SGA hears from undocumented student and reprimands members


Courtesy of SRJC Student Life

A Fall 2017 portrait of 10 SGA members with Dean Robert Ethington and an adviser.

Brandon McCapes, News Editor

Student representatives reprimanded their own and heard criticism from an undocumented student in a tense session of the Monday afternoon Student Government Assembly (SGA) Nov. 13.

Vice President of Student Life Dori Elder moved to amend fellow voting SGA member Shae Koberle’s unexcused absence and mark it as unexcused. Koberle, who was absent when the motion began, arrived and took a seat directly across from Elder as she finished making it.

“When I came to the meeting, Shae was here,” Elder said. Shae had been present at the start of last week’s meeting, but according to Elder, she had a conversation with Director of Marketing Tiffany Starr and said she had to leave to attend a UC Berkeley writing workshop.

“I was just confused as to why that was an excused absence,” Elder said.

President Evelyn Navarro said she made the decision to permit the absence despite her lack of notice and an email she sent out to SGA members declaring she would not accept late requests for excused absences outside the 24-hour notice required.

“In college you have to play the role of somebody who has to be in so many places even when you’re sick or you can’t be there, and that’s kind of why I’ve been asking for excused absences,” Koberle said. “We’re all in college and this is, for a lot of people, a second or third priority to being a student or having a job they need to get money.”

Navarro replied with a firm warning. “I’m going to say a general statement to all of you. If this isn’t your first priority—to be in SGA—then please let me know. This absolutely needs to come first. It is messing up the quorum and the meeting.”

Navarro decides what qualifies as an excused absence, referring to medical or family emergencies, but admitted she had been very lenient with absences.

“If SGA is not your priority right now, you need to let us know,” Navarro said.

Student Trustee Sabrina Rawson, who will resign at the end of the semester for medical reasons, said her case is representative of somebody who has to step down because she cannot fulfill the role due to extenuating circumstances.

“It is sometimes crucial to step down so I can be the full-time college student, the mother and the grandmother,” Rawson said. “And, oh yeah! I’m really sick.”

Members voted to amend Koberle’s absence as unexcused by a 5-4 margin, with Navarro opting to abstain because of her role in the original decision. The amendment brings Koberle’s count of unexcused absences to four, with a total of eight absences excused or otherwise.

In the public comments section, undocumented student Laith Ocean questioned what SGA was doing to help such students and spoke about a postcard sent to students, which he claimed asked them to name relatives affected by immigration status. The postcard asked students to respond about how DACA repeal affected them, not to identify undocumented immigrants.

“Since I see no undocumented folks who are actually on SGA, I question why a name or relation with an undocumented person would ever be named on any document sent to the government at all,” Ocean said. “I can’t stress how violent it is to out somebody. I don’t see any allyship.”

Organizations including the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) and the Student Senate of California Community Colleges (SSCCC) sent the postcard, not SGA.

Laith also questioned what the SGA was doing to fulfill promises they made when running for office to assist undocumented students.

“Undocumented folks really need someone to be fighting for them, and I’m asking what the f*** you’re doing,” Ocean said. “The three years that I’ve been here at the JC, each year, each SGA has promised to do something about undocumented students, and I’ve yet to see any action.”

Representatives moved to suspend the normal rules of the public comments so members could respond to Ocean.

Ocean said SGA members for whom student representation is not a priority or who cannot make meetings for whatever reason should resign.

“I completely agree with taking care of yourself—self-care comes first always,” Ocean said. “If you’re deciding that you just don’t want to do this because it’s not important to you, I suggest you just leave.”

Rawson, Koberle and Vice President of Committees Robert Martinez apologized to Ocean for not taking more action to help undocumented students.

The first regular agenda item was a motion Navarro sponsored to remove recently appointed Assembly Member of Immigration Services Cristian Cano for absences and failing to provide a proposal of his responsibilities and duties.

Navarro said the motion to remove was not motivated by anything personal, but Cano was absent at the previous meeting where he was supposed to inform other members of what projects he is working on as assembly member.

Cano is not a member, but is part of the body tasked to work on immigration services-related projects similar to fellow assembly member Kayla Dias, who works on mental health issues.

Cano said his immigration status made it difficult to attend all meetings as he cannot afford an attorney and advocate for himself.

The representatives voted to postpone Cano’s removal until next week’s meeting, giving him one more chance to present his proposal.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) as the sole sender of a postcard regarding DACA. It also implied that Laith Ocean’s interpretation of the postcard’s content was factual. Corrections have been made in the body.