Friday, July 28, 2006

SMC's Sand Bucket Mentality

Historically, there has been widespread discontent at Santa Monica Community College among its faculty and classified staff. Previously, we've covered the SMC Faculty March and Rally as well as the outspoken comments by the faculty to the SMC Board of Trustees on April 10, 2006. We've also made available online the CSEA 2004 Survey Comments that were critical of both the SMC Board of Trustees and former SMC President Piedad Robertson. Although President Chui L. Tsang has replaced Robertson, the faculty is still up in arms over its contract negotiations, or lack thereof.

Now online is another official 3-page document from April 2002 by the Joint Respect and Professionalism Task Force that reveals the classified staffs' uncensored complaints against management and upper administrative management at the college. The Joint Committee accuses SMC's management of having a "sand bucket mentality." Under "what needs to change" topics include the following: employee morale, ethical violations, favoritism, vindictive managers, and ego adjustment of managers. Furthermore, the document alleges that management has recruited departmental "spies", threatened staff's jobs, and treated staff as if they were second and third class citizens.

Under "barriers to change" topics discussed ranged from the following: lack of respect, professionalism, fear, communication, adversarial attitude, favoritism, lack of encouragement, lack of support, and vindictive managers. The document states that SMC's leadership is a "failure" and "dysfunctional" and that the Board, President, and senior staff are "disconnected" from the "realities of college." Apparently, the staff alleges that the management both fails and refuses to solve problems. In fact, the staff states: "Managers manage by intimidation" and implement "double standard management policies." There is perceived bias by Human Resources, then under the control of Robert Sammis, and the "potential for retaliation for voicing an opinion." (That sounds all too familiar!) With the potential for retaliation and secret "spies" implanted in departments, one can readily understand why there is a "total lack of trust."

The staff contends that SMC has a "rigid hierarchy structure with power at top- feels more like a corporation than a college." If SMC is acting like a corporation, it is failing on its return on investment in its human capital. The "divide and conquer" mentality of management and administration does not produce a productive work environment for classified staff or faculty. In the end, unhappy employees lead to a mismanaged college that has a negative impact on students such as ourselves.

The staff calls for an urgent need for accountability. Under "suggestions for improvement," the staff pleads for management and senior staff to "show concern and respect for staff and students" and to "encourage higher education." The staff calls for an "end to favoritism, nepotism and gossip" and to have "actual" governance over the allegedly "bogus" governance they have too long endured. They cry out for "honest two-way communication and mutual respect" (something that is still lacking among administration and the rest of us at SMC). They also ask for "agendized regular departmental meetings where minutes are taken." As of June 2006, SMC has allegedly still failed to comply with the Ralph M. Brown Act, as can be seen in the Los Angeles District Attorney's letter. The staff closes with a request for "leadership" rather than mere "management." The problem remains: who in SMC's top-heavy administration is truly qualified to lead the college into the future?

I have converted the document (originally in word format) to Adobe PDF. You can read the full text HERE. To read more about other problems at SMC, I urge you to check out the excellent blog, The Siege Online, and the official SAVE SMC website. Hopefully, the more we expose the problems, the closer we may come to a solution. However, the approach that SMC's administration has taken, ratified by the Board of Trustees through its Human Resources budget, was not cheap. Here's the cost breakdown from the SMC Board of Trustees agendas:

From the SMC Board of Trustees Agenda, dated January 14, 2002:


JOAN GOLDSMITH and KEN CLOKE from the Center for Dispute Resolution to
facilitate discussions via focus groups with classified employees and District
managers to improve communications and relationships, for a fee of $2,000 per day
plus expenses each not to exceed $16,000.

Funding Source: 2001-2002 Budget/Human Resources

From the SMC Board of Trustees Agenda, dated November 5, 2001.


1. JOAN GOLDSMITH from the Center for Dispute Resolution to facilitate discussions
with California School Employees Association, Chapter 36 for a fee of $2,000 per day
plus expenses not to exceed $6,000.

2. KEN CLOKE from the Center for Dispute Resolution to facilitate discussions and
resolution concerning the 50 percent law and collective bargaining with the Faculty
Association for a fee of $2,000 per day plus expenses not to exceed $6,000.

Funding Source: 2001-2002 Budget/Human Resources

3. DR. FRANCES E. KENDALL to provide diversity training to the administrators,
managers, and department chairs for an amount not to exceed $1,000.

Funding Source: 2001-2002 Budget/Human Resources/Diversity Funds

From the SMC Board of Trustees Agenda, September 10, 2001:


BARRY WINOGRAD to facilitate mediation/negotiation discussions between the
Santa Monica Community College District and the Faculty Association, for an
amount not to exceed $2,000 per day plus expenses.

2. KEN CLOKE from the Center for Dispute Resolution to facilitate discussions
concerning resolution of the 50 percent law debate, for an amount not to exceed
$2,000 per day plus expenses.

Funding Source: 2001-2002 Budget//Human Resources

From the SMC Board of Trustees Agenda, May 1, 2000:


It is recommended that the Board of Trustees approve a contract with the Center for Dispute Resolution to plan and implement a management retreat to be held at the West Coast Long Beach Hotel, July 21-23, 2000, for the amount of $14,000, plus expenses.

Funding Source: District Funds

Comment: The Santa Monica College Management Association has been
discussing the need for management training that is suitable for
both classified and academic managers. To respond to this need,
a retreat is being planned for the fourth weekend in July. The two day
retreat will be attended by 83 managers and confidential

Ken Cloke and Joan Goldsmith from the Center for Dispute
Resolution, will plan and implement the management retreat. The
agenda for the retreat will be developed after meeting with
individual senior staff members and management leaders. They
will develop and lead workshops on team building, conflict
resolution, and collaboration. A follow-up meeting will be held with
senior staff the day after the retreat.

That's at least $47,000 paid out of District funds, as well as the Human Resources and Diversity Funds (at $2000 per day!), not to mention the expenses for the retreat. Perhaps the administration needs to stop using the good cop-bad cop approach to dealing with its faculty, staff, and students and start treating us all on a level of mutual respect on a daily basis within the boundaries of the college environment.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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