Tom Peters. Courtesy photo

Five candidates, including three incumbents and two newcomers, are vying for four open seats on the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees. All five candidates were sent the same questions and given a rough word count within which to provide their written responses.

Each day this week, the Daily Press will print the responses of one candidate. Today, we hear from newcomer Tom Peters, whose answers are below.

Why would you like to be on the College Board?

I served Santa Monica College for almost 15 years as a professor in the Center for Students with Disabilities.

After retiring at the beginning of the pandemic, I felt a deep frustration and sadness realizing that students in my department and many economically challenged students would suffer the most. All schools were forced online making connectivity and technical know-how a must for educational success. As we move on to a new chapter, changes are of critical importance. I love SMC and now I have a chance to serve the college and the Santa Monica-Malibu community and consider myself blessed to be in this position.

What experience do you have that qualifies you for the position?

My experiences in the classroom, on numerous SMC committees, attendance at almost every board meeting from 2010 to present, and nurturing relationships with SMC leaders, faculty, staff, and students give me an inside knowledge of the college culture and operations.

Serving in the wider community, I was on the City of Santa Monica Disabilities Commission for a term, VP of Membership/Santa Monica Democratic Club, hotline for renters in distress, food drive for SMC students, and member of the Faculty Association of CA Community Colleges, Friends of Sunset Park, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Monica.

How do you think the College handled Covid? Is there anything you would have done differently / you wished had gone differently?

I believe the college (like most local educational institutions) saved lives by following the guidelines set forth by the LA County Department of Health.

The frustrations I felt trying to serve students at the beginning of the outbreak were trying for me. However, I realize that students in need of one-on-one help to transition to the online environment at that critical time would have put these students, their families and individuals helping them in danger. Earlier alerts from federal agencies to facilitate preparedness would have been ideal.

Do you support adding more four-year programs, and what programs might those be?

Yes, I do. If there are critics of these programs, they should know that the specific degree[s] being offered by SMC and other community colleges are degrees NOT being offered at area four-year institutions. The SMC program offered presently, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interaction Design, is successfully leading our graduates to new, well-paying careers in the tech field. As potential new programs meet the same criteria they should be considered on their merit.

How big of a priority for you is local enrollment? What about other programs that benefit Santa Monica (and Malibu) specifically?

I have great pride in Santa Monica College and would advocate for any new policies or programs that make sure every Santa Monica or Malibu resident benefits from the college.

Santa Monica-Malibu students have priority enrollment. There’s a dual-enrollment program at Santa Monica High School. The SMC Promise program offers free tuition, textbook vouchers, free enrollment fees, a Chromebook and free student ID card if enrolled full-time in their first year out of high school and a free second year is possible under certain conditions. SMC will soon be offering classes at the new Malibu facility.

The SMC Emeritus program serves many Santa Monica/Malibu residents. Since retiring, I’ve taken several classes and can attest to their vital role in our community.

Do you support the new SMC bond? Why or why not?

Yes, I support Measure SMC.

I have first-hand knowledge of the heartbreaking challenges facing our students with food and housing insecurities. Measure SMC will fund housing on the West LA Bundy campus area, upgrade the Vet Center, replace old and outdated buildings, move the campus police to Pico Blvd., provide advanced technology for the new hi-flex, hybrid course delivery model and more. Bond critics are feeding your newspaper and other media outlets misinformation about the cost to property taxpayers. Santa Monica and Malibu property owners are paying the same amount for SMC as Los Angeles property owners are paying for the Los Angeles community colleges. Upon completion of the new Math/Science building, please come to the campus and witness a vibrant and beautiful college setting that these bonds have created.

Where would you like to see the College in 10 years?

The finest community college in the country!