The Long Beach College Promise, the future of virtual learning and the role of police on campus were just some of the topics discussed during a Wednesday evening, Oct. 14, debate among the three candidates vying to represent Area 4 on the Long Beach Community College District board.
The three candidates hoping to succeed Doug Otto as the Area 4 representative are Herlinda Chico, a field deputy for L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn; Dick Gaylord, who has served as chair of Long Beach’s Civil Service Commission and the Planning Commission; and Pierce Community College professor Lee Loveridge.
Area 4 includes Long Beach’s Third Council District, and portions of Districts 2, 4 and 7, as well as the cities of Signal Hill and Avalon, on Catalina Island. The college district overall is the governmental body that runs the two-campus Long Beach City College.
As Long Beach City College — like colleges across the country — faces declining enrollment amid the coronavirus pandemic and an uncertain fiscal future, all three candidates agreed during the Wednesday debate that maintaining the Long Beach College Promise, which guarantees two years of tuition-free education for qualified Long Beach Unified School District graduates, must remain a priority.
“This is a time when people are in most need, and when people are in most need is a time when government services, which in a way, we are, really need to step it up and provide so that we can come out of the recession,” Loveridge said. “It would be silly to save money in a way that only prolongs the recession.”
The college’s fiscal outlook isn’t the only thing that may change because of the coronavirus. The future of education, the candidates said, will likely also look different.
They all agreed that the current need for virtual learning could help Long Beach City College figure out a more equitable way to make education accessible for all in the long term.
Chico mentioned that Long Beach City College — with its two mainland campuses — can be difficult to access for Catalina Island residents, who are part of the Long Beach Unified School District and the Long Beach City College community.
“They’re part of the Long Beach College Promise,” Chico said, “but unless they move to the mainland, it’s difficult for them to attend college at LBCC.”
Chico proposed creating a virtual satellite campus for Catalina Island — a proposal that both of her opponents also endorsed.
Loveridge and Gaylord, though, both noted that part of the educational experience is lost with digital learning. Loveridge pointed to the face-to-face interactions with professors, while Gaylord said extracurricular activities are a key part of life at LBCC that can’t happen right now.
Gaylord, though, said that some classes are still operating in-person without issue — and those could provide a model for in-person learning in the future.
“We are open as a campus,” he said. “We have nursing students on campus. We have students in the culinary arts program on campus, so that seems to be going very well.”
And on the topic of what Long Beach City College’s contract with the Long Beach Police Department means amid nationwide calls for police reform, the three candidates agreed that the contract may need to change. But they differed on how to achieve that.
Loveridge said he was in favor of potentially shrinking the budget for police services and investing more in other social services. But he didn’t agree with eliminating the contract completely.
He said the relationship with the police is necessary, but officers’ “role may be scaled back, and we may need to establish new, other support services to help keep the campus safe and welcoming for everyone.”
Gaylord, meanwhile, noted that before the college’s current relationship with the Long Beach Police Department was established, safety complaints from within the Lakewood Village neighborhood were common.
Any change to the contract, he said, “has to be a decision that includes students, faculty, staff and the neighborhood — the Lakewood Village area.”
Chico, though, noted that Long Beach City College also has the Pacific Coast Campus in Central Long Beach, a neighborhood with more residents of color than Lakewood Village.
“It is very important that we have community input. I agree with Mr. Gaylord,” she said. “But let’s not forget Central Long Beach — that’s the community that is impacted the most by this.”
Wednesday’s debate — like the others that occurred over the past couple of weeks — stems from a partnership among the Press-Telegram, Grunion Gazette, Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.
The other debates were:
City Council District 2: Cindy Allen and Robert Fox;
City Council District 6: Andrews and Suely Saro;
City Council District 8: Al Austin and Tunua Thrash-Ntuk; and
LBUSD Board of Education District 2: Erik Miller and Tonia Reyes Uranga.
Folks can watch replays of each debate at Gazettes.com/news/debates/.