A Letter from an SSU Alumna
Re: Sanford Weill receiving honorary degree at SSU’s 2012 graduation
Dear President Arminana,
It is with great shame that I am writing this letter to you. I am an alumna of Sonoma State graduating in June 1975. At that time, Marjorie Downing Wagner was President and I was extremely active on campus both in the Sociology and Women’s Studies Dept. At my graduation, I was one of the main speakers, which was a great honor to me. At that time, I believed I graduated from a College that challenged me academically and possessed a high level of integrity and creativity. I was an inspired student who went on to San Francisco State University and earned a Masters Degree in Education with an emphasis on rehabilitation.
I was appalled when I heard that you were awarding Sanford Weill an honorary degree at the graduation this year. Why was I appalled? Sanford (Sandy) Weill was the driving force in shattering the Glass-Steagall Act, which for decades had prohibited Wall Street investment firms from gambling with their depositors’ money. Its reversal opened the gates for the housing crisis in 2008, the plague of foreclosures devastating our communities, and the economic recession that has stolen our children’s future.
Mr. Weill thus enabled the merger that created Citigroup, a major player in the criminal banking practices thereby unleashed. Given his unquestioned responsibility in this, Time magazine recently included Weill’s name in its list of the “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis.” I cannot understand why you would even consider honoring an individual who has created such pain and misery in our culture and, through his acts, has demonstrated he is not a man of integrity.
To give an honor, such as the one you wish to bestow, on a person who has inflicted so much suffering and destruction on countless lives – including many in this very graduating class – is, in plain words, extremely disgusting to me and is not in line with what I believe a university is all about. It is important that when one receives awards such as the one you are willing to present they need to earn it through good services to the community and not by giving twelve million dollars as a gift. In my mind, if it truly was a gift, he would not even want the attention. However, I believe that the reason he might accept it is to believe that his behavior and all that took place has been forgiven.
As a woman, a mother, a grandmother and a graduate of Sonoma State University, I have higher expectations of who I would consider giving an honor to. There are many other individuals who have given far more to our Sonoma County community that deserve that honor. For the sake of civility I urge you to reconsider your decision. That is the right thing to do. In doing that, you are telling the world that Sonoma State University cannot be bought and that we have a high standard of behavior for individuals we believe deserve to be honored. If not, you are sending the message that money outweighs integrity and service.
Elaine Beverly Holtz aka Pine
Graduating Class of 1975