Greening The Campus
College Trustee Advocates For Environment And Justice
by Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California

With the increasingly pressing dangers of global warming, and with buildings places where great progress can be made in the reduction of energy use, more and more Green Party candidates are promoting ways to ‘green’ the built environment.

With the opportunities for change inherent in public policy choices, some of the best chances to do this come on college campuses, as board of trustees are often able to directly approve green building standards for new construction.

Apparently many voters agree. On April 3, Vahe Peroomian became the second Green Party member in 17 months to be elected to a college board in Los Angeles County. Peroomian won re-election to the Glendale Community College (GCC) Board of Trustees, having first assumed the seat through appointment in June 2005.

Glendale is a community that has already embraced green building, and Peroomian’s presence on the Board further affirms that. With GCC poised to spend bond money approved in 2002 for campus expansion, Peroomian supports all new buildings being held to LEED Platinum standards. LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. Platinum is its highest rating.

In addition to the environment, Peroomian is also about equity of opportunity. He seeks to find innovative solutions to the prohibitive cost of textbooks for students, including directing the College to standardize textbooks for introductory courses and identifying free/online resources for as many classes as possible.

He also advocates more online courses for students unable to attend college during traditional class hours, as well as vocational programs that serve the needs of students and the Glendale business community Ñ and has taken the initiative to better identify how to do just that.

Peroomian also believes that College faculty and staff should better reflect Glendale’s diversity. While GCC’s student population almost exactly reflects the ethnic proportions in the city: 35-40 percent Armenian and 20 percent Latino, he feels the number of Armenian and Latino faculty members is too few, and advocates advertising open positions in ethnic newspapers and TV programs, so those respective communities would be more aware of existing opportunities.

Understanding that education is dependent upon state and national government support, Peroomian pointed to the endorsement of his candidacy by both local State Assemblymember Paul Krekorian and Anthony Portantino, Assembly Chair of Committee on Higher Education Ñ whose districts coincide with the that of GCC Ð as well local Congressional member Adam Schiff.

Looking to next year, Peroomian supports Californians for Community Colleges, a statewide constitutional amendment for the June 2008 ballot. The three-pronged ballot measure would 1) address structural deficits in the funding of community colleges by providing them an independent source of funding; 2) reduce student fees to $20 per unit and put a cap on future increases and 3) give local Board of Trustees more authority by establish California Community Colleges in the state constitution.

Outside of elected office, Peroomian, 42, obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from UCLA in 1994. He is an Associate Research Geophysicist at UCLA specializing in space plasma physics and space weather, with funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation. He also teaches freshman physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA.

Peroomian became a Green around the time of the 2000 election, because he felt that “neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are properly serving our people. Many of my beliefs are exactly those advocated by the Green Party, including universal health care, social justice, and living wages.”

Coming from an Armenian family, Peroomian is also active in the Armenian National Committee, which is the largest grassroots Armenian-American political entity, and he sees a parallel between his involvement there and the Green party’s grassroots efforts.

Glendale has the highest percentage of Armenians of any city in the United States, and is home to the third largest Armenian community (approximately 80,000) outside of Armenia overall, after Moscow and Los Angeles.

Between 2002 and 2006, Peroomian traveled back to Armenia seven times. A talented photographer whose works have been featured in several exhibitions, he chronicled that experience on his web site http://www.vahep.com. Evidencing his love of nature and landscapes, his site also features numerous photos of Yosemite National Park and other such places.

Next door to Glendale is the city of Pasadena, where in November 2005, fellow Green Hilary Bradbury-Huang was elected to the Pasadena Community College Board of Trustees. Also an advocate for green building standards and better connecting the business and education community, Bradbury-Huang beat a 27-year incumbent Republican to win her seat. Born in Ireland, she was originally introduced to the Green Party while living in Germany in the 1980s.

With Peroomian’s re-election, eight Greens holding now elected office in Los Angeles County. Along with Jackson County, Oregon this is the second-highest in the nation behind Cumberland County, Maine which has ten.