Student Trustee Debate

Questions about providing free public transportation and increasing access to food for students at L.A. Community College District campuses were among key issues directed to student trustee candidates Milo Anderson and Ryan Navarrete during a debate at Pierce College Thursday.

Arranged by the Associated Students Organization, the question-and-answer timed-turn format gave the candidates a chance to outline their stance on a range of topics they have both addressed in their campaigns.

“What is your plan to address the lack of food options on campuses,” asked Denise Robb, associate professor of political science and the moderator of the debate.

“I know Southwest [College] has a really bad [food] truck problem, I actually heard that they actually ran out of food and had to start giving money back to students,” said Navarrete, a student at L.A. Trade Tech and an active representative in student government. “Which was just horrible.”

Navarrete proposed the culinary arts departments at Trade Tech, Harbor and Mission could prepare, deliver and sell food at the campuses which lack sufficient options. In his response, Anderson also praised the culinary departments at those campuses, but said the district should refrain from “blanket solutions,” stressing that what may work at one campus may not at others.

“Each campus is different when it comes to their food needs and their food feasibility. Not every campus necessarily needs food services on their campus,” said Anderson, who cited East L.A. College which is located near several restaurants. “They may not have the same food needs that Pierce does, where… you really have to drive off-campus in order to go eat.”

Anderson said a forthcoming survey by the district of all nine campuses would allow officials to identify the need at each and enable a more individualized approach to solving food problems.

Both Anderson and Navarrete have spoken in support of providing free access to public transportation for the district’s students, and were asked Thursday about measures they would take toward that end.

“I met with [Mayor] Eric Garcetti last month, spoke with him about bringing back subsidized mass transit to all of the LACCD, and forming a partnership with LACCD and Metro… in order to get district support and citywide support,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, Garcetti was open to the possibility of a “token fare” which would not be free, but would be substantially cheaper than the current monthly student rate of $43. In his response, Navarrete highlighted the limits of relying solely on Metro MTA and promoted a broader approach.

“My plan is not just Metro at-large, it’s including the Gardena and the Torrance, so Southwest is also affected,” said Navarrete in his response. “The Montebello bus, so East L.A. is also affected, Culver City for West L.A. and all other local buses.”

Navarrete said that by emulating the public transport systems serving Santa Monica and Pasadena community colleges, the LACCD could improve enrollment and retention of students and thereby improve income for the campuses.

When asked why they were running, both Anderson and Navarrete said that their primary motivation was a shared desire to represent the students of the L.A. Community College District.

“I feel that a lot of times the student voices aren’t heard, or they’re silent,” Navarrete said. “I feel with me as the student trustee I will make sure that their voice aren’t silent [sic] and that their rights are implemented.”

Anderson said he too believes the concerns of students are not being effectively communicated to the district’s governing body, the LACCD board of trustees. It should be noted in the interest of transparency that while not involved with the Roundup newspaper, Milo Anderson is a student at Pierce College and a host of KPCRadio, part of the media arts department which also oversees this publication.

“I think it’s really important that we have a student trustee that really can be not the voice for the students, but the voice of the students,” Anderson said. “My experience having a broadcast journalism degree… and my experience as a community organizer for I think makes me uniquely qualified to not just be a voice, but to be someone who can listen.”

A previous election for the position was held in April which determined Navarrete the winner, but after a series of official complaints lodged by Anderson it was decided that a new election would be scheduled for the fall semester. Polling stations at Pierce will be open on Sept. 22 and 23 at Pierce College.