SMC — Reacting to complaints about the loss of exercise classes at Emeritus College, college officials are exploring options to reinstate the classes, possibly charging students a fee.

Two sections of yoga, one section of tai chi and one section of aerobics were cut from the senior citizen program’s fall schedule in response to state budget cuts. Following the end of Emeritus’ summer session on July 24, some of the students have been fighting to reverse the decision to cut the classes, including attending the most recent Santa Monica College Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night. SMC runs Emeritus.

The majority of those upset over the cuts are members of Marsha Cooper’s 60-student yoga class. All 16 speakers who spoke at the top of Tuesday’s board meeting were from Cooper’s class. The students spoke of how Cooper’s class had positively impacted their health, as well as offered options for how to avoid cuts.

“They said they were willing to do anything to have the class,” Cooper said. “If the board is not moved by that, I give up.”

Though the focus was placed on Cooper’s class, she said the voice of her students will benefit all of Emeritus.

The cuts, which mirrored the 3 percent cut in offerings across all of SMC, were made in response to the California Community College chancellor ending funding to non-credit physical education classes, said Jeff Shimizu, SMC’s vice president of academic affairs.

Though the current plan is to phase out all Emeritus exercise classes by spring 2011, Shimizu said SMC is hoping to avoid that either by finding outside sources of funding or by rewriting the curriculum and renaming the classes so that they qualify for the chancellor’s funding.

“We’re reviewing the curriculums to see if we can rewrite them so they have more of an emphasis on health so that they’re accepted by the chancellor,” Shimizu said.

One of the suggestions raised at the board meeting was to make the currently free classes fee-based, which the college is now considering as a viable option, said Bruce Smith, a spokesman for SMC. Though the college is still researching that option, the hope is that fee-based classes might be available sometime in the fall, Smith said.

One of the people in attendance at the board meeting was Arthur Herman, who recently made a $1 million donation to Emeritus from the estate of his deceased mother, Zelda Herman. Arthur Herman did not speak at the meeting, but was moved by the support expressed for Cooper’s class.

“People were effusive in praise with how their bodies have become healthy from this class. I’ve never heard such praise.” he said. “It was such a great example of a participatory democracy.”

Herman said he is upset his donation, which has been placed in an endowment, is not being used to prevent the cuts. Despite his requests, he said he was not consulted on the money’s use, and he is currently trying to set up a meeting to discuss this with the dean of Emeritus, Ron Furuyama.

“We’re dealing with a bureaucracy run amuck,” Herman said.

Smith said the college could not comment on Herman’s donation and if his desire for it to be used to prevent the cuts will be met. But Smith said SMC believes making the classes fee-based is the most viable option.