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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/4/12

"Scoundrel" Billionaire to Receive Honorary Doctorate from Sonoma State University

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Message Peter Phillips

Sonoma State University has announced that philanthropists Joan and Sanford Weill will be recognized as the 2012 honorary degree recipients at SSU's graduation ceremony May 12. The Weill's recently have donated $12 million to the Green Music Center Fund. This donation enabled SSU to complete the main concert hall, the adjoining lawn and commons performance venues, officially named the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Lawn and Commons.

Sanford (Sandy) Weill, is the former CEO of Citigroup. Weill created Citigroup in 1998 through a merger with Travelers Group. In 1997, he was the highest paid CEO in the country at $230 million. Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at  $1.4 billion in 2006.  However, the NY Times says (4/5/12) that he has recently lost his billionaire status.
Weill was a primary player in the removal of the Glass-Steagal Act during the Clinton administration. This act allowed for Wall Street investment firms to gamble with their depositors money held in affiliated commercial banks leading to the housing crisis in 2008. The International Herald Tribune (1/4/10) described Weill as once viewed as a "brilliant deal maker, while now critics cast him as the architect of a shoddily constructed, unmanageable financial supermarket whose troubles have sideswiped investors, employees and average citizens."  Robert Scheer in the Nation Magazine (4/12) describes Weill as a " Jolly Good Scoundrel", and "The Man who Shattered Our Economy." (Huffington Post 11/17/10) Scheer points out how Weill bailed out of Citigroup before the crash, "laughing all the way to the bank." Weill is currently reported to be selling his  200-foot yacht, named the April Fool, for  $69.5 million. The boat has a huge master stateroom, a Jacuzzi on the fourth-level sun deck and a sprawling outdoor eating lounge.
The New York Post (2/1/09) ran a front page story with the headline, "Citi's Sky-High Arrogance: Company Jet For Monguls Lux Holiday." Just weeks after Citigroup averted total collapse with a $45 billion shot in the arm of taxpayer cash, the bank jetted its former CEO Sandy Weill and his family on one of its corporate jets to a posh Mexican resort for New Year's. 
Sandy Weill paid $31 million in late 2010 for a 362-acre estate and vineyard in Sonoma County. He brought with him carpetbags of money, a pile of which he donated to gleeful SSU President Ruben Armià ana's Green Music Center.
Jump to May 12, 2012  graduation at SSU,  Sandy Weill and his wife Joan will be awarded an honorary doctorate. Many will ask, What for?  Is this a doctorate honoring anything besides being the largest recent donor to the Green Music Center? It seems to smack of buying the honor instead of earning it.
Previous honorary SSU doctorate recipients have been primarily local community leaders with decades of  regional merit. Included in these ranks are Herb Dwight, who has distinguished himself throughout his life as a highly respected engineer and prominent business and community leader; Belva Davis, a highly regarded reporter in the San Francisco Bay area; Bernie Goldstein, provost and vice president of academic affairs at SSU; Edward R. Stolman of Glen Ellen past president and chairman of the Federation of American Hospitals; and Donald Green. a prominent leader in the telecommunications industry. Green founded three regional companies, Digital Telephone Systems, Optilink Corp., and Advanced Fibre Communications, and became know as the "Father of Telecom Valley" in the North Bay region.
Many Sonoma county folks are not taking kindly to a near billionaire with tainted money receiving a honorary doctorate from Sonoma State University without having given decades of regional accomplishments for which to be truly honored. Thousands of people who lost their homes through foreclosures in Sonoma County might like to have something to say about such an award. Shame on Ruben Armià ana for arranging such an outrageous gesture, and dishonoring graduation for the class of  2012.

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Peter Phillips is a Professor Sociology at Sonoma State University and recent past Director of Project Censored. He teaches classes in Media Censorship, Investigative Sociology, Sociology of Power, Political Sociology, and Sociology of Media. He has (more...)
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