Southwestern College’s Associated Student Organization has finally become the powerful voice for students it always needed to be. A foundation of ethics and service leadership established by 2015-16 ASO President Melissa Rodriguez helped the activist administration of President Mona Dibas to rise to a place of prominence on our campus and the larger community.
SWC is steadily rebuilding its damaged culture for the better and the ASO has given students a voice in the conversation. This next ASO has big shoes to fill and the Editorial Board of The Sun wishes President-Elect Kirstyn Smith wisdom, energy and Godspeed.
Rodriguez and Dibas put an end to juvenile ASO elitists stuck in the Student Union offices, bickering and never making a difference. It also helps tremendously that the darkly negative Mia McClellan is no longer involved in student government. Left unconstrained and free from manipulation, our ASO has blossomed.
Dibas took the time to train members of her administration to ensure that their titles were earned and that power was about service. Her administration worked hard at building relationships on campus and their influence was acknowledged with the fact that 1,013 more students voted in this ASO election than the previous one.
There was more club involvement and support in the past year. The Muslim Student Association (MSA), Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) and other clubs were able to host meaningful events that celebrated their cultures and work. They were given chances to organize protests and share their ideas on campus. This helped shape a more accepting campus culture and started conversations about important topics such as sexual assault, queer prom hosted by SAGA, a mock wall of the Palestinian border by the MSA club and a Black Lives Matter protest held by the Black Student Union.
Dibas was Protestor-in-Chief and we mean that as a high compliment. Our first ever American Muslim ASO President organized San Diego County’s best Black Lives Matter rally last summer, led a march against racism the day after Donald Trump was elected and has been at the front of a fierce South County effort to remove racist Otay Water Board Director Hector Gastelum. She has demanded that our college take sexual assault seriously, pushed for a meditation room for students to pray and reflect, and spoken up for SAGA Club’s efforts for a safe zone for LGBTQ students.
Dibas was a uniter who partnered with campus organizations that had been shoved aside by previous administrations. She modeled maturity and service that empowered her administration to collaborate with resource programs such as Jag Kitchen, the office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Veterans Services.
Other leaders in the region noticed. Mona and Nada Dibas received the Chula Vista Champions Medal from Mayor Mary Casillas Salas and were named Women of the Year by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher for their leadership at Southwestern. They also collected well-deserved SWC Student of Distinction Awards.
This ASO administration has done amazing things and the next administration needs to continue the effort. Next year’s ASO must continue to be the microphone for student’s voices. We hope student leaders will continue to empower students to be advocates for their communities. A Safe Space, where minority students, veterans and LGBTQ students can go if they feel hostility or wish to meet other students in their demographic, should be opened on campus. Jag Kitchen is a good start in a campus effort to provide for our homeless and poverty-stricken student population. We challenge the ASO to think about how else it can better the lives of students on this campus and how to inspire the rest of us to join in.
President-Elect Smith and her team must not hide in the shadow of the success of the Dibas administration, but must stand on the shoulders of giants and make a difference on our campus and in our community.