Friday, November 25, 2005

Pruning the Tree of Knowledge

Oh where oh where have all our classes gone? I've gotten my hands on a document entitled "Fall 2005 Class Changes" for Santa Monica College (dated August 26, 2005). Let's see how the damage control breaks down in this handy little chart I made.

Fall Semester begins: Monday, August 29, 2005
Fall Semester ends: Tuesday, December 20, 2005


38 for English (ENGL)
15 for Entertainment Technology (ET) (Academy of Entertainment & Technology)
13 for Math (MATH)
11 for History (HIST)

9 for English as a Second Language (ESL)
9 for Business (BUS)
9 for Art (ART)

8 for Accounting (ACCTG)
6 for Psychology (PSYCH)

4 for Early Childhood Education (ECE)
4 for Music (MUSIC)

3 for Computer Information Systems (CIS)
3 for Computer Science (CS)
3 for Graphic Design (GR DES)
3 for Sociology (SOCIOL)

2 for Astronomy (ASTRON)
2 for Biology (BIOL)
2 for Counseling (COUNS)
2 for Economics (ECON)
2 for Physical Education (KIN PE)
2 for Nursing (NURSING)

1 for Broadcast (BRDCST)
1 for Communications (COMM)
1 for Education (EDUC)
1 for Photography (PHOTO)
1 for Physics (PHYSICS)
1 for Political Science (POL SCI)
1 for Respiratory Therapy (RES TH)
1 for Speech (SPEECH)

38 SMC English classes cancelled???!!! Ah, who needs English anyway? It's only perhaps the most important educational skill a person can learn in college next to Math... oh, but those math classes felt the administrative guillotine as well.

And which classes were cancelled at the
Academy of Entertainment and Technology (AET)??? Here's the gut-wrenching breakdown:

ET 4: Interactive Design for eBusiness (that's how I learned about blogging!)
ET 15: Game Authoring II
ET 16: Web Design II
ET 20: Visual Development (another new course cut down in its infancy)
ET 23: 2D Character Animation
ET 24: 3-D Animation
ET 25: 3-D Animation II
ET 39: Digital Audio for Games
ET 61: History of Animation (ground course, not the online one)
ET 62: History of Visual Effects (another newly created course bites the dust)
ET 64: Digital Effects I
ET 92: Figure in Motion
ET 95: Costumed Figure and Animal Drawing (used to be 2 separate classes)
ET 97: Advanced Figure in Motion

Heads up, the online
ET 61 History of Animation course by Professor Jim Keeshen in which I was a teaching assistant at SMC has also been cancelled for Spring Semester 2006 after only running for two entire semesters. Guess they couldn't run the course without me. All kidding aside, Prof. Keeshen and I worked hard to get that course offered at SMC as it was sooooo much better in the classroom than online as we could show all those classic animated films on the big screen for the students. Additionally, students could participate with each other and get first hand interaction with us. Now, it appears it is gone forever.

Katharine Muller and VP of Planning and Development Robert Sammis really don't have an explanation for the cancelled classes at AET nor have they provided any documentation or enrollment figures of students as required under the California Public Records Act despite my request for inspection and copies of files belonging to SMC's Academy. Where's the information about the AET curriculum I requested in writing? I've received nothing, yet according to the Report to the Trustees for April 2003 From Academic Senate President Gordon Dossett regarding the "Review of Programs Proposed for Discontinuance," SMC alleges the following:

Dean Katharine Muller has worked tirelessly to collect institutional data, and that information has been sent to the faculty in the programs. I am encouraging faculty members in each program to present whatever information that they believe is crucial to a fair evaluation of their individual program. And I am making every effort to disclose all the information at each step of the way, so the faculty involved as well as those reviewing the programs are operating from the same base of information. The ad hoc review committee will present its findings at the April 30th meeting of the Coordinating Council.

So, where is this data? Why can't SMC now find it? Well, it appears Katharine Muller was also working tirelessly to do her part to eliminate the Architecture Program at SMC. The L.A. Weekly did an online article on or about December 24, 1999 entitled "
Textbook Dump" in which Christine Pelisek wrote:

First, Los Angeles city schools stop buying textbooks for their students. Now, Santa Monica City College is throwing books away. Architecture instructors at the college-by-the-sea are up in arms over the decision to dismantle the Richard Creadick library, 600 architecture books and publications named after the late SMCC teacher whose wife donated the bulk of the collection.

"Those books were precious. A lot of those books you can’t get any longer," part-time instructor Eugene Flores said. "The students were very much in an uproar at the time."

Katharine Muller, dean of external programs, said many of the books were outdated and had to go; others are in storage pending possible addition to the main college library next year. Underlying the book controversy is a battle over the future of the college’s architecture program. Authorities plan to shift the curriculum from a two-year vocational emphasis to a university-transfer mode, stressing preparation for Cal Poly and Berkeley. "The enrollment in the architecture program has been dropping for years," Muller said. "I expect the curriculum shift to strengthen the ability of students who are transferring to perform well in university."

Part-time instructors, many of whom have battled administration for years over cutbacks, will be ousted in the process. Next semester, the instructors are being required to reapply for positions they have held for more than 20 years.

"They will lose a lot of teachers who are qualified practitioners in the field," said instructor Debbie Tataranowicz. Tataranowicz said the curriculum shift is not for the students but for the egos of the empire builders who are increasingly taking over the city college.

"It is becoming Santa Monica Corporation. Everything is about money and numbers, and education is not what they are about anymore," she fumed. "Santa Monica College has become a slave ship for some administrators and faculty, particularly the part-timers, to the detriment of the students."

This is quite interesting for two reasons. First, on April 25, 2003, Gordon Dossett acting in his capacity as Chair of the Coordinating Council Sub-Committee for Review of Programs Proposed for Discontinuance wrote a letter to Randy Lawson, Chair of the Coordinating Council, with the committee's
recommendations as follows:

1. We strongly recommend that none of these programs be eliminated. All are academically valuable and viable. Elimination of these programs obviously would harm students—especially historically underrepresented and international students--and faculty. Less apparently, taking such drastic action would project to the community a sense that we cannot weather the storm, that we are no longer the flagship community college we pride ourselves on being. Further, the mission of the college could be seen as changing, moving away from vocational programs at a time when those programs serve a vital need in the community.

2. We recommend that the college aggressively pursue other cost-cutting methods. We believe that strategies other than program discontinuance will yield greater savings and result in less harm to the college’s mission. For these programs, the committee believes some savings may occur through internal restructuring and consolidation.

Was Architecture one of those valuable and viable programs the committee wished to keep? You bet! Secondly, this is interesting because
Joan Abrahamson was an advisor to AET under a consultant contract with SMC (where she received approximately $5200 a month). Pursuant to Abrahamson's mission statement of her non-profit public policy foundation, The Jefferson Institute, she claims the following under "Nurturing of Creativity":

We have recently nurtured the practice of creativity in establishing a seminal model of art education in the Santa Monica College of Design, Art and Architecture, a bold experiment whose goal is to create a school of the highest quality which is able to generate a great deal of excitement about art and design in America. Based on the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College principles, we brought together a critical mass of talented individuals in an atmosphere of intense collaboration. The purpose is to inspire great design and to help the surrounding community to better understand the importance of art and design in improving the quality of life.

While there are other schools of art, design and architecture in the Los Angeles area, each of them has tuition costs of $10,000 to $15,000 a year. Many would-be-students of design cannot afford these programs and are shut out from careers in these fields. By working with the Santa Monica Community College District and can offer a first-rate program to students for $100 a year. We have assembled a first-rate Board of Advisors and an outstanding faculty. The college has been enthusiastically welcomed by the Southern California design and arts communities of the area and praised in the media. The College offers students an innovative and exciting program of the highest quality.

We plan to document this as a model of art education in a community context.

Well, this statement was incorporated into The Jefferson's Institute's 2003 Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax). Joan Abrahamson signed the form on May 25, 2004 as President. In sharp contrast to Joan Abrahamson's self-aggrandized visionary statements for SMC, the Classified Senate issued an online document entitled, "Thoughts on Pruning" (dated March 7, 2003). Architecture met the educational executioner's axe by 51 percent, interior design and fashion both by 47 percent, and transportation by 99 percent while several other programs suffered in similar fashion. It was stated that "pruning these programs as suggested above would generate approximately $312,000 per semester in saving for Fall 03 and Spring 04."

You can download this document online by clicking below:

If this tree of knowledge was bearing such educational fruit to the students at SMC, why did the administration feel the need to "prune" it? Are we now merely in the Garden of Original Sin and, like Adam and Eve, about to be thrust out of academic paradise by the mismanagement of the Santa Monica College administrators and their overpriced pet consultants? Although in one SMC tax document Joan Abrahamson signed that she was working as a consultant for SMC as an individual and not as a company or other business entity, she nevertheless submitted invoices for her consultant work and expenses to SMC as being due and payable to The Jefferson Institute. It appears we, as students and taxpayers, were allegedly fleeced to pay for Abrahamson's "bold experiment."

In the September 24, 2002 Minutes of the Occupational Education Committee of the Academic Senate, Chair Bob Ware "reminded the committee members that the mission of the committee is to act as liaison between occupational programs and to promote them. He added that one of the purposes of the committee is to find a project to work on."

Marvin Martinez "pointed out that low enrollment is a complex issue. Low enrollments aren’t necessarily a lack of support from Counseling. He added that the modification of the curriculum was motivated by low enrollments. As a result of the upgrading and reforming of the curriculum, the program is in higher demand. He encouraged program leaders to look at the labor market data to find out what’s in demand."

The OEC further wrote:

Judy Penchansky pointed out that the community college system is rather slow at reacting to the demands in industry. For example, it took Cosmetology two years to reform its curriculum. The program grew by word of mouth. Flyers, which were distributed at new student orientation, were used for publicity purposes, but no other advertisement was done. In the program students learn the basics to earn their license.

Wasn't Judith Penchansky on the advisory committee of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology at one point with Joan Abrahamson while Katharine Muller was acting as Dean? Penchansky sure was, as I discussed in my previous blog posting. Additionally, she is a named defendant in our lawsuit for allegedly failing to provide documents under the California Public Records Act. She's also Dean of Judicial Affairs, the department which mysteriously placed a "disciplinary" hold on my SMC enrollment based on my oral and written inquiries for public information pertaining to our low enrollment figures, course cancellations, and consultant contracts with Joan Abrahamson and Jim Keeshen's Studio Animatics, among other key documents which would provide some clue of our current state of financial insolvency and academic instability.

SMC uses the transfer model to counsel vocational occupational students. The following questions were posed: What does liaison mean? What makes vocational programs at other colleges strong? The counselor at the academy has extensive knowledge about the AET programs because she was immersed in the program. But, we are not using this model throughout SMC. The AET model is the exception.

To question is: The exception to what? With all these cancelled classes this semester, especially at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology (AET) where I am a student, you can understand why I am a little nervous to get that pesky evil enrollment hold removed by SMC's administration before I can't get into one of the coveted AET courses or any SMC course for that matter. Or, alarmingly, before the Academy falls apart completely given the alleged lack of management and accountability.

In the September 2002 OEC minutes, Marvin Martinez "re-emphasized that the programs need to review labor market statistics and to view the programs as career ladders" while on the "question of funding, John Gonzalez clarified that one of the factors used in determining VTEA funding is completion rates, which include transfer, AA degrees AND occupational certificates."

Again, where are the enrollment figures for each semester since the Academy's inception in 1997? And where's the bills and receipts for equipment bought allegedly with the help of then AET Chairman Jim Keeshen, Dean Katharine Muller, and Joan Abrahamson under VTEA funding? Robert Sammis can't find or either doesn't want to provide this information to the SMC students. And what about all those broken promises that SMC made to the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) that the "Academy's enrollment projection, which is based entirely on labor market demand, is sufficient to justify the center's existence"? AET was to maintain a minimum enrollment of 500 full-time-equivalent students (FTES). Did it meet those demands? Did anyone even bother to keep track? Or, was it in the best interests of Katharine Muller and those in charge of AET such as Jim Keeshen to either conceal low enrollment numbers or find ways in which to pad them to meet these minimum requirements?

The CPEC report stated in its report:

Beyond the training itself, the district has presented convincing evidence that every graduate from the Academy will have ample opportunity to obtain a well-paying career in a vibrant and growing industry. The number of available jobs can probably be measured in the tens of thousands, which suggests that the Academy of Entertainment and Technology may well be expanded in future years if sufficient resources can be secured to do so.

Secured by whom? To whom? From whom?

The Accreditation 2004 Self-Study under Standard II: Student Learning Programs and Services states at page 20:

Anecdotal reports from vocational and occupational program graduates indicate successful job placement. Several occupational programs, including photography, communication, and those housed at the Academy of Entertainment Technology, maintain their own anecdotal data on program graduates because of the recent shift in the economy to free-lancing. This hiring practice precludes occupational programs from accurately tracking job placement and retention of their graduates through the Core Indicators of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (This procedure, more often than not, fails to identify those individuals who perform jobs on a freelance basis.) Consequently, several occupational programs incorrectly reflect poor performance in the job placement and retention categories of the Core Indicators for vocational/occupational programs.

The SMC Accreditation Report further adds on page 27:

The tracking of students after they leave the College is generally very inconsistent. The College receives yearly reports on the academic performance of its students from the California State University and University of California systems; however, private colleges and universities do not provide the College with any tracking data. This lack of data from private institutions presents a major challenge to community colleges in terms of determining student success after graduation. The tracking of vocational students in job placement and retention is just as challenging. Even though the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office matches the social security numbers of alumni with unemployment insurance files for job placement and retention tracking, this practice provides only partial data since a growing number of jobs are available only on a freelance basis and thus are exempt from these types of data collection mechanisms.

Well, I guess Katharine Muller won't have to waste her time collecting any more data. However, I have some data from AET that suggests that few, if any jobs, were secured for our students by AET Internship Coordinator Gloria Mottler, let alone the "tens of thousands" of jobs promised to the CPEC. According to a spreadsheet entitled "Santa Monica College Academy of Entertainment & Technology Internships and Job Placements" (dated October 2005), here's the scorecard:

Total number of internship only: 270
Total number of hires: 217
Total number of students placed in an internship and or job: 487
Total number of companies: 249

The meager total of 487 students since the CPEC 1997 report was less than the promised minimum enrollment of 500 full-time-equivalent students (FTES) per semester! Where were all those students who were supposed to break down the doors to get into the Academy and where were all those industry partners lining up to provide us with lucrative jobs in "the burgeoning digital media industry"? Well, at least the Academy hired back some of its first time graduates such as Stu Seldon and Tim Ryan to work in the AET computer lab.

It appears that the only lucrative salaries received are from the AET administration. Here's the current yearly salary breakdown as follows:

Dean of External Programs, Katharine Muller, $110,443
AET Chairman, William Lancaster, $103,631
AET Professor, Jim Keeshen, $93,874

At least you now know where your tuition money goes... that is, if you're able to enroll into a class before it's cancelled. Remember, AET's Entertainment Technology courses for Fall 2005 ranked number two for damage control losses in my chart. No wonder SMC wants to keep me away from the public records belonging to our ailing Academy. Maybe SMC should consider adding a course in basic accounting for our administrators. Perhaps I should be the one to teach it.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Elaine said...

wow they canceled et61 and i wanted to take that class.
Also Jim Keeshen is an excelent teacher.
Thats so sad.


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