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Student Leader Touts Activism : Education: Even before his election, the new ASB president had shaken up Glendale College. He hopes to encourage classmates to get involved in campus and statewide issues.

July 15, 1993|TOMMY LI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLENDALE — He has lashed out at some administrators at Glendale Community College, won unprecedented student input regarding a key hire and stirred up campus activism.

Such uproar at the normally subdued campus comes before Mike Smith officially takes over this fall as president of the college's Associated Student Body.

Since his election to the office in May, the 35-year-old student leader has focused on issues that previous student body presidents ignored or never dared touch, college officials say.

"Mike is a rare breed of ASB president, and I think it's going to be healthy" for the college, said Nancy Knight, vice president of college services. "I know I'm looking forward to working with him."

Said Steve White, president of the Faculty Guild: "It's hard for some students to confront executives at colleges and union professors. For most students, it's a learning process.

"(But) Mike's more mature than the other students," White said. "He's not afraid, and he'll stand up and talk back. He's got more self-confidence."

So much so that he and a few students have taken their concerns about the college to the media in the last two months in hopes of gaining public support.

They have claimed some victories, such as saving an old oak tree from being destroyed because it was standing in the way of a campus remodeling and expansion project.

Another victory relates to Smith's top concern coming into office--the selection of a new associate dean of student activities.

He had criticized college President John A. Davitt's appointment last year of Associate Dean Jim Baugh to oversee student activities. Smith--along with some faculty leaders--said the position should have been filled only after an outside search for candidates.

Davitt said he decided against an open search last year because the college was facing a budget crisis. Transferring Baugh from one associate dean's post to another didn't cost the college anything extra, but hiring an outsider or promoting from within would have been an added expense.

The position opened again this summer after Baugh asked to transfer back to his former job heading special projects, where he has written several grant proposals.

Baugh cited personal reasons for his request--unrelated to Smith or any other students who have criticized him.

Davitt chose to launch a statewide search to fill the job this time, and Smith responded by demanding student representation on the hiring committee.

His request was granted, and for the first time in the college's history, two students will sit on a nine-member hiring committee for an associate dean's post.

The deadline to apply for the job is today.

Smith attributed his success to student activism.

"I'm very confident that Dr. Davitt and the students will have a really nice relationship going into the fall semester," he said. "I feel that once we stepped forward with enough concern and voiced our opinion . . . that at least leveled the playing field."

This fall, Smith hopes his brand of leadership will encourage the school's 15,000 students to become more interested not only about on-campus issues, but statewide ones as well.

"I'd like to see more students get politically active. . . . Maybe not partisan campaigns, but like initiatives," such as the school voucher measure on November's ballot, he said.

He plans to create a position within student government to address political issues that relate to education. That student representative would organize monthly informational rallies on campus, post fliers and make presentations during class time.

"The idea is not to get a bunch of students who are yelling . . . but get a lot of students critically thinking," Smith said.

Some students, faculty and administrators consider Smith's activism the best thing that's ever happened to the campus.

"I've never seen a student leader elected that has a serious (concern for) the statewide issues," said Mona Fields, a 10-year associate professor of political science at the college.

Others warn that his aggressive style will make it hard for him to achieve his goals. They cite incidents from the spring, such as when Smith organized a student march to Davitt's office to protest state budget cuts.

"He comes off to me like he wants to intimidate you. He comes off very strong," said Joy Hutcheson, last year's Associated Student Body treasurer who graduated last month.

"I think if Mike Smith got to know the administration, he wouldn't be so frustrated with them."

On the contrary, Smith insists he has the students' best interest at heart and has tried to work with most adminstrators.

"The administration is taking the students seriously--not seeing them as troublemakers but advocates of their own rights," he said.

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