Political Incest in Santa Monica
Richard Tahvildaran is a professor of political science at Santa Monica College. He is also co-chair, with Patricia Hoffman, of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR).
During the recent political campaign, about 80 of his 300 Political Science 1 students distributed SMRR campaign materials, which, according to local attorney Stanley Epstein, constitutes a conflict of interest and breach of professional ethics.
According to a story in the Santa Monica Mirror, it was unable to talk with Tahvildaran, but it got an email from Don Girard, SMC’s senior director of government
relations and institutional communications, who is a longtime SMRR member, as are
all seven members of the SMC board of trustees.
Girard “explained that the distribution was part of a service-learning project that occurs in an election year and gives students the opportunity to work with local/municipal
Campaigns. Students learn about the project the first day of class, and according to an
SMC email to the Mirror on the project guidelines ‘students sign an agreement declaring
that they are voluntarily choosing to participate in the project. If a student chooses to
participate, she/he may select one of the options presented by the professor or she/he
may research and select a campaign on his/her own. For students who choose not to
participate in experiental learning there is an alternate in-class assignment.’ (Such projects) are common across the country in Political Science classes.”
Epstein wants Tahvildaran to write a letter saying he will end the practice, and to post the SMRR bylaws on the SMRR website. If the professor refuses, the lawyer will take the case to the SMC president and the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges in Sacramento.