A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Tempers flare between student leaders and administration at monthly Board of Trustees meeting

Sean Young
SRJC Student Trustee Delashay Carmona Benson left the monthly Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 14 following an impassioned speech calling out SRJC administration.

Several student leaders voiced frustrations and alleged that members of the Santa Rosa Junior College administration ignored their cries for mental health awareness and claims of discrimination, at the SRJC Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 14 in Petaluma.

Three students, Thorton “Thor” McKay, Felix Santiago and Jimmy Brock delivered public comments at the meeting denouncing the college and members of the board for allowing discrimination towards underrepresented groups.

Students speak out on mental health

McKay tried to speak to the Board of Trustees about his grievances, saying that SRJC has “not focused enough on mental health,” and that part of the reason he attempted suicide was because of the “mistreatment” he faced on campus. However, trustees stopped him mid-sentence when he began naming specific SRJC employees.

“Legally, if you are going to mention people by name, we need to give them notice so they can respond,” said Board President Dorothy Battenfeld, referring to the Board’s bylaws.

McKay responded negatively to the Board’s interruption. “It’s not fair to me that I can’t explain how I feel,” he said. “I would like to thank the people, the professors who actually care about students.”

Santiago, who uses they/them pronouns, addressed issues around the LQBTQ community at SRJC following McKay’s speech.

“Throughout the years and even more now I have noticed many of my peers who haven’t felt safe being on campus, unable to reach out to any faculty because there is no trust,” Santiago said.

As a part-time student employee, Santiago noted that they have heard from fellow students about incidences of transphobia on campus. “I want to see work in making this campus safe, but actions speak louder than their words,” they said.

Brock resigns from SGA

The drama continued when Executive Vice President of Legislation Jimmy Brock resigned from his student government position during the public comments. Brock had served in the position since November 2022.

“I don’t want to be a part of a system that celebrates racism or bullying or domestic violence,” Brock told trustees in his speech.

Student trustee walks out of meeting in solidarity

Student Trustee Delashay Carmona Benson added additional comments addressing discrimination during her report to the board and walked out in solidarity with McKay, Santiago and Brock.

“As a student [at SRJC], you’re going to experience some ageism, racism, colorism, [and be] verbally assaulted,” Carmona Benson said to her fellow trustees. “You’re going to get threatened, taunted in the hallways, assaulted, belittled, degraded and shamed.”

Carmona Benson noted that she had dropped out of all of her in-person classes due to discrimination she faced. “I had no choice for my own safety and my own mental health,” she said.

Carmona Benson said there was a time when “SRJC felt like a family,” but now she believes that SRJC is “a place where students are to be silenced.”

At the end of her report, Carmona Benson announced she was excusing herself from the rest of the meeting. “We just had a student who said that they jumped off a bridge,” she said as she grabbed her personal belongings from the table. “We already know that no one in this room cares.” She then walked out of the meeting room to console McKay outside.

This was the second board meeting in three months in which Carmona Benson left in protest. At the December meeting, Carmona Benson walked out of the meeting following an impassioned speech where she was originally set to resign. “Quitting is the first step to failure,” she said. “I’ma stay, but I hope there’s going to be a lot of changes.”

The day after that meeting, Carmona Benson received a student conduct notice via email for allegedly breaking board policy 8.2.8 for obstruction or disruption of district administrative activities and “open and persistent defiance of authority or persistent abuse of District personnel requiring inordinate drains on staff time, resources and supervision.”

Additional reporting by Michael Combs & Dharma Niles

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About the Contributor
Sean Young
Sean Young, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Sean Young (he/him) is in his ninth semester at SRJC and third semester at The Oak Leaf. He plans on finishing an associate degree in communications and journalism this spring. Sean lives in Sebastopol and spends his free time listening to his vinyl record collection, practicing bass guitar and writing for The Oak Leaf. He hopes to continue to a 4-year college after graduating from SRJC to work towards a bachelor's degree in communications and journalism.

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    Delashay BensonMar 14, 2023 at 3:58 am

    I stand with our students! SRJC isn’t a student ready college and it is t student centered! We need a Board that puts student priorities first and foremost! Bullying shouldn’t be tolerated. I don’t care what title you hold.