Thursday, November 10, 2005

Phoenix Genesis SAVE SMC Official Website

Here is the original posting on our official SAVE SMC website:

September 11, 2005: WELCOME TO THE "SAVE SMC" WEBSITE!

This site was created to help the public and the SMC community to keep abreast of the latest developments in current litigation with Santa Monica College District. Like all of you, we love SMC and we wish to save it. But sometimes, we need the intervention of the legal system to help us defend our rights when all other avenues fail. This is precisely what we are doing in seeking the Court's aid to enforce the California Public Records Act. We are alleging that SMC is a public school funded in part by taxpayer dollars, student tuition, and the public's generous contributions. As such, our beloved school belongs to the community, the taxpayers, the students, and the faculty who are entrusted with our education in a public institution of higher learning... not as a private kingdom controlled by its administrators, management, and staff with conscious disregard of the law or our rights.

I quote from the Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code, Section 54950) as follows:
The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

In wishing to view the public records of our school, we are not seeking a special privilege for ourselves, but instead we are acting as guardians of our sacred rights as set forth in SMC's own Board Policies, codified in the various state laws, and strengthened in the California Constitution. We only humbly ask that SMC provided us with access and copies of those records which are of vital public interest and which will help us SAVE SMC from its current fiscal crisis before it is too late. Many students, faculty, and friends of the college have had the courage to step forth in support of our noble cause. By reading through the material in this website, you too are taking the first courageous step in defending the rights we all hold so dear. To this, I say, "Thank you."

-- Des Manttari, Editor-in-Chief, Phoenix Genesis

Jim Keeshen and Des Manttari at E3 Expo 2004 doing video game news coverage for Phoenix Genesis. (We are also featured in SMC's Fall 2005 Schedule of Classes on page 110.)

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
-- Robert F. Kennedy (1966)


SMC is in grave jeopardy both financially and morally. If our school is in jeopardy, so are its devoted faculty and students. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to blame one person, such as our current governor, than to take personal responsibility and learn precisely what the problems are, how they developed, and where the solutions may lie. It is a very tangled web which is not easily untangled. But we, dear students and professors, are scholars at heart. That is why we chose to come to SMC... or it somehow (as if it were a living, breathing entity) drew us to her sacred pillars of knowledge. We hunger for knowledge and thirst for truth. So, let me now be the beacon which lights the way and you the sacred flame which will light the way for others as you read the following:

[Click HERE to view the full report on SMC's own website.]

A Confidential Report Prepared for The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association for Schools and Colleges

This report represents the findings of the evaluation team that visited Santa Monica College from March 23 through March 25, 2004
-- Guy F. Lease, Ed.D., Chair


Campus climate is of concern to the team. The degradation of collegiality and the lack of trust and respect are evident across the employee groups. As discussed in Standard IV, the college is asked to seriously focus energy, time, and attention to the goal of rebuilding professional relationships among, faculty, staff, and administration.


Among multiple college constituencies there is disbelief regarding the accuracy of financial documents and projections prepared by college management, and there is disagreement concerning the level and role of participatory governance in the decision-making process.
However, recent serious concerns have developed concerning the accuracy of some financial documents and projections of financial resources from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. The self study states that there is a perception that the budget is not as bad as portrayed by the college and/or that funds are being hidden.


The lack of interface among the databases and the untimely reports from the county office is a serious impediment to financial monitoring and planning. There is no evidence the institution has established and documented clear guidelines and processes for financial planning and budgeting, or that the processes and guidelines that do exist are being followed; nor does there appear to be agreement as to the appropriate extent of participation by the constituent groups in the planning processes. The situation has been exacerbated by the state's fiscal crisis that has had serious negative impact on all the state's community colleges. The self study points out that the recent California fiscal crisis, "has taken a hard toll on the campus, particularly in relations between management and the faculty and staff." (III D.1)

The self study discusses the inadequacies of the fiscal services provided by the county's financial accounting system. The undependable and inconsistent financial reports have contributed to the atmosphere of discontent and disagreement that permeates the college.

Appropriate and timely financial information is not provided throughout the institution. There appear to be both process- and technical-related issues concerning financial information. It appears as if there is not an acceptably adequate and understood feedback and tracking process for recommendations that flow through the constituency participation process. At least some constituent groups feel that their recommendations are not being seriously considered, or that the final decisions are incongruent with the institution's mission and values. Technically, it appears that the district's fiscal processing agent, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, has implemented a software system that has had deeply detrimental effects upon the district's ability to provide timely financial information throughout the institution. Among the problems are databases that are not integrated and budget reports that are routinely several months late.

The current California fiscal crisis has severely challenged the institution's structures, processes, and collegiality. The self study acknowledges that the allocation of financial resources is a primary focus of discontent and disagreement in the institution. Problems resulting from the Los Angeles County implementation of a new accounting and reports system have exacerbated a distrust of financial information provided by the college's administration to the constituent groups.

There is not a documented process for budget development that defines constituent roles and responsibilities, nor is there a documented link between formalized academic planning and budget development. The team recommends the college clarify and document the fiscal planning process and the roles of individuals and constituent groups in that process.

The college has depleted its unrestricted balances in order to fund multiple years of operating deficits, and the fiscal solvency of the district is dependent upon an enrollment recovery strategy in 2004-2005.


It is the firm belief of this team that the dissension that threatened to distract the college from its focus on its mission in 1998 remains a threat at this time. Relationships on campus have deteriorated to the point that among many of the constituent group leaders there is little trust in the administration. The past informality of the participatory governance systems on campus does not provide the assurances of two-way communication, clear understanding of issues and proposed solutions, trust, and mutual respect. The team addresses these issues in greater detail in the current team report.


However, in the winter and spring of 2003, the college’s structure for participatory governance was put to the test and in the minds of many of those who participated in the difficult budget related decisions that year, the system failed. In the self study and in interviews with representatives of the faculty, staff, and students, it was obvious that the current structure and processes left many with a feeling of dissatisfaction and mistrust. These feelings seemed to be grounded in the lack of clarity about the role of various committees, the processes used to disseminate information, the concern regarding the credibility of information, and the lack of clarity of constituency involvement and follow through on input. The team found that Santa Monica College does not have a cohesive decision-making process and in times of economic instability and cutbacks the current informal structure did not work as intended. In the present statewide climate of economic uncertainty, the lack of a clearly defined process has contributed to an environment of distrust.

The team found that the consultative process is so informal that efforts to consult were not always recognized as such and not adequately documented. (IV A.3.)

There is currently no formal process in place to evaluate the integrity and effectiveness of the college’s overall governance and decision-making processes and structures. There is evidence that there have been attempts in the past several years to conduct evaluations of certain portions of the structure including the various Academic Senate Joint committees, the administrative structure, and the Collegewide Coordinating Council; but all of these have been piecemeal and some have never been actually conducted. The college has acknowledged this is an area that needs attention.


The team concludes that the current decision-making model is not as effective as is necessary to create an environment for improvement, innovation and institutional excellence, particularly in a college of this size. However, the team feels the college meets the standard for accreditation. The problems on this campus are problems of sharpening the processes and agreeing to learn to work together in a professional manner. The team strongly feels that the college needs to reevaluate its decision-making processes to ensure a process that defines the various committees; the roles, responsibilities and membership; methods for getting and disseminating consistent, timely, and credible information; processes for agendas, minutes, and chronicling past actions; and develop strategies for following through on concerns and methods to provide feedback and input to the college community.

Unfortunately, the Los Angeles County Office of Education has recently changed it financial accounting software system resulting in inaccurate reports and confusion at the college. Faculty, staff, and administration leaders do not feel secure that the information they are receiving is accurate and this is contributing to the lack of trust on campus.

It is critically important for the college to find ways to hold substantive dialogues between the administration, faculty, staff, and students that are characterized by open conversations, good listening, mutual respect, and collegiality. Once an improved structure is in place, this structure and its processes should be regularly evaluated to assure their integrity and effectiveness. It is important to such a process that the results of these regular evaluations are communicated across the campus and used as the basis of improvement.

There are serious problems as noted in Standard III with the recent change in the financial computing system by the Los Angeles County Office of Education that has left the college with uncertainties as to the accuracy of budget and expenditure data. In order for the superintendent/president to establish a system to effectively control the budget and expenditures, the college must have timely and accurate data.

[Click HERE to view the full document on SMC's own website.]

CSEA values ethical behavior and has first-hand understanding of the difference between a piece of paper and, given the very high level of complaints against the administration and management that rise out of unethical behavior, the day-to-day realities of applied ethics. Additionally, since the district often uses their written policies for selective and punitive purposes, it is unrealistic for the district to expect that we would agree to codify additional policies that have potential for misuse. CSEA always operates ethically and, although we believe that written standards are unnecessary, we are willing to discuss those that do not create the potential for disciplinary misuse.


"If the state can't make sure the money is being well spent on its intended purpose, then don't give it out. I don't give allowance money to my kids unless I have some idea of what they're spending it on."
-- Jon Coupal, director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

So, having read all the above SMC documents (and many, many, more), I was a little bit curious to see where our money is being spent at SMC and by whom. I decided to look at several of the consultant contracts and grants that SMC has given out over the years. I did not realize at the time, that such an innocent request would lead to the pending litigation which has transpired. To get an overview of our pursuit for the truth, the insurmountable obstacles we have overcome, and those who have courageously stood by our side, read our Verified Complaint by clicking HERE.


Members of the public and the SMC community are encouraged to check this website regularly to stay up to date on the status of the proceedings and orders issued in this litigation.


This website provides information and updates relating to Pending Litigation with Santa Monica Community College District, et. al.

This site is maintained by Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP and it is NOT an official website of the Los Angeles Superior Court or Santa Monica College or the Academy of Entertainment & Technology.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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