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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

PCC allows recording of meetings

After years of debate, the Pierce College Council (PCC) has finally decided to allow their meetings to be recorded. 

The decision, made Oct. 24, came after input from Pierce President Alexis Montevirgen.

Montevirgen said he had emailed the Los Angeles Community College District’s general counsel to see if there was a legal binding authority. He read out loud what the general counsel responded.  

“If the college council has been open to the public, then it would be problematic to not allow recording. This is a public meeting, not private, so no one’s privacy is being impacted,” Montevirgen said.

The email sent to Montevirgen made reference to Meetings, Cal. Penal Code § 54953.5 section a. It declares that anyone who attends an open and public meeting has the right to record with an audio or visual recorder. The visual recorder can be a still or motion picture camera. 

After Montevirgen affirmed that the meetings could be recorded, some members of the council expressed concern over what recording the meetings could mean for the committee members and attendees. 

The idea of having an official recording every meeting came up. Modern Language Department Chair Fernando Oleas suggested the idea of having the recordings closed captioned.

Some members of the committee argued that there wasn’t enough in the budget to record, close caption and store the recordings. 

Department Chair Brian Walsh said the meetings contain sensitive information that could be manipulated and leaked to the media. He says other bodies have experienced secret recordings taken out of context. 

“I mean it sounds like we have no choice here, but I think we now it’s incumbent upon ourselves to protect ourselves and particularly protect this committee and protect this institution,” Walsh said.

Student Health Center Director Beth Benne said the committees and their corresponding subcommittees are all open. She said the council would be using up valuable resources to discuss the topic.  

“They [The Roundup] could’ve been recording this entire time and so we’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of time, maybe money on something that they could have been doing forever and we didn’t even know it,” Benne said. “Call me naive, but this seems like we’ve got a lot more important things to worry about.”

Walsh said today’s media driven culture is a reason that doesn’t have him in a hurry to record the meetings. He said the minutes taken at the meetings are good enough and the council members are held accountable for them.

“I think of the culture we’re in where everyone’s recording each other and taking pictures of themselves and just like in a meeting where we can all just kind of talk freely, I don’t think it’s going to change our behavior at all, but I’m just not in a rush to like record myself and my colleagues because we take minutes,” Walsh said. 

The PCC will vote on whether or not they will have an official recording of every meeting at the next scheduled meeting on Nov. 14.

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