President Search Commences

The search for the new Santa Monica College president debuted on May 9, during the last Board of Trustees meeting, with the nomination of 16 "head-hunters" whose mission is to identify three to five ideal candidates to present to the board for an ultimate selection.

Through an elaborate process of proposals and votes, the trustees designed the format of the search committee, by categories of students, faculty staff, classified staff and community members in an effort to achieve a balance of complementary qualities.

Whether or not the trustees should give up their two seats on the search committee was one of the major issues that animated the board, as well as the audience.

Dr. Abel B. Sykes, a private consultant from the Association of Community College Trustees, was virtually present through a conference call to advise them according to his 10 years experience with assisting the recruitment of other colleges' presidents.

However, the trustees preferred to listen to each other's arguments in order to reach the most crucial decisions. Trustee Dr. Margaret Quinones initiated the debate when she argued that the board members could "contaminate the vote" of other committee members because of their status of insiders.

"This is a philosophical debate, it is not a disfranchisement," said Quinones, who emphasized on the ethical component of the issue, as she wants every members to have an equal billing of seeing all the candidates for the presidency.

"We are desperate to be partners with you, so that you can understand our concerns, our values," said Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, the Academic Senate president-elect.

The political science professor expressed before the board, on behalf of the faculty and classified staff, his disagreement with the idea of not having any trustees on the committee during preliminary steps, which started on Tuesday.

As one the three faculty members elected to be on the search board, Dr.Tahvildaran-Jesswein, explained in vain that this collaboration would allow the trustees and faculty as well as staff members to rebuild their relationship and encourage communication and trust between them.

With her passionate speech, Quinones however succeeded in convincing the Chair Carole Currey, Vice Chair Nancy Greenstein as well as Trustees Suzanne Aminoff and Robert Rader to reconsider their disapproval, and reach a unanimous vote in favor of their removal from the search team until the final selection.

"I'd rather save those valuable search committee spots to insure that everyone takes part," Rader said. "I want us to be truly equal and not first among equals."

The trustees also unanimously agreed to extend the search group from to 16 members so that community members and students could be more involved in the selection of a new president, as they realized that their initial representation on the board was too limited, with only two seats each.

"Because of who we are in this city, we need to have a strong community input," said Quinones about the social endeavor of Santa Monica as well as Malibu City. "We don't want to alienate any kind of perspective from this committee."

"This community wants to be heard," said Trustee Herbert E. Roney, who was hoping to allocate five seats to community members.

Eventually, the board voted to give two additional seats to the community and one additional seat to students, as well as the administration.

Jeronimo Saldana, A.S. president, was extremely satisfied with the outcome of the meeting since the two people he nominated, Mark Abraham and Sadia Afolabi, who are the Associated Students director of academic services and vice president-elect, were both appointed to the search committee.

Saldana said he thought his decision to not nominate the future A.S President, Lillian Cavalieri would create a controversy, but he explained that he chose candidates based on character and merit.

Saldana said he felt that Abraham and Afolabi fully demonstrated their leadership and commitment to enrich SMC student experience.

The eclectic cast of the search committee promises to select the new president by the end of 2005.

Search Committee:


Lesley Kawaguchi, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein

and Lantz Simpson


Giovanni Vela, Leroy Lauer, Jim Serikawa


Sadia Afolabi, Mark Abraham and Erica Miles


Mona Martin, Jeffery Peterson and Teresita Rodriguez


Dr. Monika White, Judy Abdo, Dr. Matt Dinolfo, Sharon Barovsky