Wasteful Spending at Sonoma State University

By Peter Phillips

The opening of the controversial Student Center at Sonoma State University (SSU) on November 13 was promoted with great fanfare. The celebration for the long delayed Student Center, (originally planned fifteen years ago, but postponed to accommodate the building of the Green Music Center) was actually just a partial opening in that much of the building is still being finished. “Overall I just feel like this Student Center was a huge waste of money, and a complete lie to the students of Sonoma State,” wrote SSU senior David Wells in a comment posted under the Press Democrat’s news story for November 13. Students for the next 30 years will pay $300 extra per year in student fees to cover the construction costs and interest on the Center. The total cost of the grand opening celebration is yet unknown, but two unnecessary items of wasteful spending have now been identified.

Sonoma State University Entrepreneurial Activities spent $1,030 on a one-time-use 400 square foot banner to promote the opening of the Student Center. The 40 ft. by 10 ft. banner from Britten Banners in Cincinnati was hung at the beginning of the fall semester on the East side of the Student Center announcing, “Are You Ready for the Big Reveal? Student Center Grand Opening November 5, 2013.”  In late October when the opening was delayed someone patched over the number 5 on the banner, keeping it simply grand opening November. The banner is now gone and would seemingly not be usable ever again.

During the same time period SSU Entrepreneurial Activities purchased an Event Timer to display as a large count-down digital clock that announced the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the Student Union opening. The event timer from BRG Precision Products in Derby, Kansas cost the University $689.00. The timer announced Student Center—Opening Fall 2013 with the countdown numbers. The event timer may actually be useable in the future on campus, but modifications to the wording will be required. Perhaps SSU can do a days, hours, minutes and seconds countdown for the retirement of top wasteful administrative officials.

20130924_130932Excesses and wasteful spending is nothing new at SSU for our administrative visionaries. Splendid indeed are the ten majestic 120-year-old olive trees that grace the Green Music Center’s Trione Courtyard leading to Weill Concert Hall, which are old growth Sevillano olive trees dug up and transported from Corning, California. Truly magnificent is the rock-wall waterfall in the courtyard of the Prelude Restaurant at the Concert Hall (a restaurant few students can afford).

While the spending of $1,719 on two frivolous items to promote a student center opening may seem like a small amount on a multi-million dollar campus, it is not an insignificant amount to academic departments with operating expense budgets frozen in time, and when copy expense funds run out at the end of the semester. It is not an insignificant amount for working students who have to cover the additional $300 a year with interest bearing loans payable after graduation. Nor is it insignificant to a faculty person who has been without a raise for seven years, and just got a paltry increase of less than half the wasted amount.

It is time for the SSU administration to remember that we are a public taxpayer supported university established for students from the 99% and not an institution for privileged elites and wasteful spending.


Peter Phillips is a professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University, President of Media Freedom Foundation, and co-host with Mickey Huff of the Project Censored Show on KPFA—Pacifica Radio


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