After months of urging from a student activist group, Palomar’s Governing Board began discussions on whether the student government’s management should be put to a student vote.
The Governing Board did not make any decisions on the matter during the April 10 meeting but listened to five students and faculty from the Coalition for Democratic Education during the public forum and agreed to take it on for further discussion.
The initiative that the Coalition set forth to Palomar’s Associated Student Government was intended to break the representative body off from the Office of Student Affairs, allow members to select their own adviser and hold annual elections for ASG senators rather than the current system of board appointment. Now, following a stricken lawsuit, the Coalition was given a second chance to state their case.
“Every other club on campus has the ability to choose the person they want as their adviser,” said Nestor Venegas, Coalition member. “Why is it that the ASG can’t choose the adviser on their own terms?”
Certain members of the Governing Board voiced their concerns.
“You’re kind of like the intern at the hospital who’s saying you don’t want the experienced surgeon to make the decision, you want to make the decision,” said board member Paul McNamara, referring to students choosing advisers.
According to the Coalition, that mentality is part of the problem with the way students are viewed at Palomar.
“The same thing that makes me qualified to vote for you is what makes me qualified to vote for my adviser,” said Valerie Viana, Coalition member. “If I can vote for the president of the United States, I should be able to select my own adviser.”
Members had returned to the Governing Board meeting after a lawsuit they filed against the school was dismissed without prejudice on March 9. Heeding the court’s advice, the Coalition is now asking again for administrative consideration from the Associated Student Government and the Governing Board on the initiative they requested be put to a student vote.
“It seems they need to be compelled – either through a re-request from your clients or perhaps ultimately from the Court— to do their mandated analysis,” said Judge Earl H. Maas III during the hearing. “And until that’s done, you can’t use the mandated process to order the school to do something.”
Since the Coalition first brought their case to court, they have said they felt that the school has essentially been ignoring them, according to Daniel Finkenthal, an instructional adviser for the Coalition.
For their part, Governing Board members have claimed the reason they haven’t made a decision is not from lack of interest, but that they believed the matter was out of their hands. While no ruling was made by the board, the speakers at the event did serve to show alignment on the issue among some notable individuals. Shannon Lienhart, the Palomar Faculty Federation president, took the podium to speak rather than from her place on the panel to emphasize she was speaking on behalf of herself and not the faculty.
“These students are not K-12 students, they’re adults,” Lienhart said. “They could go to war. You may see your powers as limited, but I see your powers as great. One of the great things you can do tonight is voice your support for this as a governing board.”