Gov.'s Grad Speech Debated
Students and faculty members of Santa Monica College gathered Thursday in a heated debate on whether California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good choice for the 2005 Commencement speaker.
Schwarzenegger, an SMC alumnus, will speak at this year's graduation on June 14. This has elicited a strong reaction from both sides of the issue, and some are concerned that activists are planning to disrupt graduation.
Tempers flared as each side strongly debated the issue in LA 115.
"There is a lot of controversy surrounding him (Schwarzenegger). I am worried that his presence will take away from my graduation," said SMC student Vanessa Henry. "My concern is that it will become a political rally."
Tom Olster, president of SMC Republicans Club, believes that Henry's concern is "rather fatalistic." "I don't believe that the governor is coming here with intentions to have a political rally," said Olster, who is graduating from SMC. "He is an alumnus of this college and I believe his speaking here will have a positive impact on the graduates."
Some students and faculty expressed concern that the opposition to the Governor is more a partisan issue than anything else.
"I do not want him here because his policies have been anti- education. I think it is a very poor choice on the administration's part to choose a speaker that has raised tuition fees for college students, and has reduced education spending by $2 billion for elementary and high schools. I wish they had a group conscience with the students and faculty," said SMC student Samantha Garcia.
Fran Chandler, professor of business at SMC, supports the choice of Schwarzenneger as the commencement speaker. "Public relations always have so-called feelers who try to determine who would be the best choice for speaker. They have concluded that the governor is the top choice," Chandler said. "Incidentally, SMC has earned more money from Arnold as a governor then previous ones," said Chandler.
Some students are concerned about security and police presence surrounding the governor.
"I heard various rumors- one to the effect that any student wearing a button protesting the governor's policies will be removed from the ceremony immediately," SMC student Andrew Macdonald said.
Robert Moore, a faculty member, said he hopes that the ceremony does not become a platform for any political agenda. "I hope who ever attends has enough respect for the ceremony that they will not make it a political rally," he said. "The president of SMC should have consulted students first before inviting the governor; however, I feel that Arnold is not a Nazi. He is a business owner in the city of Santa Monica. To listen to what the governor has to say about life after graduation will be very interesting and enlightening. He will mention things pertaining to the real world," Moore said.
Members of Progressive Alliance broke away from the forum early in the debate to "strategize" on a possible protest before and possibly during the ceremony.
Betti Caraway, who was wearing an SMC Republican Club T-shirt showing her membership, went to the meeting and said she was greeted with antagonism.
"Professor Bob Massey of sociology was there and he asked me to leave. He said if I was not in agreement with them, so I should leave. I refused to leave and they all got up and left," Caraway said.
Ben Isenberg who is also a member of the Republican Club received the same treatment. "They made it clear that we were not welcomed. I think they are planning some kind of protest," Isenberg said.
Olster said that he is anticipating a possible protest. "If we need to stand in support of our own graduation we will. If it becomes a point to disrupt graduation then I do not know what to say about that," he said.
Prof. Chandler offered her view: "I think that anything that disrupts graduation itself will be very inappropriate."