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Letters to the Editor 

Week of April 18, 2001

MUD Flap

A real eye-opener: After reading John Mecklin's piece on public power ("MUD in Your Eye," April 4), I was skeptical. After all, what's wrong with the Guardian contributing to things it believes in, if it doesn't stand to gain financially? However, after reading the full piece by Peter Byrne ("Delusions of Power"), I was convinced: not that the Guardian is necessarily evil, but that it is pushing an amorphous idea while ignoring alternatives. It seems clear that San Francisco citizens should keep their eyes open before trying to seize PG&E's assets.
Elaine Lissner
The Castro

Role reversal: It is interesting, but not at all sad in my opinion, that [Guardian Publisher Bruce] Brugmann and [Executive Editor Tim] Redmond have turned into the very monsters they have devoted so much time and energy warning us about. Good story!
Darryl Cox

One more nail: I want to congratulate you. Your article was very good on why San Francisco is not in violation of the Raker Act, but you did miss one crucial fact: Namely, the same U.S. District Court judge (Judge Roche) who originally ruled (in 1939) in favor of the federal government that the city was violating the Raker Act, ruled in 1945 that the city was not violating the act. He made this decision after the city entered into a set of power sale contracts with buyers other than PG&E. The city and PG&E also entered into a new contract on March 14, 1945, that specified that PG&E would transport -- but not own -- city power from Hetch Hetchy. Secretary of the Interior Ickes (who brought the case on behalf of the federal government in the first place) informed Judge Roche that he was satisfied with the new contracts. Judge Roche agreed that, with the new contracts, the city was not violating the Raker Act, and "Judge Roche closed the books on the case" in the words of a magazine article published on July 14, 1945.
Sheila Williams
Walnut Creek

School of Hard Knocks

Thank you for learning at Wal-Mart: Oh, how I wish you had spoken to me before you wrote that article about the Academy of Art College ("The Art of the Deal," Matt Smith, April 4). Man, if you only knew how deep the bullshit goes. I have been a student there since 1997, working on a bachelor's degree in new media. So far I am in the hole $43,000, and I still have two semesters to go.

I was really disappointed in the school almost right away, but I thought things would get better as I advanced, but they didn't. Before I knew it, I was in too deep, and when I tried to transfer to another, better school, no one would accept the credits because of the accreditation problems you mentioned.

Many of my teachers are so inept I have actually had to teach them things, especially concerning software. The school is the Wal-Mart of art colleges. I wish I knew in '97 what I know now. I would have run like hell away from here.
Name Withheld
Polk Gulch

If only Stanford advertised on MTV: Thank you for your article (long overdue). Like countless horror stories you've no doubt heard, I, too, have one. I can now say with a sense of pride that I am an AAC dropout.

I was watching MTV in 1994 and saw an ad for the academy. I spoke to a "counselor" who in hindsight was more of a salesperson than someone concerned with my art career. The main reason I chose the academy was its almost nonexistent admission standards. I didn't have a portfolio, but I did have money, courtesy of federal student loans.

Not all my experiences at the academy were bad. I had a few teachers who were nothing short of inspirational. Then there were other instructors who were exactly the opposite (maybe they were just being realistic). What I liked was the "we're all in this together" feeling between the students and instructors. It definitely felt like "us vs. them," with "them" being the school administration.

I left about three semesters short of graduating but was definitely glad to be out of there. Although I did learn a lot, I think the academy served to undermine my self-esteem. If you know of any anti-academy groups, I would love to get in touch with them.
Aaron Sweeney
Mission District

Reader says article was a hit: I think Mr. Smith's article on the Academy of Art College can only be classified as a hit piece, because it was so biased and left out anything of a positive nature that is going on at the school. I am an instructor at the college and am writing this on my own volition, not at the behest of the Stephens family.

One glaring fault of Mr. Smith's article is his complete omission of any interview with students. You would find our students have a very sanguine view of the school. Our placement rate is high (near 90 percent), and if Mr. Smith would take the time to attend our spring show in May he would see ample examples of the creativity produced by students. The fact that our enrollment has increased from 5,000 to 6,000 in the past few years must indicate the school is doing something right.

As for not being accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges, they are hardly the final word on the value of a school. The increasing enrollment and accreditation by three recognized evaluatory groups should be endorsement enough for any fair-minded individual. And talk about stretching to turn a positive into a negative, the Christmas party Mr. Smith so maligned, with its gifts and bingo games, is actually a nice perquisite for the staff.

I taught for over 30 years at the secondary-school level, and this is by far the best teaching situation I have ever experienced. In my judgment, the Academy of Art College is a class act, from top to bottom. Instead of relying on statements from disgruntled employees, Mr. Smith would have been better served to sit in on classes for a week or so. He might then have been able to write an article far less biased or venomous than the one he turned out.
Michael Fuhrig

Gardening tips from Down Under: I write both as an arts activist and as a very content employee and previous student of the Academy of Art College. I have come from Australia to work for the academy. Why? Because frankly they have the very best equipment, faculty, and facilities for artists.

In Australia we refer to articles like Matt Smith's as "tall poppy syndrome" -- unevolved human nature that always wants to cut down the tallest, brightest flower in the garden. The academy is a vibrant and inspiring place to work and study.
Joanne Keune

If you think that's ridiculous, you should see the shirt we've got on today: This article is completely biased toward past employees of the school. I am a student at Academy of Art, and I feel that I am receiving a very decent education. I am on a limited income, but I am willing to pay the tuition for the school because I want to get into the field of filmmaking. If I wasn't learning anything, I wouldn't be attending the school. Next time you write a biased article, try to interview some current students and teachers. Your article makes you look ridiculous.
Sage Eaton

Other than that, how'd you like it?: After reading Matt Smith's article, I completely agree with all he is saying. I attended the academy for 3 1/2 years, of which every second was a new and twisted form of my own personal hell. Many classes were just there for them to take your money, where little new information was ever taught. What good teachers there were left out of frustration at low wages and a complete lack of support from the administration.

The academy promises the dream of a job in the arts; they fill your head with lies about their credentials and past students. I consider going to the academy one of the worst decisions in my life. I can only hope the article will make others think twice before throwing their money away.
Nathan Hill
Lower Nob Hill


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