College Trustee Candidate Interview Questions

DAVID FINKEL




September 2006

  1. Why are you running for College Trustee?

    To help the College learn how to get along with City Hall; its neighbors; its faculty and employees, Malibu  and the SMMUSD. Now that we have new administrators at three local government agencies we need elected officials to encourage [and support] the professionals to work together as a team to address issues of common concern to students, the community, and each agency of government. My background suits me for just that kind of work. I am a retired Superior Court Judge; a former presiding judge of the Santa Monica Municipal Court; an arbitrator and mediator; a former member of the Santa Monica City Council and its mayor pro tem; and a professor of political science at SMC [and a member of the Faculty Senate]. I know the community and it knows me to be a voice of reason and reconciliation.

  2. What has been your personal involvement with education in our community?

    In addition to the above, I was a member of the SMMUSD ad hoc committee to support the recent school bond measure that was passed by the voters [barely, the second time]. I was one of the "charter" parents who formed SMASH together with my wife and children. My four children and three of my grandchildren attended or attend the SMMUSD public schools. My oldest grandchild, who entered Samohi this fall, studied Algebra at SMC this past summer. I supported the effort of CEPS to get the City Council to commit to enhanced financial support of SMMUSD, just as I did earlier as a council member in the 1980s.

  3. What makes you stand out among the other candidates? What special attributes, talents, and abilities will you bring to the College Board?

    Maturity, extensive government experience,  and an ability to listen and communicate. I am an active person. If I am elected I will no longer be permitted to teach political science at SMC...although I offered to teach w/o salary. Therefore I will have the time to spend on bringing the constituent groups referred to above together that others may not have because of their employment schedules or predilections.

  4. What do you feel is the number one challenge facing the College today?

    Ending a long standing SMC practice of living in a "bubble" without a clear focus on the needs and desires of its neighbors. SMC must learn to relate to those around it and its immediate neighboring government agencies. It must work together with them to serve the community on issues of common concern. The primary concern is teaching our youth to think independently and learn the skills needed to pursue their dreams and careers of choice. But we cannot achieve that until we become a full partner in the community in which we live. It is no longer adequate for SMC to boast about its high transfer rate to universities. Rather SMC must admit that its drop out rate is too high, and it must work with the public schools to help students at the lower end of the achievement scale to improve their reading and writing skills [a problem caused, in part, but by no means exclusively, by inadequate training in high and elementary schools]. Superimposed on that problem is the overriding need for SMC to stabilize and strengthen its economic base. That can be partly achieved by thoughtful spending; increased course offerings and recapturing previously lost students [and corresponding FTSE].

  5. Do you fully support the agreement negotiated for the City of Santa Monica to provide funding to the Santa Monica Malibu School District? What was your role, if any, in crafting, supporting or negotiating this agreement?

    Yes. See above.

  6. The College is facing a persistent structural operating deficit, with ongoing expenditures about $3,500,000 more than ongoing revenues. The College is using one-time funds this year to meet the shortfall. What will be your priorities over the long-term to address this issue?

    Here are some suggestions: A) We must recapture the 6,000 students we lost in 2003 when courses were eliminated, part time faculty laid off and students turned away from SMC, due to budget cuts and poor decision making. Many community colleges increase their student FTSE by accepting dual enrollment [students attending both high school and community college] even if they are 9th graders...assuming they meet certain academic requirements. SMC should consider doing that too, in consultation with SMMUSD. B)  We should also expand our vocational training course offerings. The recommendation of the administration hired consultant who recently presented a vocational scan to the college to help it determine what vocational course offerings are needed and desired for 2007 , were flawed and should be reviewed. In some instances you cannot evaluate the data the consultant claims to be necessary because data was unavailable. Thus, in one field, that of Automotive repair [the vocation I happened to be arbitrarily assigned to at a  seminar on faculty and employee orientation day] the consultant's data we were asked to evaluate called for consideration of the recommendations of the faculty. Naturally, there has been no automotive training faculty since the layoffs of 2003. Hence the consultant's data and guideline was inadequate to make a meaningful evaluation of the need and desire for automotive vocational training courses. At the same time many seem to be complaining about the elimination of those courses. So, some kind of appropriate reevaluation is called for. C) Most departments, including ours [Philosophy and Social Science]  have agreed that the 11:00-121:30  free period presently set aside for student activities and faculty meetings [no classes] should be opened up for class offerings, inasmuch as students are being turned away from the college due to unavailability of classes. Only one percent of the student body uses that period for student activities, anyway. A period later in the day [2:15?] could replace the 11:00 free period, since fewer courses are taught at that time whereas many are desired at 11:00. D) Also, we should develop more long distance courses to be taught on line. Technical staff is trying to encourage more faculty to take training classes to learn to teach on line.

  7. Recent changes adopted by the accrediting commission for California Community Colleges now require colleges to identify measurable student learning outcomes (SLOs) at the course, program, and institutional level. This is a large and time-intensive process. What role should the Board of Trustees play in approving and adopting SLOs at the program and institutional level?

    I am personally and philosophically opposed to SLOs. They are anti intellectual in the sense that they ultimately call for everyone to ask and answer the same questions in the same way. To me it is another way of substituting form for substance in education [like no child left behind?]. I suppose some departments believe they will have little problem with SLOs [undergraduate math and science?] but in the humanities and social sciences I think it is a terrible idea. I teach the Constitution, and how it is interpreted from decade to decade, as political shifts occur. How are uniform tests and evaluations of  political science course materials going to effectively measure how much my students are learning? Unfortunately too many community colleges have already rolled over to the Sacramento push for SLOs and most of my colleagues think it is too late to resist SLOs...a political and educational battle already lost. Therefore our department is trying to develop a meaningful way to comply with the requirements in as intellectually honest a way as possible. That will, if done decently, take a lot of faculty time, and ought to be paid for. I do not expect such pay to be forthcoming, however, because even with no new expenses SMC will need two years to regain financial stability. Therefore the Board is faced with a dilemma, in my opinion. If it approves SLOs it weakens the authenticity of SMC's education. If it rejects SLOs it runs he risk of losing accreditation. If elected I will urge the college to try to persuade Sacramento to abandon SLOs. If we lose that battle, I will recommend that we attempt to minimize the time and effect SLOs have on SMC's academic life.

  8. The College has a number of joint projects underway with local agencies, including a project with the School District to construct new playing fields at John Adams Middle School, a project with the City of Santa Monica to construct and operate a new Child Development Lab School at the Civic Center, a joint powers authority with the City of Malibu to build a new college campus and to meet wastewater management goals, and a proposed project with the City of Santa Monica and the YWCA to build support housing. Do you believe the College is doing enough with other agencies or not enough with other agencies? What additional areas of cooperation, if any, should the College engage in?

    I support the programs enumerated in Q # 8, with the possible exception that I would prefer that the City build a cultural center/museum at the civic center, and wouldn't want that to lose out to a Child Development Lab if only one of the two can be put in the civic center. I fully support a Child Development Lab to be placed somewhere in the city, however.     What I would really like to see in the long term is the development of affordable student housing as a joint effort of the State and City governments and the college. Student housing in Santa Monica would expand the stimulus of college life geometrically. It would also enhance the cultural life of the city. Anyone who lives near UCLA knows that there is a lot of activity going on campus during the evenings and weekends, much of which provides the true richness of student life. The entire community would benefit in numerous ways. First, student traffic could be reduced. Similarly, parking problems could be reduced. Air pollution could be reduced. On the other hand cultural and social stimulation throughout the city would increase. We are already a diverse society, but students living on campus would increase that diversity, to the entire community's benefit.

  9. Do you endorse Measure BB, the Santa Monica-Malibu School Safety and Repair (Bond) Measure on the November 7, 2006 ballot and will you actively campaign for its passage?

    I endorse BB. And am campaigning for its passage.

  10. What is a priority concern you might have regarding the College that has not been raised?

    I have mentioned it before, but what I want most, is a harmonious working relationship between SMC, SMMUSD, City Hall, and the neighborhoods impacted by SMC.



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