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Did L.A. Valley College award Fake Degrees?

by Anonymous
Did Los Angeles Valley College Media Arts Department award fake degrees to inflate success stats? Multiple documents suggest they may have.
Three separate articles ‘Erika Endrijonas faces new questions in LACCD fraud,’ 'Dozen LAVC Cinema Student Narratives challenges Erika Endrijonas's LACCD Success Story,' L.A. City College Presidential Hopeful Fostered Retaliation Culture as LAVC President' have documented that multiple students complained they were unable to finish their degrees at Los Angeles Valley College in the Media Arts Department, during a period ranging from 2004 – 2017.

A new document has surfaced showing additional students submitted a group petition to LAVC’s President Erika Endrijonas, Vice-President Karen Daar and CTE Dean Laurie Nalepa in 2015 for a capstone class in Producing. And minutes from LAVC's Media Arts Department Advisory Meeting, May 18, 2018, show every Media Arts Degree track was revised in 2018;

“Department is revising all Media Arts and Cinema degrees and certificates, including the transfer degree, to meet the current needs of the industry.

Changes will include, amongst others, less units and more class options for students."

But LAVC's 2018 Media Arts Viability Report shows that some students did in fact graduate during the 2015 – 2016 School Year. Every discipline fell below the program standard of 10 annual completers – the minimum standard of acceptable performance, but there were graduates.

– Broadcasting - Radio = 7 year to date
– Broadcasting - Performance = 5 year to date
– Broadcasting - Television = 5 year to date
– Cinema MP Technician = 1 Year to date
– Media Arts - Directing = 5 year to date
– Media Arts - Producing = 2 year to date
– Media Arts - Screenwriting = 2 year to date
– Journalism - Newspaper = 1 year to date

The data was certified August 9, 2017 by CTE Dean Laurie Nalepa who wrote the following comments:

"I have reviewed the material in this module. While some of the analysis is meaningful, ALL sections need to be filled out and addressed. The department in general, and broadcasting in particular, has done a great job in improving the number of students getting certificates. I appreciate their efforts in this regard. The department has also been effective in developing strong success rates.

LN, Dean
August 9, 2017
*Module is incomplete. KD fall 2017
*Reviewed. KD 2016"

Noticeably, success and completion rates in Media Arts: Post-Production were not listed in the report.

But a new document has surfaced showing additional students submitted a group petition to LAVC's President Erika Endrijonas, Vice-President Karen Daar, and CTE Dean Laurie Nalepa in Fall 2015 for a capstone class in Producing.

So how did some students graduate during that time period when many others didn't?

The answer appears to be paperwork.

Student 1’s complaint specifically mentions Course Substitution Forms.

Course Substitutions are were a school awards credit to students unable to take a class for one reason or another, but have generally met the majority of other requirements. They differ from a Transcript Evaluation, as classes are not identical but cover enough academic work to be comparable.

Los Angeles Valley College’s website doesn’t appear to have a webpage discussing them, but

“Course Substitutions

Faculty Purviews
Major course requirements for local degrees and certificates of achievement may be substituted or waived solely at the discretion of academic department faculty, provided that the major requirement units do not fall below 18 units for the local degree or 16 units for the certificate of achievement. Course substitutions need not be stated in the college catalog, student information system, TES, or any other database that houses academic program requirements in order to be valid. Course substitutions for major requirements for Associate Degrees for Transfer may be recommended by academic department faculty, but must be reviewed and approved by the college Articulation Officer. Substitution of coursework required to meet any general education requirements and graduation competency is solely at the discretion of the counseling faculty or Articulation Officer.

Submit a Course Substitution Petition (Students or counselors may submit to the appropriate faculty to review and approve for major substitutions in a certificate of achievement, local degree, or ADT).”

This in turn raises the obvious question if this was available why was there any problem begin with?

Student 1’s Accreditation Complaint specifically discusses Graduation Course Substitution Forms being awarded in an arbitrary manner. Later Facebook Message mentions Eric Swelstad refusing to sign paperwork for another student and someone removing paperwork from Student 1’s Academic File. An email from Eric Swelstad to Student 2 threatening to not recognize classes from L.A. City College’s Cinema program.

But just as Eric Swelstad appears to have denied graduation to students in retaliation, he also appears to have awarded questionable academic credit to select student.

Two emails submitted as evidence to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, show that two students graduated without taking the required Capstone Class – Film Production Workshop, while requiring it of others.

One email thread between Student 1 and another student (that for clarity will be referred to as Graduate 1), show Graduate 1 was allowed to receive Certificates/Degrees without completing Advanced Motion Picture Production Workshop, Directing, or Editing. It also shows Student 1’s frustration that academic work competed at other campuses was seemingly denied credit that Graduate 1 received, as well as Student 1 having to take all classes required at Los Angeles Valley College.

A second student that will be known as Graduate 2, describes as being allowed to take “a class just like it” in an email to Student 1. But Graduate 2 also acknowledges that “I can vouch for the fact that there are some scheduling issues that need attention. I know lots of students from our dept that were constantly facing scheduling conflicts, or availability issues.”

Graduate 1’s LinkedIn Profile shows that Graduate 1 lists receiving at least Certificates in Broadcasting Television, Media Arts: Directing, Media Arts: Post-Production, and Motion Picture Production Technician issued in December 2015/January 2016. Graduate 1’s website likewise lists having earned Associate Degrees as well.

According to an online obituary, Graduate 2 is now deceased and no information appears available about Graduate 2’s academic records beyond the 2016 email.

What these emails indicate is that no student completed the actual Cinema curriculum during the 2015 – 2016 school year. Likewise one less student appears to have completed the Media Arts: Producing Track curriculum, the Television Producing Track Curriculum, and the Media Arts: Directing Track curriculum during the 2015 – 2016 school year.

But if the Department had "improved" it's completion rates during this school year – this means that multiple tracks had no graduates in preceding years.

Equally concerning is Production Courses describe students completing practical lab time in the subject they were studying. But documents and emails show that again after Eric Swelstad took over as LAVC's Department Chair, faculty refused to hold in-class labs required in school catalogs and outside class time lab availability was almost extremely limited. And if a report in LAVC Student Newspaper The Valley Star News is accurate, students did not have access to equipment or labs from 2020 – 2023, when a burst pipe flooded Campus Center destroying the existing Media Arts Labs and equipment was in-accessible in storage or stolen.

Again raising the question; with failure to offer classes, little to no lab-time as advertised in the LAVC Catalog, and questionable course substitutions – did L.A. Valley College award fake degrees to select students to inflate their failing graduation rates?
RE: Formal Petition to add Media 113 Low Budget Film Making to Spring 2016
Daar, Karen L.
Thu 12/10/2015 4:08 PM
To: REDACTED, Endrijonas, Erika A
Eric J.


I have communicated your concerns to the Media Arts Department Chair Mr. Swelstad -- he determines the classes the department schedules each session. Mr. Swelstad asked for you to meet with him directly to further discuss this request.


Karen Daar,
Vice President of Academic Affairs
Los Angeles Valley College

SENT: Thursday, December 10, 2015 11:31 AM
To: Endrijonas, Erika A; Daar, Karen L; Nalepa, Laurie
Subject: Formal Petition to add Media 113 Low Budget Film Making to Spring 2016

Good Morning,

President of Los Angeles Valley College, Dr. Erika Endrijonas,

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Karen Daar,


Dean of Career Technical Education, Dr. Laurie Nalepa

This is a formal petition requesting that Media 113- Low Budget Film Making be added to the Spring 2016 schedule. There are many students that are lacking this requirement. Many of us on this list have and will be individually expressing our concerns about having this core class added to the Spring 2016 curriculum.

We are all very fond of the Los Angeles Valley Media Arts Program and would like to continue being students at Los Angeles Valley College. Please add Media 113-Low Budget Film Making to . . .
Spring 2016. Please help us continue our academic careers at Valley.

Thank you all for your time,








§Graduate 1 LinkedIn
by Anonymous
Graduate 1 LinkedIn Profile Academic Accomplishments
§Student 1/Graduate 1 email exchange
by Anonymous
Sat 9/5/2015 11:12 AM

I did not Skip or attempt to skip voiceover 31
I don't need it. It's not a requirement for anything for me and I mentioned That to you last year that you wouldn't need it and that it might be going away.

On Sep 4, 2015, at 12:28 REDACTED wrote:


You substituted off the top of my head -

1) Cinema 123 - Advanced Motion Picture Production Workshop (3) 2) Broadcast 23 - News and Sportscasting (3)
3) Broadcast 17 - Industrial Voice-Over (3)
4) Broadcast 31 - Advanced Voice-Over (3)
5) Media Arts 118 - Directing (3) 6) Cinema 120 - Editing (3)
Substituted Total (that I know of) : 18 Units

Not Counting if you transfer in Screenwriting from UCLA or get Broadcast 1 switched to Journalism class.

I don't know what your so worried about it if you really believe all those substitutions were legit - the paperwork was signed, there's nothing they can do about it.

I took -

Broadcast 48 (SMC) (3), Paid $246/unit Total: $738.00 REDACTED And that on top of that I had to email two years later to get a copy of his syllabus so that . . .

§Student 1/Graduate 1 email exchange
by Anonymous
Swelstad could review it for my perquisite waiver that he said could be my Cinema 120 and then later informed me he didn't


Broadcast 45 (4), Paid $246/unit Total : $984.00 Broadcast 185 (1)
Broadcast 285 (2)
Broadcast 385 (3)
Broadcast 81 (1) Broadcast 82 (2) Total : 16 units


Cinema 123 (3) Gave up my Saturday mornings for 4 months
Cinema 120 (3) Gave up my Monday nights for 4 moths
Media Arts 118 (3) Gave up my Wednesday nights for 4 months
Sportscasting (SMC) (3) Paid $246/unit Total: $738.00 Gave up my Wednesday night for 4 months
Radio Workshop (SMC) (3) Paid $246/unit Total: $738.00 Total: 18
Had to take total = 35 units.

Additionally I'm excluded from two degree option that requires Voice-Over because I haven't completed them and would be required to take another 6 units.

If REDACTED had it his way last year I would have to take another 6 units
for Broadcast 23 and Radio 10 - meaning I'd have to take another 12 units to get the two additional degree options your getting in broadcasting radio and performance. I had to take Cinema 107 (3) after taking Intro to Film REDACTED (3) because the computer system didn't recognize it and was not allowed to take Cinema 107 and 101 simultaneously because the computer system wouldn't let me in.

§Student 1/Graduate 2 email exchange
by Anonymous

To: You

Hey REDACTED, I graduated media arts / prod for fall 2015. I've got an opportunity to sub C123 for a class just like it. I'll probably take it this summer. I really wasn't hindered by the scheduling with this course. As soon as I completed the pre-req's, the following semester it was scheduled. I chose to relocate for personal reasons and that's why I personally wasn't able to complete it. However, I can vouch for the fact that there are some scheduling issues that need attention. I know lots of students from our dept that were constantly facing scheduling conflicts, or availability issues.

On Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 12:26 PM. REDACTED wrote:


I know you had to quit school without finishing and taking Cinema 123 because of the schedule. Could you reply to me with your comments about how the schedule and class offerings have affected your ability to graduate


§Lawsuit against Los Angeles Media Arts 2009
by Anonymous
§Lawsuit against Los Angeles Media Arts 2009
by Anonymous
§Student Narrative 2016
by Anonymous
by Anonymous
by Anonymous
by Anonymous
§Valley Star News interview with Eric Swelstad
by Anonymous
Since the building closure, staff and faculty of the Media Arts department have been relocated throughout the campus until their official location within the Valley Academic and Cultural Center
opens in 2023. As Campus Center remains closed for abatement, faculty has had equipment including computers tied up in the building as campus officials are concerned they could be contaminated with
asbestos. This has stirred up frustration for faculty who have gone months without their supplies and access to lab classrooms.

"We have not been able to use any of that equipment," said Media Arts Department Chair Eric Swelstad. "Our students have been denied the use of the equipment and our ability to have them do
their projects with school equipment is limited. We have cameras, tripods and lights that we can't get to because it's locked up.

The college has not informed faculty as to when they will have access to their materials and labrooms once again but instructors hope to be set up in a secure location soon.

"We're scattered all over campus. We're in the library, we're in the motion picture studio," said Swelstad. "The problem is that we lost our computer lab so we haven't been able to access the Adobe
software that we need."

The media arts department improvised with the materials accessible to them and has converted classrooms into labs to accommodate classes.
§LAVC's Media Arts Department
by Anonymous
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