$150,000 later, and not a dime of improvement


While the 1917 Steinway grand piano –recently purchased by the Friends of Petaluma Campus–is more than impressive as a gift, the instrument valued at $150,000 plays more to the wants of a few and less to the needs of the many students and faculty battling the economic crunch.
For more than a year, everyone from top administrators like Dr. Agrella to freshman just entering the school’s community have had to make tough financial decisions based around the school’s budgetary constraints.
Faculty and staff have seen more hours and less pay, not to mention those who were let go in the process. While departments have chiseled away courses from programs, students have faced a reduction in the availability of transferable and recreational classes.
There is no more money for student fieldtrips or staff development. Instructors now have particular quotas for the number of copies they’re allotted to make for their classes. Printers and computers are old and outdated, and the funds are drying up for when the school will need to purchase new ones.
Should we be so lucky as a college community to have philanthropic friends, what either campus needs most is financial support for the immediate, urgent needs and practical items on the campus’s wish list: computers for science labs, chairs for classrooms with students sitting on the floor and basic appliances needed on campus.
In its mission statement, FOPC states: “[All] Contributions are dedicated to the betterment of Petaluma Campus programs and students.”
If the FOPC committee aims to improve the Petaluma campus’s programs and academic departments, and to further develop the campus as a whole, than why would committee members vote to use the funds they raised to purchase a showy musical instrument?
The piano is inaccessible to students in that its too delicate and luxurious for a beginning music student to put wear and tear on, while a brand new piano for students would be a small fraction of the cost of the Steinway. To boot, the campus itself only offers two music courses, neither of which are based in music theory or practice.
Since learning of the FOPC’s purchase, several in the school’s community have reacted outraged and offended by the committee’s decision to spend so much money on a concert piano, and befuddled by the lack of effort put into communicating with faculty and students about the wants and needs on campus.
At a reception for the piano Nov. 17 at Ellis Auditorium, only a few faculty members and no students were invited. As an auxiliary committee of the Santa Rosa Junior College’s Foundation, several of the committee’s members hold positions in the school’s administration, faculty and staff including SRJC Petaluma campus vice-president Jane Saldana-Talley.
While the piano was privately funded and had been a planned purchase in the works for a few years, the decision to invest so much in so little boils down to our so-called Friends being out of touch with our fiscally squeezed college. On the surface, a concert piano is a good thing, but for $150,000  during the worst budget cuts in decades, it’s time our Friends face the music.