Sion Roy. 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 incumbent Sion Roy, whose answers are below.

Why would you like to be on the College Board?

I am running for re-election to continue to help SMC’s students, faculty and staff emerge from the pandemic and safely get back on campus. Additionally, I am looking to continue to help SMC develop healthcare related curriculum to benefit both our students, as well as the community, to help fill healthcare job shortages, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. I want to continue to help SMC make progress on improving on measures of student equity, as well as continue to help our community members in Santa Monica and Malibu with our various programs, particularly in affiliation with SMMUSD. I also hope that our college takes steps to build housing on campus to help address the needs of our students, faculty, and staff facing housing insecurity. Finally, as our campus in Malibu opens, I hope to help our college make that a vibrant place of learning that benefits our students as well as the surrounding community in both Santa Monica and Malibu.

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

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished throughout all of the challenges of the past four years. As a physician at Harbor UCLA and past President of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, healthcare related issues have always been a top priority for me in my career, and this is where I was able to make the biggest impact as an SMC trustee over the past four years.

When I was first elected four years ago, the college started an Allied Health Taskforce, which I was a part of. This group of advocates from SMC and throughout the region explored ways for SMC to offer more healthcare related curriculum to help prepare for regional employment needs. Spurred by the work of this taskforce, SMC is developing a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) program to complement our other health programs like nursing and respiratory therapy. Our CNA program will not only benefit our students, but help LA County fill critical healthcare employment needs.

Additionally, in the past four years, in conjunction with LA County Medical Association and SMC’s Black Collegians and Adelante counseling programs, the college has developed an annual lecture series bringing physicians and other healthcare workers of color to speak to our students of color about their experience growing up and getting into healthcare fields. This series has been immensely rewarding for the mentors who have come to lecture, as well as the mentees who came to see healthcare workers who grew up with similar backgrounds.

Finally, our SMC community has weathered the pandemic with many challenges over the past three years. I’m most proud that we have put the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff first while maintaining our programs so that students can continue to learn and achieve their goals.

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

I’m proud that SMC’s approach to the pandemic has always placed the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as the No. 1 priority. The pandemic has impacted access to education in many ways. Just like we did during the past 2.5 years with escalating precautions to reflect the data showing the threat of COVID-19, we are now objectively reacting to the data and taking action to scale back those precautions (for example, we recently rescinded the COVID-19 vaccination mandate) as we transition back to traditional in-person classes that the majority of our community want to get back to. As we emerge from the pandemic, I hope that the college continues to 1. Prioritize the health and safety of our college community and 2. Objectively react to the data to optimize access to education going forward.

Fifty-one percent of classes are back in person, and I’m looking forward to an increase in that number in the coming months.

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

Santa Monica College is a community college and by state law only allowed to have a single Bachelor’s degree program, which we currently have in Interactive Design. I believe that the focus of our college should be to expand workforce training, where students are offered specific curriculum in fields such as healthcare and technology, which allow them to be connected directly to great jobs that meet regional needs. I do not believe the focus of community colleges in California should be to expand on four-year programs — that is not our role.

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

Focusing on Santa Monica College’s programs that serve our local communities in Santa Monica and Malibu are a huge priority, and I’m proud that we offer local students priority enrollment and free tuition through the SMC Promise program. My biggest focus locally is doing better to make sure that SMMUSD graduates show up to SMC after high school graduation prepared for success, so that they are able to accomplish these goals. I’d like to see our college expand and enhance our counseling services to serve SMMUSD students earlier in their high school careers. Additionally, with the opening of the brand new Malibu campus, I’d also like to see our counseling services expand to Malibu High School. Finally, I’d like to see an expansion of our dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment curriculum offerings for SMMUSD students.

SMC also provides the local community with other benefits including the swimming pool, the Emeritus college with programs for seniors and Fourth of July fireworks at the stadium. Many of these great community services were compromised during the pandemic, and I’m looking forward to fully restoring these in the near term.

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

I support the SMC bond to help continue to rebuild and enhance the ageing infrastructure of our campus, which still has temporary facilities in some areas that are relics of the 1994 earthquake. As we improve the campus buildings, the local community will benefit from having access to campus facilities that are safe and optimized to provide classes and services. As a nation, our public schools and public institutions of higher learning are ageing and crumbling across the country, and we need a national conversation on investing in educational infrastructure. I’m proud that Santa Monica and Malibu residents have always demonstrated a commitment to education with support for educational bond programs. In the bond, I’m particularly excited about the plan for student housing on the Bundy campus, which will prioritize housing for our local students with housing insecurity, as well as plans for a new auditorium on the Malibu High School campus.

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

I’m focused on the near term for Santa Monica College, as we must focus on emerging from the pandemic and getting our students, faculty and staff safely back on campus, which also optimizing remote learning access for those students that prefer it and implementing the numerous lessons from the pandemic experience over the coming years.