A Student Open Forum was held on February 11, featuring President Dr. Sheila Edwards, VP of Student Services Dr. Yoshiko Harden, Dean of Student Development Ricardo Leyva-Puebla, and ASC Executive of Legislative Affairs Jung Ha Yoo. It took place in BE1110 around 12 PM. The attendees were welcomed warmly by the staff and an assortment of refreshments were provided.
The event started off with introductions before moving on to discussion about the 2020 Census, which was presented by the Department of Neighborhoods. Elsa, the advisor from the Department, opened the discussion by welcoming the audience to ask questions regarding the Census. This brought up an explanation of what the Census is and a brief overview of its background. She continued on to tell the audience why it matters and the reasons it is important to participate in the Census, which is taking place in mid-March this year. The challenges that the Census faces were also brought up, such as the process of spreading awareness and getting people accounted for. Furthermore, Elsa explained the differences between the 2020 Census and the previous censuses, most notably that people will be able to complete it online this year. Information about undercounted communities and how they play a major role in dividing the house seats was also discussed. When an attendee asked about the details about the safety and privacy of the Census, it was clarified that the information the people provide is strictly confidential. Elsa wrapped up the presentation by allowing the audience to share their insights and ask questions. An attendee raised a question about whether or not the Census would ask participants to clarify their citizenship status. Elsa replied that it would not and that it would only ask whether or not you lived in a particular household. In addition, concerns about how to reach out to students and ideas about spreading awareness of the Census were added to the conversation.
The discussion was then guided towards the closing of the Seattle Central Community College Bookstore. Dr. Yoshiko Harden started off the talk by clarifying that the bookstore is scheduled to be closing at the end of the 2021 Spring quarter, which means that the students have approximately a year and a half of access left to the bookstore. Ricardo Leyva-Puebla continued the discussion, enlightening the audience on the details of the occurrence. The bookstore space is Seattle Central property and it is closing because its current vendor, Barnes and Noble, has decided not to renew their lease. Leyva-Puebla explained that because the contract between Seattle Central and Barnes and Noble required the latter to pay the college a percentage of their revenue, profit has been difficult to procure. This ultimately led to the decision to not renew the lease. The discussion then allowed concerns such as the loss of the bookstore as a resource, and whether or not we can utilize that space for student services funds to be raised. Ideas on how to continue providing textbooks for students, as well as what to turn the soon-to-be-vacated space into were pitched in by student attendees. It was clarified that the priority is to transform the space so that it will be beneficial to students. An attendee suggested that instead of the traditional, formal bookstore model, the space should be used as a student support center that predominantly focuses on student needs, is large enough to occupy a lot of students and is also a dynamic space. The discussion opened to the audience for questions. An attendee also took that opportunity to emphasize that the faculty is disconnected from the students as an ongoing issue at the college.
The last topic of the discussion was the Advocacy Day Legislative Items, which was explained by Jung Ha Yoo. He elaborated on the items that had been advocated for, which were mental health services on campus, faculty housing, college grants, financial aid, and textbook affordability.
The event closed off with a Q&A session, where attendees were prompted to ask for additional clarification about the discussed topics and to share their thoughts and insights.