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Should Sonoma State return the $12 million Green Center donation?

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.

Your thoughts?

- Paul Gullixson





19 Responses to “Should Sonoma State return the $12 million Green Center donation?”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    No, I don’t think the money should be returned at this point.

    But imagine what that money would have done for SRJC or the Libraries in this county. Certainly better targets for the money.

  2. Skippy says:

    Au contraire.
    Capitalism is the only moral economic system, as it is the only one built on a foundation of individual liberty, free will and free choice.
    What’s more, freemarketeers have been a crucial part of the alliance for freedom since the slavery debates and wars of the 19th century. On both sides of the Atlantic.
    It is rumored that Churchill stated that capitalism is the worst economic system on Earth, except for all the others.
    Anything else is simply slavery with a pleasant name and an iron fist.

  3. Magick says:

    okay, may I shift the focus for a moment onto the way this online conversation is unfolding?
    I do not believe any of us would use the tone and say the things we are saying if we were sitting in a circle that was called to respectfully and intelligently discuss the matter.
    All these glib remarks that put us momentarily on the top of the who’s right pyramid are not using this medium of Journalism right here for applying critical thinking that will bring us to real solutions.
    Lamont’s story is about exposing the dark side of philanthropy.

    I would be interested to hear what some serious journalism students actually think about the editorial.
    Capitalism is an amoral system and to dress it up in frilly philanthropy lulls us back into accepting a corrupt system that uses democracy as a promotional tool.
    Its not really just about this one incidence; whether to keep the money or not, this is how it works everywhere in America.
    Like Dylan said, “Steal a little and they put you in jail, steal a lot and they make you a king.”

  4. Paul I says:

    With things run like the folks in Italy and especially Sicily, I am surprised we even know where the moola came from.

    Wonder what the Alumni Association thinks, I bet they miss Carnalli.

    And I am an SSU Alumni from 1986.

    Shameful bunch.

  5. Skippy says:

    @ Frank,
    Andrew Carnegie gave his fortune away of his own free will.
    No jealous vindictive collectivists confiscated it.
    Big difference.

  6. Mazeltov says:

    I think we should ask for more, much much more.

  7. GreedBreeds says:

    What of the $$$ drained form the academic departments to finish building it? Apart from the promise from lovely leader Ruben that this was going to be a “privately” funded project form the beginning.
    Maybe he can host some swank galas and European-style balls to raise more money.

  8. Reality Check says:

    I’m curious. How much money that George Soros gives to various causes on the left is returned because of how he obtained that money?

    If the argument is that money shouldn’t be accepted unless it’s clean money, well, I’m in complete agreement. And, yes, Weill’s money has an unsavory taint to it. But so too does a lot of money given to NPR, PBS, and so on, and on and on.

    Why start with the Green Music Center?

  9. Sarky Fish says:

    Jim and Paul hard at work assisting their academic pals in creating the next generation of radical left wing, cooky cutter journalists. The mental beating goes on.

  10. Alic says:

    may we please hear from Sandy?

  11. Susan Lamont says:

    I’m used to the usual ignorant epithet of communist – usually used by those with nothing legitimate to say. And, I guarantee you that the wealthy (whether capitalists, fascists, monarchs, crusaders, etc.) have committed more mass murder, famine and ruin than have peace and social justice activists (which is what I am)and probably than any communists, since they’ve been doing it so much longer. And do some fact checking, Bill. Weill changed positions within the corporation in 2003 (he was CEO), but he did not leave until 2006 (he was chairman). And, no, he hasn’t been proven guilty. You obviously didn’t follow what I wrote. These are the people who influence how the laws are written so they can never be “guilty.”

  12. Music Lover says:

    How many millions did Lamont say was stolen from her account at Citigroup and the Peace and Injustice Center by the Weill’s?

    Did she press charges or report the theft to the police? I thought not.

    Another bogus charge from a leftest group with suspicious motives.

    If Lamont has facts lets get them out into the daylight. Or is it just a case of more animosity and envy toward the wealthy.

  13. Peeter Goolis Libtard says:

    how bout we return ultra radical extreme leftest susan lamont to hugo chavez. im sure lamont would be much happier there.

  14. Steveguy says:

    Panel ? Instead of kids, why not have adults ?

    Good article, but why don’t you publish opinions from real people around town ?

    Just sayin’.

  15. Smell Test says:

    If money had to smell especially clean to be acceptable to a donee, there would not be much larger-scale philanthropy left in the world.

    Lamont, on the other hand, emanates the too-familiar reek of communism. Her ilk have built nothing in this world apart from mass murder, famine, and ruin.

    I look forward to the university being able to complete this project, and perhaps to regain some focus within its administration, upon actual education rather than ambitious construction projects.

    Oops, too late… forgot about the Student Center.

    I eagerly await being able to hear a concert in the Green Center.

  16. JoJo says:

    Lamont wrote “He and Citigroup stole it from us. Instead of giving it to the Green Music Center, he should give it back.”

    In my opinion they just made an effort to give it back. 12 million is nothing to Citigroup. Besides what a better way to do it. If that money was released into the financial system and “given back” it would’ve been swallowed up so fast the general public would have seen zero impact. This way “we” get to benefit directly from its impact on our local university and businesses.
    Everyone is upset at the financial giants for the stealing, manipulation and lies.Why let it ruin the moment when the public might actually benifit from something these people do?

  17. Frank R Siroky says:

    If Ms. Lamont is correct, we should think of this a form of restorative justice, in keeping with Andrew Carnegie, et. al.

  18. Steveguy says:

    If we can’t tax them or jail them, take the money !

    Simple, even to simpletons.

  19. Bill says:

    The Close to Home deals with a time frame when Weill was the CEO but concludes with a quote from a 2005 document. Perhaps the author should go back and read the original PD article which clearly states Weill left in 2003, so why brand him with a communication 2 years later. It seems someone from the Peace and Justice center has forgotten the fundamental principal of our system, innocent until proven guilty. I don’t know Mr. Weill from Adam, never met the gentleman, but I will refrain from being judge and jury and let our court system make that judgment. And until someone can show where the money came from that was donated to the Green Center, I suggest we all refrain as well.