El Camino College stakeholders hope for professional discourse after contentious trustees election

As the new Board of Trustees prepares to begin governing, the importance of participation in local elections and respectful political discourse are being emphasized by the college’s stakeholders.

Though the Board of Trustee elections at ECC didn’t quite reach the national levels of polarization, there were still many back and forth quips on social media, some including personal attacks.

“It was really interesting how some of the candidates ran with stories, and certain things that I don’t believe to be 100% true or factual. So I hope in the future that those types of things don’t happen,” Kelsey Iino, El Camino College Federation of Teachers (ECCFT) representative said.

And while the college-aged vote may be increasing, there is still much polarization in political discourse among younger generations, David Reed, associate professor of political science at ECC, said.

“Some of the stuff from larger political discourse is bleeding in a little bit, a lot of like, conspiracy [theory] style stuff,” Reed said. “[There is] kind of [an] increased polarization where it’s become harder and harder to have civil discourse.”

Current governing member, Clifford Numark sees the Board as a place for respectful debate and hopes it will stay that way despite national trends.

“I would like to think that we can figure out ways to communicate [in] a way that’s respectful and that focuses on the issues,” Numark said. “Certainly, when we meet as a board, that’s the kind of culture that I believe our board has and will continue to have.”

The last time Joshua Casper, assistant professor of political science at ECC, said he could remember a Board of Trustees election being hotly contested was in 2010 when Bill Beverly was up for re-election, and the faculty union endorsed a candidate against him.

“It got pretty contentious,” Casper said.

While the faculty union was able to help one of their three candidates, Trisha Murakawa, be elected this time around, they are hopeful about the new board, albeit being slightly disappointed. They plan on beginning the process for endorsing candidates for the 2022 election as soon as six months from now, Iino said.

With two new members, Numark expects diplomacy and respectful discourse that focuses on the issues at hand.

“I think that the incoming trustees, [through] the way they campaigned as well as their past background really demonstrate that they’re committed to the seriousness of our purpose, which is to focus on our students and reflect the communities’ wishes to ensure our students receive a fantastic education,” Numark said.

Reed also said that despite an increase in focus on local elections, there needs to be a more active participation from students and faculty in the elections of their local politicians.

You probably can’t imagine something that actually has more of a direct impact on you right now as a student,” Reed said.

More so than being an informed voter, it’s important for younger students to take advantage of their youth and use it to fight for what they believe in, Casper said.

“You have to be willing to fight for your democracy all the time. [Fight] for legislation you want, fight against opposition you don’t want. And so students need to be willing to do that. And students are uniquely poised to be able to do that better than most other adults.” Casper said.