Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) said Thursday that he has asked state and federal tax officials to consider revoking the tax-exempt status of Soka University of Calabasas.
Hayden, who is opposed to Soka's plans to build a 4,400-student campus on 580 acres it owns in the Santa Monica Mountains, also said he will introduce legislation to prevent Soka from calling itself a university. The Japan-based school, which is not accredited by the state, offers English classes to about 150 Japanese students.
State and federal agencies have long coveted the Soka campus--surrounded by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area--as a park headquarters, but Soka refuses to sell.
At a news conference, Hayden, the chairman of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, accused Soka of "misusing the university name to mask its essentially business and religious purposes." He said taxpayers should not have to subsidize Soka's plans to develop the university on property better suited as parkland.
Hayden's news conference was in part a response to a decision issued Wednesday in Sacramento by a state agency that regulates higher education.
Replying to a query from Hayden, the state Council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education declared that Soka's operations were "not in our jurisdiction" because Soka functioned more as a business than a school. Therefore, the council staff concluded, Soka was not subject to state standards governing the awarding of degrees and other educational matters.