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Protests grow as US college firms up plan to turn computer lab into ‘safe space’

computer lab safe space
Repurposing the computer lab would be “destructive to the community as a whole”. Source: Shutterstock.

Santa Monica College (SMC) will likely proceed with plans to transform Cayton Center – the school’s computer lab – into a “safe space”, despite growing demands from students to shelve the proposal.

Over 360 students have signed a Change.org petition to this end, claiming the construction would be a “huge waste of student resources” and be “destructive to the community as a whole”.

From reports, Study International understands that the proposal includes plans to “update” the computer lab, add a laptop lending program and add a “Social Justice Gender Equity Center”.

Reports also say the total cost of the center would come to US$500,000, including US$60,000 for a “computer lab update”. A representative at the college told Campus Reform students proposed to “update the outdated computer and technology” and repurpose unused space.

However, supervisor of the computer lab, Lee Peterson, expressed his concerns: “The administration is basically demanding that the student government spend more money on anything that it has in the entire history of SMC, all at once, without any significant discussion,” he told the publication.

https://twitter.com/JoieQ101/status/935911146355417089

In a letter before a decision to proceed with the construction was made last week, the college’s Associated Students president Jennifer Chen described the safe space as one for “Undocumented Students, DACA Students, LGBTQ+ Community, Religious Practice, and many more.”

She also insisted that the plan would not result in a reduced number of computers for students.

However, according to petitioners, the college should build the safe space elsewhere.

Speaking with Campus Reform, author of the petition and Vice President of SMC’s Small Gov Club Ben Kolodny said despite student disapproval, the Associated Students Board of Directors passed the measure last Monday (Nov 27).

“We will be filling a ‘Cure and Correct’ order and attempting to get this overturned,” Kolodny asserted.

“Several students were disruptive [during the meeting where the measure was passed], and were asked to be quiet,” a university spokesperson told Campus Reform.

“If a safe space is necessary, then other accommodation should be found. It is morally wrong to take a program as valuable as the Computer Lab from all of us while at the same time using the student fees that we all paid to do so.”

Kolodny was quick to point out that before the measure had even been passed, a website for the new social justice center had already been created.

The district “Master Plan for Education” at the college also listed its “plan to establish a gender equity center to serve all students” in its objectives prior to Monday’s decision.

A college representative claimed the concept “came from students and faculty three years ago” and that it was student decision that a “Social Justice Center would best encompass the desired range of student needs.”

The debate continues.

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