COC Board of Trustee candidate Edel Alonso expressed frustration with COC’s Associated Student Government’s decision to cancel a Board of Trustee debate in favor of a campus barbeque in late September.
“I was very disappointed that this year, for whatever reason, they decided to not hold the candidates forum, and instead we were invited to a meet and greet, “said Edel Alonso, who is running against longtime incumbent Bruce Fortine for the open Area 2 seat.
For the past several election cycles, the ASG and the Board of Trustees worked together to host a candidate forum. But what was perceived as a tradition, the ASG disappointed some when they decided against holding a forum.
ASG admitted that it received criticism by choosing to go in a different direction than the traditional debate. “Throughout this whole process, we have gotten a lot of backlash from not having a debate, which seems to have been stemmed by certain individuals or a certain group,” explained ASG President Tabitha Kumar.
Alonso’s disappointment came after she was under the impression that there would be plans for a debate. Alonso inquired through email as to why the plans for having a debate changed.
A representative from ASG responded:
“In regards to having a meet and greet versus a forum or debate, I strongly respect and appreciate your inquiry. The ASG had initially intended on hosting a debate or forum; however, in speaking with our advisers and superiors, it was decided that it may be best to bring attention to the candidates through a strictly positive and informative light; of which a meet and greet can offer.”
According to this email, the “initially intended debate” took a different turn after the student government spoke to superiors.
“Whether or not there is outside influencing or (people) giving us suggestions for our actions, for our events, for anything that we do, ultimately student government is a student run organization in which we are given the option to make our own decisions,” said Kumar.
Even after criticism, ASG stood by their reasoning.
However, if one would want to know more about that reasoning it may be difficult to track down that information.
ASG officially decided to strike down the debate at a Senate meeting on Sept. 21.
On the official minutes, the ASG recorded a vote of 9-0, with the Senate unanimously agreeing to strike down the debate.
The recorded vote was logged; the reasoning behind the vote was not.
When asked about why any conversation or discussion regarding changing plans was not documented, President Kumar responded that “the individual who writes the minutes may not have felt the need to log that.”
Kumar explained that main points are what is recorded.
The minutes also documented that the only people that were at the meeting were ASG advisors and students that were apart of student government. The sign in sheet matched this information.
But when asked if any administration were present during the Senate meeting, Kumar confirmed that administration was in attendance.
“There were other administration present, as our meeting was at the Canyon Country Campus,” said Kumar.
Why this presence was not logged is unclear.
In a prepared statement that Alonso read to a COC Board joint meeting with the student government on Oct. 12 she expressed her concerns over the decision:
“I rise to speak to the members of the Board of Trustees and to the Associated Student Government to say how surprised and disappointed I was to learn from ASG that it would not hold a debate of all the candidates running for the Board. Instead, I was invited to a meet and greet/BBQ on campus that attracted students more for the burgers than the candidates.”
“We thought collectively as a Senate that it would be appropriate to have a meet and greet versus a forum or debate. We could better voice the opinion or the well-being of all students,” said Kumar.
Normally, when a Board of Trustee seat was up for election, the ASG would host a candidate forum. Students, community members and faculty would be able to ask questions and candidates would answer and debate one another.
“Although the meet and greet provided a wonderful opportunity for students to interact with candidates,” said Wendy Brill-Wynkoop, President of the College of the Canyons Faculty Association. “It would have been very beneficial for the students, faculty and staff to hear the candidates debate about how to college would be governed.”
“A debate or forum could be a bit intimidating to certain individuals who might not be able to find their voice in such a setting,” says Kumar.
ASG gave several reasons as to why they thought a meet and greet would be more appropriate. They said that an event where students could personally interact with candidates would be more positive.
“(The decision) was up to the students, and they decided that they did not want to do that,” explained Fortine. “I can’t second-guess the students. Whatever they want to do, I will participate.”
“The Student Government stands fully behind on what the event was for the meet-and-greet and with that we hope that outside individuals respect and accept our decision,” said Kumar.