the opportunity to challenge our bureaucracy and navigate through a professional hierarchy... If we think something isn't right or isn't working, we have the rights and capabilities to challenge a system."