By Gustavo Buenrostro
The Student Service Center held a public forum on Tuesday with candidates for the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustee’s Steve Verres and Dr. Gabriel Buelna. Buelna and Verres spoke about multiple topics with students and faculty asking questions.
Immigration was a major topic of discussion. Attendees asked how the Board of Trustees would handle the federal government’s involvement with law enforcement to deport undocumented citizens, which would affect students.
Verres said that as the Board of Trustees, they must challenge requests from the federal government that affects undocumented students.
“What we have to do as the Board of Trustees is confront the secretary of education, secretary of labor and the president as they are, essentially, waging an attack on public education. We need to work with faculty and students to defend these institutions. This is the equalizer,” Verres said.
Verres added that the federal government can’t co-opt and commandeer law enforcement, whose responsibility is to keep students safe. Verres was adamant about immigration policy not being reformed in 31 years and said Congress has not done its job or there would not be an immigration issue. Verres made an oath that, “every trustee will view this [immigration] as an important issue.”
Buelna added that as trustees, their service is to students, and that undocumented students always have a voice with them. Both candidates also spoke of what the Board of Trustees can do to advocate and protect undocumented students, Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Resident (DAPA) students until a proper immigration reform is made.
Both DACA and DAPA are administrative relief programs that keep non-U.S. citizens from getting deported. “We can make resolutions. We have access to the general council. We have the ability to send messages to the federal government. We can look at the tools the Board of Trustees have and be proactive about it,” Buelna said.
Verres hopes to challenge government requests to access student documents. “We need to defend and fight off any request to give the DOCA and DAPA lists.
The attorneys will defend by restricting access. We don’t want them to weaponize it and use it against the students,” Verres said. The candidates also spoke about and supported re-entry programs for students. They want to give students an opportunity to get an education.
Verres spoke about LACCD being the testing ground for re-entry programs. He spoke about spreading the program throughout California because of its success in this district. Verres also wants to provide construction jobs for re-entry students at ELAC, but added that they won’t restrict anyone from being what they want to be.
Another topic that was discussed was the upgrading technology. Verres said that LACCD is behind on technology and that they’re working on updates that will soon be available.
Buelna wants to upgrade the current student registration system so that it’s more efficient. “We want to make sure that we are up-todate so that students can be more efficient in registering for class. I am all in favor of that,” Buelna said. He went on to talk about what is important to him and what he wants the Board of Trustees to prioritize.
“Three T’s: Free tuition, free textbooks and coordinated transportation. Do we want to move to free tuition? Yes. do we want to move to free textbooks? Yes.” “Even though tuition isn’t as high as CSU (Cal State Universities), some students can’t afford it. We want students to come to school. The challenge is coming up with the money,” Buelna said.
If the Three T’s are obtained, Buelna said, students will get out of school faster, won’t have debt, will be able to pay taxes and be more productive in society.
He added that the three t’s show the trustee’s empathy of and support for students. One important issue that Buelna said he would like to tackle as a trustee is the budget. He wants to make sure that the budget is being used to help the students.
This includes money going to classrooms and faculty. He said it is impotant for teachers to have a permanet job so that they will not be too tired and give students thier full attention. Both candadites believe that student feedback is key to making better decisions. They want to hear what students want changed.
Voter registration for the Board of Trustees ends Feb. 20 with the deadline to apply by mail Feb. 28. The election will be on March 7.