Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Widespread Discontent at Santa Monica College

In our two previous blog articles, Violation of Jeff Higley's Civil Rights by SMCPD and Judith Penchansky's and SMCPD's Abuse of Power, we examined the roles of SMCPD officers Michael Champagne and Steve Hearn, with a brief cameo by Willie Malone. We looked at the widespread police abuse, complete with some Rodney-King inspired video footage by SMC student Jeff Higley, editor-in-chief of The Siege Online. Last month, we briefly looked at Santa Monica College's Falsified Police Records.

Our blog article defending Mr. Higley and his related blog article, Widespread Police Misconduct Reported at Santa Monica College, has created quite a media stir online in the last few days. Thanks to the May 29, 2006 article entitled "F the SMC PD?" by Metroblogging Los Angeles (written by David Markland), Mr. Higley and I have received an explosion of hits to our respective blogs. Noteworthy visitors include local media giants the Los Angeles Times and the LA Weekly along with both a governmental investigation agency from Washington, DC and the California government!

Finally, after all the hard work writing on our blogs and all the abuse we've received at the hands of the Santa Monica College campus police force (SMCPD), run by Chief of Police Eileen Miller, we're finally gaining media recognition, proving that blogging is truly a grassroots media vehicle of political empowerment to be taken seriously by everyone. It is nice to see courageous individuals post supportive comments, using their names rather than hiding behind anonymity. One comment from an SMC student (who may now suddenly appear on Judith Penchansky's discipline radar) wrote the following praise, in relevant part:

Like many “official” organizations on campus, the SMC police have been given free will to do what they want. ... It seems that their job simply entails of reminding students that they are not in the “real world” yet (which is not true) and are thus not subject to the rights of proper police enforcement. ... But perhaps we should keep in mind that we’re talking about a school with an out-of-touch Board of Trustees who continue to piss our money away... This school is a disgrace to Santa Monica and to the educational system of California.

Metroblogging Los Angeles wrote the following news coverage about us:

By "F", I mean should campus police be given an F for Failing to uphold the rights of students of Santa Monica College, and, instead be given an A for aggressively violating their free speech rights?

SMC student Jeff Higley describes a number of incidents at his blog, The Siege Online, of campus police abusing their power and intimidating students, among them Jeff Higgins himself. In his most recent entry, Higley provides video to a recent encounter with SMC PD where they told him he couldn't record a public event.

Mr. Markland, the reporter, goes on to praise our SAVE SMC blog when he writes:

The blog Save SMC defends Higley, and also offers a transcript of his videotaped encounter with police. Save SMC is equally critical of recent happenings at Santa Monica College.

Other seemingly peaceful situations that both Higley and Save SMC have written about have resulted in arrests and disciplinary actions that they claim are in direct violations of their rights as students, let alone citizens. I haven't had the opportunity to review all the charges and seek out counterarguments, but encourage other interested bloggers and readers to look into what appears to be the implosion of what used to be one of the coolest community colleges in the country.

Markland even uses the screenshots I made of Higley's video clip of SMCPD Officer Mike Champagne. And, unlike Santa Monica College, Markland and Metroblogging Los Angeles respect my copyrights and credit me appropriately. Thank you Meotroblogging!

Jeff Higley added in relevant part the following commentary to Markland's article:

Des Manttari (Save SMC) and I really appreciate the fact that more and more people are taking an interest in the goings-on at our school. Perhaps with enough scrutiny, there will arise the kind of public pressure to bring about the necessary corrections.

We are both actually quite appreciative about many aspects of the college, but are distressed with much that is happening to both students and faculty. Thanks again.

Best regards,
Jeff Higley

So, not only is Santa Monica College held in low esteem by its student body, it's held in low esteem by its faculty, who still aren't satisfied with the endless excuses by its administration for the denial of a FAIR CONTRACT NOW! But perhaps we all truly love SMC and want to take control back from its top heavy administration into the hands of where the school truly belongs: to the students, the faculty, and the community.

Of course Robert Sammis and the Board of Trustees are not very pleased with the awakening of the slumbering educational giant by its faculty and students. Not only have the faculty been belittled and ignored, but the school has taken it upon itself to come after Jeff Higley and I with fictitious "disciplinary" sanctions for participating in and documenting the SMC Faculty March and Rally (held on April 25, 2006). Of course SMC will deny this, but they've complained about all the other civil rights we've vigorously exercised thus far. Watch Mr. Higley's video footage of the SMC Rally and my positive comments during the experience below:

Notice my comment to Mr. Higley (and notice how I wore a Fair Contract Now! shirt - after all, I was essentially a faculty member since I was a teaching assistant to AET Professor Jim Keeshen and did most of his work in three of his courses, especially last Spring 2005 semester): The students were cheering in the cafeteria!

Now, consider this for a moment: this video footage of my overwhelming support of the SMC faculty for equitable pay and rights occurred less than a month before I was suddenly suspended from the college by Robert Sammis, Robert Adams, and Judith Penchansky, all overpaid administrators. In my instant suspension, I am prohibited from stepping foot on the SMC campus (without a SMCPD escort by the same SMCPD who have abused us), allegedly under the guise of SMC's concern of protecting lives and property as I am considered so "disruptive" and there's so many students "against" me according to Thomas J. Baker and Kurt Peterson and I'm such a "threat" to the orderly conduct of the school and its classrooms.

Does SMC have any video footage to support this horrible picture it paints of me? Of course not. Watch Mr. Higley's footage of my support for faculty and praise for its student body and then watch again the video footage of my public commentary to the SMC Board of Trustees on April 10, 2006 as I defend the rights of disabled students at SMC. The only video footage you will not find is of me defending the rights of the SMC administration, who are clearly adverse to all our respective rights.
A simple peak at the April 10, 2006 Board of Trustees meeting shows the roll call of all of us (see screenshot below). Faculty and students working in harmony, addressing a rather stone cold (if not rude and inattentive) board as we tried to voice our concerns and obtain much needed help and sympathy. Of course none has been forthcoming from the Board.

SMC Board of Trustees Minutes with Public Comments April 10, 2006

What did all these faculty members discuss about their struggles for a fair contract from SMC's chief negotiator, Robert Sammis? Here are a few excerpts below. (I apologize if I don't know the names of each faculty member who made these comments).

And I don't want to have to participate in job actions, but I will. I don't want to picket, but I will. I don't want to advise the sixty members of my department and limit the number of students in their classes in the fall, but I will.

[To the new SMC president] We don't expect you to walk on water, but we do expect you to dive in and swim like mad, please.

But the continuing legacy I'm looking at now is the long delayed faculty contract. Contract negotiations for faculty have been made a burden for those hard working association representatives often working with misleading information and disingenuous negotiators. The result has been many faculty are demoralized, feel unappreciated, and unrecognized.

The important thing is that we're not heard and we're not seen.

And the problems that the administration here created by cutting back the enrollment and hoping that those students were gonna come back and when they didn't, 'oh well, gee now are we gonna do?' Our faculty are being asked to pay the price for the mismanagement by administrators in the last few years. And quite frankly, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the arrogance that I see coming from some of the board members, the hypocrisy. I'm tired of it. ... There is tragedy here on this college. ... This is unconsciousable. The least we can do, the very least we can do is settle this contract.

The faculty are on the front line. While all the college staff work toward the achievement of student success, there is no college without the faculty. It's real hard to have classes if you don't have educators in those classrooms. ... We've been without a contract as others have mentioned for coming onto 2 years now and don't seem to be making much progress. Faculty feel undervalued and marginalized. ... People are just horrified.

[Faculty Association President LANTZ SIMPSON discussed the administration's "orchestration of fear" over its budget, used to manipulate the Board of Trustees]. The patience of the faculty has run out. There is no legitimate reason for any further delay. Let's settle a fair contract now!

I rest my case on SMC's less than ethical administration and thank all the wonderful faculty I have learned from in my over three years at SMC and those who have supported my efforts to SAVE SMC. Hopefully, it can still be saved before it is too late for us all. Hopefully Metroblogging Los Angeles and its overwhelming referrals will take an interest in the faculty's cause as well as our fight against police misconduct.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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