Memories of SSU
Kenneth K. Marcus
Professor of Political Science
Professor of Criminal Justice Administration
Coming to Sonoma State
I was elected Chair-Elect of the faculty for the 1969-70 academic year. In the fall of 1969, we knew that President Ambrose “Amby” Nichols was in hot water with the Chancellor’s Office. The out-of-control student government had permitted the publication of a freshman handbook in which students were advised how to survive boring professors, where to purchase the best pot and how to get onto the welfare rolls. The student newspaper, The STAR, had a picture on the front page of the student officers sitting naked on a park bench.
During my first term as Faculty Chair, I sat on President Nichols’ Cabinet as an ex-officio member and the President was an ex-officio member on the Faculty Senate. I always found the meetings that covered the budget, student problems and campus planning to be valuable and could see the campus in a broader prospective than as just Faculty Chair. Later, I believe it was during Peter Diamandopoulos’ presidency, that the practice of the Faculty Chair sitting on the President’s Cabinet was abandoned. I think the faculty power and knowledge suffered a severe blow when this precedent was ended.
I believe that it was during the 1976-77 academic year that I began my three-year term on the College Academic Affairs Committee. It was a very distinguished committee composed of myself, Joe Brumbaugh, Clem Falbo, Millie Dickeman and Bill Young.
My second year on the committee was also the first year of Peter Diamandopoulos’ presidency. I remember our first meeting with Peter in his gorgeously appointed presidential office with his glass coffee table, purple rugs, marvelous sculpture and objects d’arte. He greeted us and went on at length about all the trouble he had in managing the move of his possessions from Brandeis University. Finally, he inquired as to our visit to him. We gave him our list of recommended sabbatical awards for the coming year. Why, he inquired, were we doing this? Didn’t each faculty member receive a sabbatical on their seventh year of service? We explained to Peter that the budget from the State only contained enough money for about 50 percent of the eligible faculty to receive a one-semester, fully paid sabbatical. Peter said that was terrible and he would have to go to Sacramento and do something about that! We wished him well and hastily retreated from his regal office.
Glenn Price and Joe Brumbaugh had been the faculty members on the Presidential Search Committee and I remember well when they predicted that Peter Diamandopoulos would be either the best or the worst president we ever had. Peter was a wonderful speaker. Most of the faculty was impressed when they first heard him talk about the wonders of a liberal education. The speech was very abstract, except for the premise that he would make us the “Brandeis of the West.” After the third or fourth speech, the faculty began to realize that behind Peter’s flowing rhetoric there was an absence of reality or concrete proposals.
In the later years of the Amby Nichols presidency, the faculty at one of the conferences decided to create cluster schools, small liberal arts colleges, like Santa Cruz. I was very involved in the Senate at this time. The original college was given the title of “Old School” I wrote the constitution and bylaws for Old School. Warren Olson and Jerry Tucker of Political Science created the Hutchins School, Wright Putney created Expressive Arts and there were proposals for a Peace College.
I was walking with Steve Pickett, our librarian, the day the construction crew put up the first panels of the second floor of the library, later named “Ruben Salazar”. It was an overcast day but still the panels were ugly grey, including the insert panel. I thought Steve was going to have a heart attack on the spot. The drawing by the architect had the insert composed of sparkling maroon granules
Many years later, during my second term as Chair of the faculty, the question came up of what to do about the Ruben Salazar Library. The original building was designed as a four-story rectangle, but after the San Fernando earthquake the top two floors could not be constructed due to the new building codes, so the first addition to the original building was a second, two-story rectangle identical to the first, creating an ugly, flat-topped concrete monstrosity in the middle of campus. Barn swallows loved the building and over the years, more and more of their mud nests in the spring made for very dangerous approaches to the building. When janitors tried to knock down the nests, the students erupted with great vigor to end that practice.
David Benson was our president at this time. Planners on the campus came up with several plans for additions. Those of us on the faculty were very disturbed by all those possible additions. I remember we asked President Benson why he didn’t ask for a new library building. The President replied that the Chancellor’s Office would never approve such an action. We said to him that he should ask, they could only say no. What happened next was unexpected. A top planner from Long Beach visited the campus and after touring the library suggested we should give up adding additions and build a new building. That is indeed what occurred.