Not content with having nearly plunged Santa Monica College into bankruptcy — bucking the national tide by killing vocational education classes when other colleges were promoting them — losing 6000 FTEs (students) and spending millions to partially recover enrollment — getting the worst accreditation report in SMC history — failing to conclude contract negotiations for nearly three years with classified staff and nearly a year with faculty — winding up on the Chancellor’s fiscal watch list for the first time in SMC history (only one of three out of over 100 community colleges in the State) — top-loading the organization with more administrative dead weight ($10 million worth) than the cemetery across the street — dumping millions of dollars of inventory from the axed Automotive Program during a budget crisis — buying millions of dollars of unusable software — acquiring millions of dollars of unused property — supporting a College President with a near unanimous disapproval rating, who deserted the ship she tried to scuttle when her ten years were up — appointing a provost to a campus that doesn’t yet exist — purchasing the most expensive equipment parking lot in the history of Santa Monica (14th and Pico) — building a million dollar driveway from bond money to access the increasingly contentious Bundy campus — inflicting the taxpayers of Santa Monica with $300 million worth of bond debt — The Santa Monica Community College District has managed, against all odds and anyone’s comprehension, to surpass itself once again by inviting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be the keynote speaker at the College’s 2005 graduation.
Arnold, whose approval ratings are plummeting faster than the Titanic sank, made the brilliant political calculation to attack nearly everyone who works for the public in almost any capacity and then reneging on his promise to fully fund education. Take a gander at the down-on-their-luck Schwarzenegger-subsidized signature gatherers waving petitions in front of you wherever you go. Check out those $90,000-a-plate dinners—“Care for some freshly ground pepper with that pasta?” Listen to the steroidal political banter of Conan the Barbarian kicking the butts of girly men, evil public employees, and those annoying “special interests.”
He’s dogged by working families and former supporters wherever he goes — hounded by nurses, schoolteachers, parent groups, firefighters, and police. He’s reviled by women who resent his condescending attitudes and groping ways. His defense of steroid use offends parents and law enforcement.
So who invited the Ex-Terminator to SMC for graduation? Not the College Board. Not the College faculty. Not the College Classified staff. Not the College students. Was it Margaret Quinones, who narrowly squeaked through the last Board of Trustees election with a little help ($6000 or 20% of her total campaign budget) from Richard Riordan, Schwarzenegger’s former Secretary of Education? Was it Tom Donner, the Republican CPA/Tax Attorney/Business Manager/Real Estate Investor/Interim President, who now reigns over the College? Or was it Piedad Robertson, the iron-fisted, neoconservative former monarch of Santa Monica College, who left us for the safe haven of a sinecure with the Education Commission of the States (whatever that is)? True to form, nobody knows…or no one’s saying.
It was only a few months ago that the College’s Administration was spewing out their psychobabble about new beginnings and a new climate of mutual respect. To demonstrate their new found appreciation of the people who actually teach the classes and operate the College; as well as the hard-pressed students and their parents; as well as the people of Santa Monica, who have loyally funded the College’s chaotic growth; they decided to invite the most anti-education, anti-worker, and anti-family Governor in California history to be the keynote speaker at graduation. Carole Currey, the perennially Norman Rockwellesque Republican Chair of the Board of Trustees, warned the SMC rabble not to disrespect the Governator because he’s done so much for the College in terms of providing equalization money. It comes as news to the Classified staff and faculty, who have gone without raises or COLAs for years. Whatever money the Governor has provided immediately disappears in Donner’s ledgers like rainwater in the desert.
It’s not that Santa Monica College cannot attract quality speakers. We have hosted Stephen Hawkings, the world’s most famous living cosmologist; Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous primatologist; Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s most famous living author; President Bill Clinton; Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Laureate; Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Chemistry Laureate; Delores Huerta, UFW co-founder, and other luminaries. They had something to tell the students of the College.
Which of his cliches will the Governor offer up to the assembled students and their parents on graduation day? We have no idea. We don’t write his material.
Our question is how will the College’s administration top this debacle?It’ll be tough. But we understand they’re trying to get Charlie Manson for 2006, though we hear he’s booked solid.