SBCC Student Senate decides against controversial D.C. trip

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RACHEL BAKICH, Channels Staff

The Associated Student Government has decided against attending a $26,000 conference in Washington, D.C. next month after multiple students spoke out against the trip.

Five students, William Bernstein, Asiel Al-Aas, Taylor Matthews, Luna Robledo and Ganenthra Ravindran voiced their concerns about not only the trip but the transparency of the student senate’s actions. Students felt the trip to D.C. was a misuse of the student representation funds.  

Four senators, Yeihoon Choi, Bryanna Siguenza, Maggie Cabrera and Emily Gribble were absent during the re-vote on the trip due to illness or meetings.

“This is simply a foolish displacement of our school’s much needed funds,” said Matthews.

The opposing students felt like a trip all the way to Washington was a more of a personal trip than a chance to attend a leadership conference, especially since the student senate would be leaving on Nov. 18.

“I find it difficult to believe that this trip does not have a direct personal benefit,” Matthews said.

However, Bryanna Siguenza, vice president of external affairs, argued that going would give the senators a chance to represent City College nationwide and learn better leadership skills.

“Stronger leaders directly benefit the students,” she said. “ We would learn different things, like how to advocate for our students properly and other various leadership skills.”

Siguenza also argued that setting up meetings with politicians would only take a few weeks prior to the trip.

“It doesn’t take months of planning with them,” she said. “It takes one to two weeks prior to the dates that you want.”

However, Al-Aas pointed out that in her experience it took months of planning to talk to senators. She saw this when she attended Political Science Professor Dr. Eskandari-Qajar’s annual Sacramento trip.

The five students also had concerns about the student senate not being open and public enough about its decisions. The students said they would like to see more communication with the student body.

“A lot of students are really concerned,” Robledo said. “We have no idea what’s going on.”

These students have asked the senators for a more visible fiscal policy, an easily accessible budget and more involvement on campus.

Issues of transparency only worsened when Siguenza was accused of providing misleading information to a class. According to Ravindran, Siguenza told a class that the money being spent to pay for the trip was not coming out of student representation funds, but was fundraised. Siguenza has denied the claims.

“I did not say anything about the D.C. trip or our budget directly,” Siguenza said.  

Senators have agreed that they will not take the trip due to the backlash from the students.

“I think it’s clear the student body does not want us to take this trip,” Senator Ethan Bertrand said. “We should honor that.”

As an alternative, senators are thinking of going to a legislative conference in Washington, D.C. this spring. There they will learn how to advocate for the students. The price will be set at $175 per senator instead of $500 and the 18 senators will still deduct the fees from the student representation funds. However, no confirmed plans have been made.

 

[editor’s note: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated Ethan Bertrand was not at the meeting.]