LMCAS faces change

Adviser now set to work with Student Life

Student Life Coordinator Demetria Lawrence, who served as adviser to the Los Medanos College Associated Students for four years, has stepped-away from her role with the student senate to work on other projects in the Office of Student Life.

The move follows more than a year of documented tension between Lawrence and former LMCAS President Gary Walker-Roberts, who now serves as both a LMCAS senator and as student trustee for the Contra Costa Community College District.

Lawrence’s re-assignment to different projects, including the Student Ambassador Program and student leadership programs, was announced by Dean of Student Success David Belman to the senate during its weekly meeting Aug. 24.

“I have asked Demetria Lawrence to take on some additional and different duties in the office this year,” said Belman, adding that she “is going to need to step away from her role as LMCAS adviser this year.

“Based on some of these other programs that we’re looking for her to be working on, she’s not going to be able to also be working with student government,” he continued.

Problems in the senate began shortly after Walker-Roberts was elected president in the fall of 2014.

During the spring 2015 semester, some members of the senate made an attempt to sanction Walker-Roberts for allegedly behaving in an unprofessional manner.

The claim, ultimately withdrawn, led to the revelation of the unworkable relationship between Walker-Roberts and Lawrence.

The latest conflict between the two occurred over the summer after the Kumu Hina Elevating Diversity Conference June 17.

While the LMCAS Kumu Hina Committee deemed the event, spearheaded by Walker-Roberts, a success, problems arose when Lawrence denied payments for services provided.

In an email sent to the senate following the event, Lawrence claimed that although the committee approved $1,000 for “marketing expenses,” it had not approved funding specifically for the photographer, disk jockey and T-shirts.

“As such, I am unable to approve the check requests for payment,” wrote Lawrence.

After receiving critical pushback from members of the student senate, who believed the expenses fell under the purview of “marketing,” the decision was made by Lawrence’s supervisors — Belman and Gail Newman, senior dean of student services — to approve payment for the services rendered.

“Based on the need to settle outstanding debts with external vendors … the payment by LMCAS for the Kumu Hina event T-shirts, photographer, and DJ have been approved for processing,” wrote Belman in an email.

The approval of funds followed a failed special meeting Aug. 3 to discuss the reasoning for the denial for invoice payments. The meeting, adjourned just 15 minutes after it began, was largely a debate on why the senate was even convening during the summer session.

“I know you adjourned the meeting, but I think that putting this off for another three weeks is making things a lot worse, a lot more difficult for yourselves,” said Belman after the senate failed to make any headway in the meeting.

Lawrence did not attend the summer meeting, as she was reportedly preoccupied on the Pittsburg campus.

Walker-Roberts said he believed the rejection of funding approval was intentional and personal, a lasting symptom of the lingering tension between them.

“I believe that Demetria acted on emotion and made a rash decision without thinking the entire situation through,” said Walker-Roberts in an email, adding, “which is shocking behavior from an adviser of the student government.

“The committee was 100 percent correct in using the funding,” continued Walker-Roberts. “There should have never been a stop to the bills being paid, and I am happy to see that upper management overruled Demetria’s initial decision to not pay the invoices.”

Lawrence’s appointment to different projects, like the student ambassador program, is envisioned as a long-term move as the college is currently “relatively far along” in the process of hiring a permanent Student Life Coordinator, according to Belman. The new hire will replace Lawrence as the adviser to the LMCAS.

Belman is serving in an advisory role in the interim.

“This is a breath of fresh air and an opportunity for LMCAS to regroup and turn over a new leaf,” said Walker-Roberts. “The first LMCAS meeting of the year went very swimmingly and I attribute this fact due to a lack of tension in the air that stemmed from the strained relationships with the adviser.

“It is great to see the comfortable and educational environment return to LMCAS. I am looking forward to building strong relationships with the board members in a tense-free atmosphere,” he continued.

Belman commented that while Lawrence will no longer be working directly with the LMCAS, her tenure as its adviser will prove useful in her future duties.

“Drawing on her strengths from this past work, I have asked her to focus on increasing involvement in, and the impact of, the Student Ambassador program as it supports the offering of campus activities,” said Belman.

“The many positive impacts she has had on LMCAS will be lasting,” he said.

Lawrence declined to comment on her transition from her position as LMCAS adviser.

The next weekly meeting of the Associated Students will be Aug. 31 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Library, Room L-105.

Editor’s note: The above story has been updated to reflect a name change for Gary Walker-Roberts, as he married over the summer.