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

SRJC Student Trustee announces resignation at Board of Trustees meeting

Bryan Fructuoso
Delashay Carmona Benson (on the left, next to Board of Trustee Members Terry Lindley, middle, and Ezrah Chaaban, right) announces her resignation as SRJC Student Trustee at the April 11 after a year of conflict with college officials.

Santa Rosa Junior College Student Trustee Delashay Carmona Benson announced her resignation and plan to leave SRJC after a year of discord with college administrators, Student Services staff, board members and members of the Student Government Assembly, at the Board of Trustees meeting April 11.

Carmona Benson left the board meeting after her resignation, the third meeting she’s abruptly departed after her student trustee report in five months. 

“These last few months have been both heartbreaking and mentally draining for me,” she wrote in an April 11 Facebook post. 

In her four years at SRJC, Carmona Benson has served as president of the Student Government Assembly for two years and co-president of the Black Students Union and the Universally Empowered Students Union, formerly the Disabled Students Union. She also served on numerous college committees and was integral in getting the SRJC Ethnic Studies Department and Sawubona Black Student Success Center started among other achievements

“I’m leaving brokenhearted but content because I’m not leaving defeated. I think we made some wonderful changes,” Carmona Benson said. “It’s been a fun ride. Ultimately, I’ve met amazing people. You guys will always be somewhere in my heart.”

According to Carmona Benson, her problems with SRJC administration started when she got in a heated conversation with Byron Reaves, interim senior dean of students, about lack of student participation in student clubs on Nov. 10. She believes the conflict never got resolved and led Robert Ethington, vice president of student services, to cancel a multiclub event called “Tea With Tea,” planned for Nov. 30. 

In a Nov. 21 conversation between Carmona Benson, Ethington, Reaves and various SGA members in which everyone agreed to be recorded, Reaves apologized to Carmona Benson over their argument and said he hoped for a chance to rebuild their relationship. However, he asked to be removed from any further conversation regarding the “Tea With Tea” event. 

“What I will not take responsibility for is this ‘Tea With Tea’ event. I do not have anything to do with that, and I’m removing myself from that space,” Reaves said. 

An email attempt to reach Reaves for more information resulted in a response from Interim Director of Government and Public Relations Sarah Laggos, who said Reaves declined to be interviewed.

An email attempt to reach Ethington about the reason he canceled the event resulted in a response from Laggos, who said that “the ‘Tea with Tea’ event was canceled because the event-approval process was not followed.”  

In an email to Carmona Benson, Ethington stated that the event was canceled because “this event was publicly promoted prior to Cabinet approval and in fact the event never received Cabinet approval” and “leaders of the community were invited prior to approval.”

Ethington wrote these issues “could have been worked through until it became evident that there was discord between you and Advisors; discord that demonstrated a lack of trust and willingness to work together. This is not a foundation for a successful event, especially an event of this magnitude that would have repercussions in the larger community.”

Carmona Benson said she followed all the pre-event protocols and had already garnered 45 confirmed tables for SRJC and city organizers. 

Carmona Benson also had friction with SGA members who she said would continually miss all or part of their weekly meetings. 

“In the SGA bylaws if you miss three meetings you are automatically removed, and three to four students missed that much in August. I’ve been in SGA for three and a half years, and this is the first semester SGA has been like this,” Carmona Benson said. 

She said no one seemed to care when she brought up member absences at meetings.

SGA President Abrea Tillman said there was never an issue with attendance during the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters. “We definitely would care if members were missing meetings or we wouldn’t be able to function,” Tillman said. 

She said there is a process if someone had grievances with attendance. Members would bring it up to SGA before they approved the agenda for the next meeting, and then the SGA members would discuss it and make a decision if actions would be taken against the individual who was missing meetings. According to Tillman, this never happened. 

After the altercations with SRJC administrators and SGA members, Carmona Benson left the December Board of Trustees meeting in protest. In a speech before she walked out, Carmona Benson said she had planned to resign as student trustee, but changed her mind. “Quitting is the first step to failure. I’ma stay, but I hope there’s going to be a lot of changes,” she said. She also used a profanity as she left, telling board members something to the effect of “You need to get your shit together.”

The following day, Dec. 14, Ethington sent Carmona Benson a student conduct notice via email for allegedly breaking policy 8.2.8. In the email, Ethington said members of the SRJC community reported that Carmona Benson had a “pattern of disruptive behavior” which was “‘distressing and caused harm to others” and allegedly resulted in the resignation of two SGA members” and “made false allegations” and “used profanity” at the December Board meeting, among other grievances. 

Carmona Benson said there is nothing in the Board’s bylaws that prohibits the use of profanity. 

In a letter Petaluma Campus Dean Matthew Long wrote to Carmona Benson on Feb. 7, he stated that the charges against Carmona Benson were dropped. “While I do believe your behavior in the above mentioned incidents approaches the threshold of disruption, I do not believe it is sufficient to hold you responsible for the violations [stated].”

On the same day, the Board also notified Carmona Benson that she was removed as a student representative on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee due to her “alleged misconduct and policy violations and ongoing student conduct violation proceedings.” 

At the March Board of Trustees meeting, Carmona Benson again walked out to tend to her friend, Thorton “Thor” McKay. McKay recently attempted suicide and tried to speak on what he alleged were failings of SRJC administration to support student mental health during public comments, but the Board cut him off because he called out specific employee names, which was against board policy. McKay left the room in distress. 

“We just had a student who said that they jumped off a bridge,” she said as she packed her belongings. “We already know that no one in this room cares. He’s lucky he has me.”

At the April 11 board meeting when Carmona Benson announced her retirement, she said her “character has been dragged through the mud in the last six months.” 

She also reflected on her challenges and accomplishments during her time as an SRJC student leader. “I’ve had to face fires, floods, COVID, masks on and masks off,” she said. “As a Trustee, I started the Trustee Council where we have representations from Native Americans, LGBTQIA, Latinx, Second Chance [students], Students in Recovery, DRD, cheer, sports and our Black students.”

She said she had a tremendous run working with Kim Starke, dean of disabled students programs and services, Hector Delgado, president of the Southwest campus, and Zack Miranda. 

“I will definitely never leave without thanking the rock of the students, and that would be Zack Miranda. Zack has put in so much work, and I always step back and watch how utterly amazing he is,” Carmona Benson said. 

Per Board procedure, a letter of resignation needs to be submitted to make the act official, which Carmona Benson told The Oak Leaf she will do soon.

Editor’s note: The Oak Leaf has updated this article to reflect that the Board of Trustees charges against Carmona Benson have been dropped, and that Ethington cited discord as the reason the “Tea with Tea” event could not be saved from cancellation after protocol was not followed.

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About the Contributors
Michael Combs
Michael Combs, Editor
Michael Combs (he/him) is in his fifth semester writing for The Oak Leaf, and his second as co-Editor-In-Chief. He began taking natural resources management classes at Santa Rosa Junior College to pursue his love of nature and the environment but has shifted toward journalism so he can share those passions with the world. Besides the environment, Michael also likes to write about politics, social justice and mental health. He has a bachelor’s of science in neuroscience and mammalian physiology from the University of California, San Diego, and hopes to get back to his roots with more science journalism as well. In his off time Michael likes to read, write and hike as often as possible in beautiful Sonoma County and beyond.
Bryan Fructuoso
Bryan Fructuoso, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Bryan Fructuoso-Zurita (He/Him/Él) is in his third semester at The Oak Leaf. He enjoys meeting new people and listening to their stories because everyone has one to tell. His passion lies in covering individuals and amplifying their stories, particularly on underrepresented groups on campus and Latinx stories. To pursue his passion further, he is working towards obtaining an associate of science degree in both digital journalism and digital filmmaking. Bryan's ultimate dream is to create your favorite television series or film one day.

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