This was one of the questions we discussed with 18 journalism students from Santa Rosa Junior College on Tuesday. Each year around this time we invite journalism instructor Anne Belden and one of her classes – this one on column and editorial writing – to visit The Press Democrat and sit in on one of our Editorial Board meetings.
On Tuesday, we discussed a variety of issues with them including the threat of a government shutdown (the subject of today’s editorial), frost protection, Guantanamo Bay and terrorism-related trials (the tentative subject of Thursday’s editorial), reductions in library hours and state budget cuts.
We also discussed the Close to Home piece that we published today from Susan Lamont of the Peace and Justice Center who criticizes the celebrated $12 million gift from Sandy and Joan Weill for the Green Center at Sonoma State University.
“That money wasn’t Weill’s to give,” Lamont wrote referring to Citigroup’s involvement in the Enron scandal and the recent financial meltdown. “He and Citigroup stole it from us. Instead of giving it to the Green Music Center, he should give it back.”
A couple of letter writers so far have said the same thing.
So, should Sonoma State reject the gift?
Yes, said one of the students in our group, a former soldier, who said the university should give it back “on principle,” although he added, “I would rather see them all in prison.”
But several other students disagreed, saying they questioned how that money would otherwise be used. “It’s better than spending it on a yacht,” said one young woman.
It’s hard to argue with that. Seems to me, regardless of how one views Weill’s personal accountability for the financial meldown, helping to complete a world-class concert hall at a public university is not a bad form of public restitution, whether that was the intent or not. Either way, the last thing the university should turn its back on the donation.
- Paul Gullixson