Wednesday, February 22, 2006

SMC's Game Development Certificate Revealed

In January, we did an article on How AET Manipulates its Curriculum & Certificates. We examined the Game Development Occupational Career Certificate allegedly offered by Santa Monica College's vocational satellite campus, The Academy of Entertainment and Technology. We've shown that although this certificate is listed on SMC's Spring schedule of courses, it is not in fact even slated for approval on the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office Inventory of Approved and Projected Programs. According to the CCCCO:

This inventory lists degrees and certificates offered by California community colleges which are approved by the Chancellor's Office, and projected future programs.

Types of programs not included here are: certificates that require fewer than 18 semester units or 27 quarter units; inactive program; and noncredit programs. Apprenticeship programs are included, and may be viewed separately from non-apprenticeship programs.

As we've shown in our article "
AET's Questionable Vocational Career Certificates," the only approved programs at SMC's AET are Interactive Media and Computer Animation. Web Design and Development is slated for pending approval in 2007. Game Development is not listed at all.

Here's a screenshot from SMC's Winter Schedule of courses advertising the fictitious Game Development Certificate:

SMC Winter 2006 Schedule of Classes for Entertainment Technology

Spring 2006 schedule for Entertainment Technology reflects the same information. But SMC did not stop there. When a student logs onto their Santa Monica College student self-serve page, they are taken to a page where he or she can update his or her student information. One of the options is where the student can select an Educational Goal. Of course SMC's fictitious Game Development program is among the offerings. Here's a screenshot confirming this fact:

SMC Spring 2006 Update Student Information Educational Goals Menu

This screenshot above clearly deceives SMC students that Game Development is a course of study offered by Santa Monica College. Further examination of SMC AET
Entertainment Technology Program Guide for 2005-2006 describes its alleged Game Development Career Certificate Track. The "Career Certificate in Game Development" is listed as "approval pending." However, as the CCCCO website revealed, only certificates that require fewer than 18 semester units or 27 quarter units are not listed as pending approval or already approved.

SMC's AET Game Development certificate is listed as requiring 39 to 41 units for satisfactory completion. Therefore, if it was legitimately pending, it would be listed on the CCCCO website as such. In any event, the Winter and Spring schedule of courses wrongfully describe this certificate as something that is already offered at SMC when in fact it is not.

Why is Santa Monica College allowed to continue to deceptively advertise a certificate that does not exist? Why has AET gone one step farther and overhauled its course listings in Entertainment Technology to include courses in Game Authoring, Game Design, and Game Development, further deceiving its student body?

In any event, this alleged game development program is not taking hold. SMC cancelled its fairly new ET 44B Game Design/Play Mechanics II course for Spring semester 2006. This course uses the Unreal Game Engine to teach students how to create game mods. It is a very valuable course that I have heard students praise wholeheartedly. Here's an email Professor Travis Castillo sent his students:

--- Travis Castillo <> wrote:
well guys...I got the very unfortunate news that they will be cancelling our Monday night class due to low enrollment...I am very disappointed in this situation because it seemed like we were gona have a great semester...I have had classes here with fewer students, but it seems as though they have upped the min # enrolled to 18...we had 14...I wish you all the best of luck in your game design endeavors!...Always feel free to shoot me a mail if you have any questions I can help you with... Thanks guys Travis

Now, Professor Castillo is a part time instructor at SMC. When courses are cancelled for part time instructors, it hurts them financially to the point that many of these instructors start looking elsewhere for employment. When the professors with the industry expertise leave, the courses meet a certain and swift death. For example, Professor Jeannie Novak is no longer teaching the ET 42 Game Development course since it has been cut down to only 1 unit. She's focusing her energies elsewhere, where her endless talents and enthusiasm are far more appreciated. Both these part time instructors were valuable assets at SMC's Academy. We as students suffer.

Why was this ET 44B course targeted for cancellation while other AET Entertainment Technology courses still listed as open with below the 18-student minimum? Here's a screenshot I made of open AET courses as of the other day:

SMC Spring 2006 Open Courses for Entertainment Technology

In our article "
Santa Monica College Spring 2006 Cancelled Classes," we discussed ET 13, ET 18, and ET 20. Specifically, ET 13 Game Authoring I was green lighted with only 13 students with full time AET Professor David Javelosa. ET 20 seemed to miraculously find 18 students to meet the minimum requirement.

Several students discussed the fact that on the first day of ET 18 Storyboarding last Wednesday, an SMC employee came into the class and informed the students that the course had been cancelled. Professor Jim Keeshen came to the class late to find only 9 students. He told me two different stories: that the class had been cancelled and, alternatively, that it was full despite the fact there were only 9 students present. This Wednesday, February 22, 2006, I was informed that the class had 21 students.

However, this course has a co-requisite of ET 2 Storytelling. According to Professor Keeshen, it is not enough to have drawing skills. The art of storytelling is crucial to understanding the purpose of storyboards. Apparently, when he took a count of how many students had taken ET 2 or were currently enrolled in the course, not everyone raised his or her hand. How could students be allowed into this course without this co-requisite especially when other students who wished to take the course who did meet this requirement were turned away? Rather than remove these students from the course to make room for others who wished to take the course, Professor Keeshen allegedly told his students, "Lying is better than not lying."

Is this a breach of faculty ethics on the part of Professor Jim Keeshen? Is Professor Keeshen allowing equal access to education for all students at SMC's public educational institute? I am informed and believe and thereon allege that he turned me away from the course last week even though I was enrolled to take the course with him and that he turned other students away today while continuing to add students he wanted into the course. Can he selectively handpick students he wants while denying others? Were students who didn't meet the requirements allowed into the course solely to pad the enrollment numbers so that the course could bypass its alleged cancellation a week prior?

AET students, however, are not taking the tampering of their courses lightly. They are unifying and fighting for their rights. Here is an email I received for a student I shall keep anonymous to protect him from any retaliation against SMC.

Well I hope many of you still feel the need to reinstate ET 44B. I ask that we all meet at the Student Information center on the AET campus at 12p.m. Feb. 23 so that we can get a physical headcount and petition signed and started. Also bring anyone that is interested in joining the class as well. The more the merrier. Please, if this class means anything to you show up and lets just prove that we want this class that bad. I know that this seems kinda rushed and last minute but like I said time is of the essence.

This email was sent to many students other than myself. I applaud the students' efforts and hope that they are successful in reinstating ET 44B. If you wish to take this course, I would highly suggest attending this informal meeting. Our future as game developers depends on it.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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