Name: Dennis Frisch
Occupation: Professor, Santa Monica College-Retired
Neighborhood of residence: Ocean Park
Marital status: Single
Political affiliation: Democratic Party
Schooling: MA, History; MLIS
Highest degree attained: MA, MLIS
Hobbies: Beach running, classical music, gardening, travel.
Reading list: Science fiction: Bujold, Weber. British mysteries: Maisie Dobbs, Charles Lennox.
Last concert attended: I have a season subscription to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and last attended in June 2014. I also have a season subscription to Los Angeles Opera.
How do you get to and from work? Most often I travel on the Big Blue Bus, and save my car for only occasional trips.
What is your connection to SMC?
I was a Professor of History at SMC for 28 years, and retired in June.
Describe the role of the SMC Board in less than 50 words.
The Board should be committed to the principle that higher education & lifelong learning is to be made available to every person who can benefit. They have a primary responsibility to be responsive to the interests and needs of the community, as well as overseeing College budgets and operations.
Do you think there is a corporatization of education at SMC?
Yes. There is a focus on the quantity of students and the amount of fees they bring in versus the quality of the education received. For example, there is increasing emphasis on part-time faculty (1000 PT/300 FT) as inexpensive labor. Part-time faculty, often paid a wage making it difficult to live and raise a family in Santa Monica, must take multiple teaching jobs at regional campuses to patch enough hours together to make ends meet. This effectively reduces time they are able to spend providing office hours and guidance to their students. Concurrently, the Board sponsored a bill permitting community colleges to offer “full cost” courses, continuing to support legislation of this manner-even after backlash at the attempt on their own campus resulted in students being pepper-sprayed at a public meeting.
Does SMC need additional physical facilities? If so, where should they be built?
No. Recent facility expansion has not focused on state of the art, comfortable classrooms for students, but rather on such facilities as the new IT support building and the incomplete student services building. This occurs while the existing classrooms on the Main Campus fall into disrepair.
Is the balance of local/non-local students correct on campus?
There is too great an emphasis on recruiting international and out-of-state students, and not enough effort to encourage local enrollment. This is another indicator of campus “corporatization” by focusing on quantity of students and the amount of enrollment fees they can bring in, versus the quality of education that is being made available to local Santa Monica and Malibu students. There needs to be more aggressive outreach and college preparation to families in the Pico and Ocean Park neighborhoods so that the College is accessible to ALL students, and more accurately reflects the diverse and vibrant communities that make up Santa Monica and Malibu.
Has SMC done enough to prepare students for the current job market?
No-there is a need for vocational courses that is to be filled by the community colleges. In 2003 the automotive, architecture, fire technology, emergency management, administration of justice, hospitality, recreation and geographic services programs were discontinued despite serious, prolonged community protests. While reinstating an auto repair certificate (9 units, held at Samohi), little else has been done to restore the vocational program to its former size and breath despite assurances by the Board to the contrary. By reducing these programs, the College disenfranchises those in the community who would benefit from having the technical training needed to obtain higher paying jobs.
What are the benefits or pitfalls of offering 4-year degrees?
Community colleges were established to offer “academic and vocational instruction…through the first two years of undergraduate education” by providing transfer courses, career technical education, and lifelong learning-in these areas they tend to do an excellent job. Four-year programs would potentially compromise students by siphoning resources from the two-year programs to support four-year programs. With that said, however, we must honestly acknowledge that there is a need for additional baccalaureate degrees in specialized technical programs, and offering them potentially allows greater flexibility in preparing students for the current job market. If the pilot program can operate elsewhere without harming funding for 2-year programs, it bears taking a closer look for SMC.
What would you like to see change at SMC?
First, a change in thinking-away from a culture that sees our students, faculty, and staff as part of the bottom line on a business ledger, and towards protecting the mission of the community college that higher education & lifelong learning is to be made be available to every person who can benefit. SMC should become a better neighbor to the diverse and vibrant communities that are Santa Monica and Malibu. Finally, there needs to be better oversight of campus growth and development with a more carefully prioritized plan that meaningfully takes into account both College needs and the surrounding community concerns and views.