A commencement address by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Santa Monica College graduation ceremony Tuesday, June 14th, was met with loud protest both on the campus and outside the campus.
Inside the college Corsair Field football stadium, where graduation ceremonies were held, protestors shouted, blew whistles and held up big signs throughout Schwarzenegger’s speech.
Graduates in front of the stage and professors who were on stage behind Schwarzenegger turned their backs to him in protest.
“Arnold is not a pro-education governor,” said transfer student Trevor Dilling.
Dilling did not receive a degree, but is transferring to the University of California at Berkeley in the hope of becoming a history professor.
“I want to be a teacher and he [Schwarzenegger] criticized teachers for being a part of the special interest,” Dilling said. “Teachers should not be criticized for trying to help people get an education.”
Dilling wore a yellow chicken suit with a sign that said, “Chicken Arnold won’t stand up for students.”
More than 100 protestors marched and shouted outside the college’s two main entrances.
While some protestors complained about the governor’s views on immigration and labor unions, most of the protestors criticized his education policies.
“He promised many things, but has changed everything after being elected,” said Todd Warden, a student from California State University Pomona.
Warden, who also works for the California Democratic Party, wore a Schwarzenegger facemask with a big nose.
“He said he loves Proposition 98, which provides education funding to public schools,” Warden said. “But Schwarzenegger’s nose grows longer with each lie he tells.”
he Santa Monica College Republicans gathered outside campus to support the governor and protest the presence of other protestors.
“These protestors are politicizing an event that should be a special day for graduating students,” said College Republicans president Ben Eisenberg.
“We are here to support Schwarzenegger because he is the elected governor of the state and a college alumnus,” Eisenberg said.
Schwarzenegger had attended Santa Monica College and took general education classes there between 1970 and 1974 before receiving a business degree from the University of Wisconsin at Superior.
“I would not be where I am today without the education I received at Santa Monica College,” Schwarzenegger said in his speech.
“Congratulations to the graduates — this is a great start to the rest of your lives,” he said.
His message to students about persistence, overcoming obstacles and leadership was based on numerous examples of his own experiences.
Immediately after his speech, he was swiftly escorted out of the stadium in a golf cart.
“This is a graduation I will never forget,” said Robert Adams, college vice president of student affairs, who was the next speaker after Schwarzenegger.
College officials said they were proud that Schwarzenegger accepted their invitation to be the keynote speaker.
“Santa Monica College is honored to have the governor of California speak at our 75th anniversary graduation,” said Randy Lawson, college executive vice president.
“The fact that the governor chose us for his very first commencement address makes the occasion even more special,” Lawson said.