Monday, March 30, 2015

April's meeting of the SOCCCD Board of Trustees: Jay's replacement will be appointed; timeline set

     [Don't forget to read Tere's Board Meeting Highlights.]
     6:00 p.m.: well, I've arrived—along with lots of exited faculty unionists—in the Ronnie Reagan meeting room here in beauteous Mission Viejo, home of the nattering Neanderthal. The room's really filling up fast. No sign of the trustees just yet. Back atcha in a minute!
     6:02 - Tonight, the trustees will decide how to deal with the vacancy on the board created by the recent passing of Bill Jay. Will the board appoint someone? Will they set up (and pay for) a special election? Etc.
     The faculty are especially concerned these days about recent developments in the contract negotiations between the faculty union and the district. The district's negotiator is doin' some serious low-balling, I'm told.
     Still no sign of the trustees.
     6:12 - The room's quite full; lots of faculty lining the back wall. No trustees. Some green shirts; more green buttons ("faculty united").
     6:15 - Trustee TJ Prendergast just dropped in to see what condition his condition was in, I guess. And here's Gary Poertner (the Chance). So the meeting will start up likely in about 5 minutes.
     6:17 Jim Wright has entered the room. Folks are taking turns walking over and connecting with Dixie B and some older gal (Bill Jay's widow, Bobbie). They're sitting immediately behind me.
     Here's Marcia. And Dave. Wonder if Nancy's showin' up tonight? (Nope; evidently her health is worrisome.) There's Tim Jemal. We'll start soon, I think.

* * *
     6:19 - the meeting begins (sans Nancy Padberg, who has been recovering from an injury of many months ago; obviously, Nancy might decide to retire, though nobody's said that).
     Reading out actions in closed session (Wright): 5-0 vote, approved personal unpaid leave w/benefits for classified manager at IVC. That's all.
     Invocation: Wright. "Dear heavenly father...." (The usual pieties.) Wright mentions to the Lord Nancy Padberg's health, among other things.
     Resolutions: first resolution honoring Bill Jay.
     6:21 - Wright reads the res. His widow, Bobbie, is at the podium, accompanied by Poertner and board Pres Prendergast. The Res says all the expected things. "Touched many lives," etc. They do the roll call vote, which is brief (only 5 trustees present). Belated applause. Mrs. Jay seems nice, is all smiles.
     Next resolution: for Beverly Johnson, manager of the year. She stands at podium next to Gary P (chancellor). Wright reads through the res. "Dependability and attentiveness," etc. Applause. Photo op. All smiles.
     More: the "President innovative awards." Blah blah blah. Good grief, they're still talking about that water line break that happened months ago here at Saddleback! Give it a rest! Timely repair. Blah. Applause. Blah. Roll call vote. Photo op. Blah.
     6:30 - Next: IVC. Linda Fontanilla: administrator of the year. (Good grief.) Wright reads the res. Blah Blah. "Passionate leader..." Supported "student equity plan." Blah blah blah. (This is ridiculous. Reminds me of the bad old days when the very worst instructors at IVC received the Teacher of the Year award.) Applause. Roll call vote. Blah.
     Next: Craig Hayward, IVC manager of the year. Applause. Wright reads the res. (Hayward seems to do his job well. He's popular with faculty.) Applause. Roll call vote. Photo op.
     6:34 - PUBLIC COMMENTS:
     Jim Leach, prez, board of governors, Saddleback Foundation. Looks like classic business dude: suit, glasses, Republican hair, entrpreneurial yammering. Goes through factoids, accomplishments of Foundation. Talks about recent "gala." "Each table was fitted with a beautiful centerpiece," he intones. Blah blah blah. "Every speaker was spot-on," he adds. The city of Dana Point bought a table.... Mentions football. (Natch. Kill me now.) "We're gonna do even better next year ... thank you very much."
     Next: Quinlan Raiken(?) (Southern boy in his ate 30s): followup comments re comments made at last meeting. He had questions on general action items, extension of contracts. (He's skeptical, concerned about accountability, transparency.) Not discussed/explained in open session. Where's the money coming from? Not explained. 5 year construction plan was discussed last time. In the end, the board went along with the order of priority suggested. Raiken recommended modification, but nope. Re contract negotiations: faculty have not had a raise for "going on nine years now." It's hard to attract the best faculty with cost of living so high, salaries so low, etc. Applause. (Prendergast assures him that his concerns will be addressed.)
     Next: faculty union comments. "We've got 50 minutes worth of speakers."  TJ's willing to waive the 30 minute limit as long as speakers stick to their two minute limit! With that:
     Blake Stevens: "it pains me to say to you, 'shame on you'." (Ouch.) Ridiculous recent offer by district in negotiations. Miniscule cost of living increase offered, "patentedly offensive." Administrators got an 8% pay increase recently. What about faculty? Want to disincentivize, demotivate faculty? Then offer them no raise or chincy raise, etc..... Applause.
     Malia Womack (former student): wants to speak on behalf of students here. I've had many dedicated professors turn my life around, make a big difference in my life. I graduated here and went to Berkeley, studied at Columbia, earned a Masters. Just asking that you reward faculty's hard work and dedication. On behalf of students, please invest in faculty. "I applause all of you faculty members." Applause.
     Loma Hopkins: want to speak as a taxpayer, point out some facts. What's in reserve: (a lot). The district rolled over $44 million, unspent, 2013-14. As a taxpayer, these amounts seem excessive to me. We've been taxed to provide education, not to have people hoard money. Spend the money on a meaningful raise.... (Applause).
    Martin Welc: been a faculty for a quarter of a century. Served in many capacities. Have assigned myself 8 sections.... (Imagine that!)  That's typical of faculty here. Want to speak in favor of "multiple degree aspect" (i.e., stipend for those with multiple Masters, namely, Mr. Welc). Thank you. Applause.
     xxxx: no meaningful raise for faculty--supposedly because you can't afford it. Doesn't ring true. Revenues have gone up and up. Faculty have received 1% COLA allowances, etc. But $44 million rollover in this year alone. Etc. 21% increase in administration and bureaucracy. A college needs only a teacher and a student; all else is window dressing. Applause.
     Maureen Smith: district is saying, does not have funding for pay increase. Surrounding colleges are paying much more in salaries, and we're the richest district. (Gives details.) Thank you. Applause.
     April ?: will share my story. I love what I do. I'm a sociologist. What I don't love: since I've been here, I've had to teach 4 classes per summer to support myself as a single mom. I work every weekend. Make myself accessible to students. The message I'm getting: my work doesn't matter. That angers me. Makes me think that I'm devoting all of this--am I crazy for working here? I don't know how much longer I can sustain this. Our part-timers need equity! Pay them for office hours! Applause.
     Kurt Meyer: dedicated my professional life to serving and bettering the college...for my students. Writing scores of letters of rec., foundation scholarships, scoring. Goes through list of activities, accomplishments; he's very busy. Mentoring a dozen or so students each year. Presenting at national conferences. Serves on four committees, and also hiring committees. I respectfully urge you to recognize the value that teachers bring to the district by compensating us fairly, additional step. Applause.
     Mr. Bar: two rhetorical questions. If you were permitted, would you stand up and be accountable for district's decision to reject the faculty proposal? Do you believe this is good faith bargaining? Third: I'm an optimist. The only positive about negotiations is you've done a wonderful job helping recruit new faculty to the union.
     Lewis Long: SOCCCCD is richest district in state. But in comparison with adjoining districts, we come in last in amount dedicated to salaries. Unconscionable. Yet we're hiring new administrators at every board meeting. It appears that we're beginning to create an administratively heavy district. Applause.
     Paula Jacobs: I've worked in this district for a long time. The most disappointing district salary offer ever. (She goes over the grim details.) Total increase of 2.58% in six and a half years. We all know this is a very rich district. Let's get serious, make a serious offer. Ask that the district team go back and make a reasonable offer. Applause.
     Bill Billingsly: I'm a contract negotiator. A cautionary note: after months of work and meetings, negotations have stalled. The district negotiator brought it all to a halt: district will not give one red cent to increase faculty salaries. Mentions real estate valuations. Projected high tax revenues. Richness of district. The response to date of the district is "untenable." Not fair or equitable. Direct negotiators back to the table. Chancellor Poertner has done much to create trust, etc. But his good work will be squandered by public dispute over salary. Assume "more resolute oversight." Thank you. Wild applause.
     Beverly Hudson Worth(?): my fourth year teaching history at Saddleback. Student success demands access to faculty, including office hours. Quite an adjustment for me, not paid for office hours, holding them in the hallway. I'm not comfortable with the little I can do. Goes through time she devotes to do quizzes, grading, encouraging critical thinking. My department chair and dean support me. I have the respect and admiration of my students. But will I continue at a college where I am not paid for office hours?... Countless unpaid hours on grading, etc. Applause.
     7:05 - Margo Lovett: I teach history. Want to discuss rejection of FA's salary proposal. I cannot remember the last time I've felt so demoralized and viewed with such disdain. My work extends far beyond the classroom. (Lists activities.) Mentoring, parenting, etc. Discusses one student. Cares about her students as people. It is imperative that we pay our faculty a fair wage. Applause.
     Brenda ?: new faculty member at Saddleback. Two points. There are challenges of being a new hire. I realized that I cannot afford to live in OC. Commuting two hours a day. Happy and proud to do so, but I would like to live in the community that I serve. Second, I worked as a part-timer for a long time. Our union supports part-timers. I'm not OK, now that I'm a full timer, with the treatment of part-timers. Applause.
     Robert Farnsworth: I am a dedicated employee. (Gives examples.) Some of my dreams are distant at best--affording a home here. Groceries! Obscene to think that we can't live here, pay the cost of living. Please consider that. Send your people back to the bargaining table.
     Kathy Schmeidler: I teach biology at IVC, do other jobs. I'm here as a taxpayer and consumer. I wonder about how the money is being spent in the district. Hiring the cheapest is not the best way. (Gives humorous domestic examples.) I don't want the cheapest, I want the best. Applause.
     Jeanne Egasse: I've been here for 35 years, teaching Spanish. First, support parity for adjunct faculty. Adjunct faculty are underpaid. My workload has greatly increased over the 35 years. Now: curriculum written, rewritten, SLOs, letters of recommendation, answering 40 emails a day. I find much of this work distasteful. Love to teach. We deserve to be paid for our work. Faculty deserve a raise.
     Gila Jones: board member at Capistrano Unified. Speaking for myself tonight. Two things. First, I hope certain changes on your radar.... A great increase in articulation between our district and SOCCCD. I hope you are moving forward with this, aware of it. Thanks. Applause.
     That concludes our public comments.

Next: trustee reports:

     Marcia Milchiker: re Bill Jay. Sings his praises. We will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with family. Praises Gaucho basketball team. OC legislative task force meeting. Etc.
     Jim Wright: attended labs, Workday training. "I like Workday," he declares, as if telling a joke. SC Basketball team: I attended all the games. Very exciting state tournament. Attended Foundation gala. Memorial services for Trustee Jay: "we'll all miss him."
     Tim Jemal: I learned a lot, laughed a lot, sitting next to Bill. Bill always focused on the human impact (including students, faculty). "Bobby, I'm sorry for your loss." Touching memorial. Also attended the SC Foundation gala. A "well done" to Don Rickner. Over 500 registered attendees. IVC's gala is coming up soon. Look forward to it. Holds up Lariat with "state champs" headline. The crowd goes wild (well, almost).
     TJ Prendergast: thanks for stealing all the thunder, people. (Laughter) Skips his report.
     Dave Lang: We'll miss Bill Jay a lot. Celebrates SC basketball, state title.
     Chancellor (Gary Poertner) report: quick comment. Board will have listening session, April 22nd, 12:30 at SC; 3:00 at IVC.
     President Tod Burnett (SC): first annual economic report luncheon. Over 200 people attended inaugural event. Blah blah blah. The best foundation gala ever. Basketball team, champs. Exciting games. We'll bring the team to the next board meeting. Sincere condolences to Bobbie Jay...
     President Glenn Roquemore (IVC): Senior Day. One of our instructors (voice) received a Grammy. Congratulated him. Debate team took "triple gold." Foundation awards dinner, April 11. Congrats to Saddleback. Condolences to Bobbie, etc.

7:30 - Discussion item:

4.1 - Career Technical Education blah blah blah

     Corine Doughty at podium with Don Busche. This is the sort of presentation that is probably damaging to the auditor. So excuse me while I surf the web or something while these people do their thing.... They're talkin' "pathways" and such. Good Lord. CTE Enrollment. I'm dying....
     Busche starts to speak. He's even worse, I think. I'm watching his mouth move. Don't know what he's saying. Very painful. Must stop....
     7:46 - I'm back, and these people are still talking, causing pain, slaughtering everybody in sight. I can't listen. (Back to surfing.)
     7:51 - Good God, they're still at it! The trustees look like they're dying. Oh, the humanity! This Corine gal is fiendish, what with her incessant yanmering about CTE factoids. Blah blah blah. She seems pleased about the whole business! Is she a machine? Busche, too. I'm watching his mouth move. Monstrous. I'm tuning out (dang! I'm missing "Better Call Saul"!).
     7:55 - They're still at it! (Tuning out.)
     7:58 - Good Lord, now Corine's talking about f*cking "synergy." Busche's mouth is moving again, hideously. He's like a mindless hungry freak or zombie. (Tuning out.)
     8:01 - They're finally done, thank God. Trustees can now ask questions. Jemal: assessing current programs? How's that going? Corine: curriculum is the purview of faculty. There's value in programs that haven't existed before. We need to work with people in the industry. This doesn't happen over night. Jemal: ATEP CTE programs: will we boster existing programs? Establish new? Look into your "crystal balls." Where do you see this going? Also: where does ATEP fit into this? Busche: current programs will continue, but always on lookout for new programs. Want to make sure that certificates earned here are of value to students. It's going to be both (retaining old programs, creating new ones). We have discontinued programs in the path. (Used to have flight attendant programs!) Jemal presses on ATEP. "Not just shifting programs from Saddleback to ATEP? Nope, says Busche. Talks about simulation centers at ATEP (?) that they'll want to use. Corine: I'm new and don't have a lot of history. First building going in. Names programs slated for that. Biotech, electrical, etc. Sustainable elements. Hoping to align Saddleback and IVC programs. Create a sustainable learnable community. Doing innovative kinds of things (looks cool). We have to be mindful of the global picture. We provide students with training that is "portable."
     Lang: "very good presentation." (I think he's a vegetable.) Heard something about how there are very few advanced CTE programs. How's that? Busche: clarification: we're only allowed two advanced courses per program. Lang: who mandates that? A: the state. Limited to two courses at the advanced level. Lang: Is this driven by turf wars (competition with state colleges, etc.). Busche: don't think so. Corine insists that students have no idea about advanced vs. intermediary or beginning instruction. Don't look at the courses that way. (Frankly, I don't know what the issue is here. Can you tell?) Busche mentions that we cannot offer Baccalaureate courses. (Somehow, this helps clear things up. Can't imagine how.) Marcia talks a bit about "jobs in the community." Marcia loves Corine's use of the term "street cred." (Laughter.) Jobs in the community needed today, blah blah blah. Town hall meetings, etc. Busche starts talking about the hundreds of areas in the CTE area. Marcia talks about how it's great to work with industry. "They can actually tell us what they need."
     Thank God that's over. Sheesh.
     8:14 p.m. - 4.2: regulations for hiring administrators/managers (this is a "listening session" item)

     David Bugay gets up to yammer. He grabs the mike, pulls it way down to where he is. Nice tie. 4 policies about hiring. Blah blah blah. He reviews the existing policies, processes for hiring managers and administrators. Pretty familiar, boring. Goes on about "drawing the line" of scored candidates to invite. Talks about uniformity of questions. Have equal opportunity representative. Blah. Scores are tabulated. Top three candidates are usually forwarded to next level. Should be looking at an unranked list. Sometimes only two are forwarded, causing much consternation. 2nd level: reference checks are conducted. Three references at least. Questions for second level approved, etc. Thinking about a third party reference check service. Pilot program. "Very exciting." Blah. Finally, rec goes up to Chancellor. Then goes to board agenda for ratification. Questions?
     Wright: well done. I've heard that there's a third level going on right now. Bugay: if they wanted to have that, that's possible. Wright: letters, must they be current? We're thinking about going deeper into references, hiring pros.
     Jemal: thanks. Two questions. Neither college has an HR function. The services are centralized at district. Does the process work well? Can it be improved? Bugay: we're looking at that right now. The policies are complicated, specific. Generated by a lawsuit. (He's referring to the Academic Senates' suit of fifteen years ago--re the faculty hiring process.) Very micromanaged. Almost impossible to manage. We're thinking of revising, pushing more responsibilities to committees. Jemal: how are we approaching use of social media/internet in examining qualificaitons of candidates? Bugay: "carefully." People say "difficult things" on social media. We have to use that info with a grain of salt. Use that cautiously.
     Lang: I endorse this pilot program that you are exploring. The resumes we get are of a "self-serving nature." Good to get third party validation, to avoid bad hires. Every hire is an investment, so its critical to get hiring right. We want the best people coming forward. Takes much money to correct a bad hire.
     Claire pipes up: faculty really want to revise this policy. One issue: composition of hiring committee. Little faculty representation on dean hire committees. Out of compliance with best practices.

Consent calendar: Wright: 5.4, 5.6, 5.18.
For the balance: unanimous (two trustees absent)

5.4 - IVC, student out of state travel. Wright: they've already done the travel. Roquemore: "all I can do is apologize." Move approval. Unanimous. (for 5.6 as well)

5.18 - Wright: Academic Calendars. 87 days in fall, 91 in the spring. Is there a reason for difference in days? IVC's Kathy Schmeidler [evidently, a member of the commitee] speaks: since I've been here, more days in the spring. Why? Has to do with "hard stops" in the semester. Wright: Another issue: summer 11 weeks. Prefer 12 weeks. Schmeidler: the committee defers to the VPI on this. Wright: last issue: almost a month break between fall and spring. Blah blah blah. [I'm lookin' around the room. Lots of wiltage.] They vote, passes unanimously.

6.1 - Lighting....
6.2 - blah blah blah
6.3 - more lighting. I don't care.
6.4 - don't care, don't care....

6.5 - Vacancy on board

     Someone needs to make a motion: either a special election or appointment process.
     Marcia: motions for appointment process.
     Marcia: will cost us $2.4 million to have election. That's too much.
     Lang: loathe as I am to excercise this right, given the cost, want to go along with appointment process.
     Jemal: agrees with Lang. Should be elected seats. Almost always in the interests of the public to try to have an election. The election, though, is cost prohibitive. Supports the motion.
     They vote: unanimous (two absent)

Resolution 1516 -- Prendergast and Poertner worked on timeline. Etc. Unanimous yes vote. [You can see the timeline on the agenda.]

See agenda, item 6.5

Etc. They zoom through items.
I can take no more. I'm outa here.

Why have you woken me? Is it Caturday yet?
Posted by Cats And Kittens on Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preview of tonight's board meeting

     Board meeting tonight; the open session starts at 6:00.
     Lately, the board has laid off of the endless commendations and resolutions, but they seem to be back at it tonight.
     Naturally, there’s a “resolution” in honor of Bill Jay, who passed away very recently. The resolution sports such verbiage as “Whereas, Dr. Jay touched many lives during his long and successful career, always making time to listen for [sic] faculty, students and staff. He will be forever remembered for being open, kind, funny and genuine in his desire to make a difference in students’ lives….”
     Classified manager Beverly Johnson, too, will be honored with a resolution. Hers tells us, among other things, that she “is talented at creating efficiencies in work processes and happily shares those with others.”
     They really oughta run these dang things by the English Department.
     Four other individuals will receive honors.
     There’ll be a “commendation,” too: “Saddleback College President Tod Burnett will commend students from an ENG 160 class for having received a first place award for the 2014 edition of WALL in a national competition sponsored by the American Scholastic Press Association....”
     I expect the faculty union crowd to make their presence felt tonight (at “public comments”), owing to the alleged dastardly details of district negotiation (serious low-balling, we're told).
     Tonight’s first “discussion item” (4.1) is described as follows:
Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College: Career Technical Education Certificate Programs At [sic] the request of Trustee Jemal, representatives from Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College will share information on the career technical education certificate programs offered at the colleges.
     Sharing information. I'm bracing for that.
     The second discussion item is
SOCCCD, Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College: Regulations and Policy for Hiring Administrators and Managers [sic] A presentation on selection, hiring and employment process for administrators and managers will be provided by the Vice Chancellor Human Resources & Employer/Employee Relations and the College Presidents.
     As you know, there are those who regard existing regulations as seriously wanting.
     (See the PowerPoint Presentation)
     Among consent items:
5.18: Academic Calendar: accept for review and study
     Finally, something juicy: among general action items is 6.5:
SOCCCD: Vacancy in Trustee Area 3 Recommendation for SOCCCD board members to adopt either Resolution No. 15-14 (Exhibit A) ordering a special election or adopt Resolution No. 15-15 (Exhibit B) calling for the appointment of a provisional board member. If the decision is to appoint a provisional board member, the Chancellor further recommends that the Board adopt Resolution No. 15-16 (Exhibit C) establishing the procedure for the appointment of a provisional board member.
     Here’s the relevant section of Exhibit A:
WHEREAS, California Education Code section 5091(a)(1) requires the Governing Board to either appoint a provisional board member or order an election to fill the vacancy created by the death of a board member; ….
     A or B? I suppose this will be decided tonight. Hot fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Systematic rational failures and SLOs: part I

     I am particularly interested in rational failures that are attributable to communities of experts or to groups in some sense guided by experts. These failures are interesting if only because one naturally supposes that intelligent and specially trained thinkers would avoid serious and systematic rational folly, but such is not the case.*
     Examples of this kind of group error include the problem of increased instances of fraud in scientific research (no, not especially regarding climate change) in recent years and the problem of bias toward positive results (failing to publicize negative results) in scientific journals. (See also the File-drawer effect.)
     Some so-called expert communities are themselves a kind of systematic rational failure: consider the benighted “education” community’s efforts to develop a “culture of evidence.” None exists now and none is ever likely to exist, so benighted and removed from fundamental notions and standards of evidence or logic (e.g., the importance of replication) are educationists. It appears to me that the field of education is both dismal and pernicious and requires the radical step of being burned clean to the ground, permitting a new start, from scratch, on a bare, clean surface, devoid of people with Ed.D. degrees. I volunteer to bring the matches. (See Scientific Culture and Educational Research.)
     THE SELF-ESTEEM MOVEMENT. Education—e.g., the world of education reform—is loaded with examples of systematic and catastrophic rational failure. For instance, years ago, people in the state of California, open as they are to new age notions, got it into their heads that “self-esteem” is the key to our children's success and well-being. (Essentially, the idea—the “SE philosophy”—is that kids with high self-esteem succeed/flourish, those with low self-esteem fail/decline. Hence, kids with low SE need to be caused to have high SE.) A kind of SE movement developed, culminating in a bizarre effort, in the state of California, to set up an evidential foundation for the SE philosophy, a first step before promoting high “self-esteem” in children independently of their efforts and accomplishments. The California Task Force on the Social Importance of Self-Esteem was funded in 1986; it published its report, entitled The Social Importance of Self-Esteem, in 1989.**
     Some of the details of the contents of the report and California's embrace of SE are interesting. According to the late experimental psychologist Robyn Dawes (in his landmark House of Cards),
     In the introduction to the [report], the editor sets the tone by suggesting that we already know that high or low self-esteem as a causal variable leads to desirable or undesirable consequences respectively. He writes: “Intuition also tells us that both benign and vicious cycles characterize various levels of self-esteem and their supposed behavioral consequences.”

He continues:

     Low self-esteem is the causally prior factor in individuals [sic] seeking out kinds of behavior that become social problems…. Or, as we say in the trade, diminished self-esteem stands as a powerful independent variable (condition, cause, factor) in the genesis of major social problems. We all know this to be true, and it is really not necessary to create a special California task force on the subject to convince us. The real problem we must address—and which the contributors of this volume address—is how we can determine that it is scientifically true.
     That is a rather remarkable statement.
     Let me interrupt to endorse that last remark. Yes, very remarkable indeed!
     Dawes continues:
     We “know” something to be true, and what we must now do is to “determine” that it is “scientifically true”—by showing that self-esteem is in fact an important causal variable…predicting behavior…. There appear to be two types of truth involved here. The first is the type of truth we know prior to seeking evidence and independent of evidence, while the second is the type that arises from evidence. The purpose of the second is to confirm the first.
     Let me interrupt to say that the kind of “reasoning” that Dawes is describing here—we might call it the “intuited truth” view of reason—is widespread, even in academia. And it is beyond pseudoscientific. It reflects an utter failure to understand the concept of evidence.
     Dawes seems to agree. He goes on to write: “For most of us…the purpose of evidence is to determine what is or is not in fact true or to modify our prior beliefs.”
     I hope Dawes is right about that (“for most of us”), but I sometimes wonder. The failure to grasp the simple idea that belief should be determined by evidence (and not by such things as pre-evidential “intuition”) is very common, I think. I have certainly encountered this failing often among academics, though not uniformly.
     So, from the start, we see that this “task force” effort is problematic. The report was written by people who “knew” what was true independently of the evidence (by some sort of intuition), and who then sought evidence to “back up” what they “knew” to be true.
     Yes, you say, that’s pretty silly. But such silliness will wither and die when confronted with the facts—if, that is, the evidence points us away from our “intuition”!
     Absolutely nope. As Dawes explains, the authors of the “Self-Esteem” report were not deterred when they could find no evidence for their intuition (when, in truth, they found evidence against it).
     Dawes explains:
     The problem faced by the editor and contributors is that what they “know” to be true turns out not to be “scientifically true.” The editor himself telegraphs this conclusion when he writes: “One of the disappointing aspects of every chapter in this volume (at least to those of us who adhere to the intuitively correct models sketched above) is how low the association between self-esteem and its consequences are in the research to date”….
     This is very odd. If, as the SE philosophy insists, low SE causes failure and high SE causes success, then there should be a correlation between low and high SE and failure and success. But research finds no such correlation. Surely the task report responded by abandoning their thesis?!
     But they didn’t.
     One part of the SE philosophy concerns SE’s causal relationship to child abuse (the idea is that a child’s low self-esteem causes him to be an abuser). The editor of the report acknowledged that “There is insufficient evidence to support the belief in a direct relation between low self-esteem and child abuse.” Further, he acknowledged that “Low self-esteem should not be perceived as the primary cause of child abuse….” Finally, he recognized that “There is no basis on which to argue that increasing self-esteem is an effective or efficient means of decreasing child abuse….”
     It comes as a surprise, then, when he asserts:
Policy interventions to reduce child abuse that involve increasing self-esteem should be encouraged and should include interventions at the individual, family, group, community, and societal levels.
     Wow. You want it to be true, and so it is true, 'cause you just "know" that it is true, even if the evidence says otherwise.
     Wow, wow, wow. Lemme turn in my membership in the human race right here and now.
     Dawes examines the various chapters of the report and concludes:
…[W]e are left with a task force report that does not support the basic idea that self-esteem plays a causal role in determining various social behaviors, let alone that government programs designed to enhance self-esteem will have salutary social effects. … The California task force has performed a valuable service, but not the one it intended. Rather, it created a volume of work demonstrating that the Holy Grail of pop psychology [namely, the SE philosophy] is nothing more than a mirage.
     The accomplishment of this impressive service did not prevent the task force from moving forward with their thesis and promoting self-esteem along with the rest of the dopes of the state of California. We’ve all seen the results, with students inexplicably proud of their skills and abilities, staring uncomprehending upon receiving low grades and lousy scores.
     Amazing but true: despite the evidence to the contrary, many in our state evidently embrace the thesis that the cause of low performance in our educational system was “low self-esteem” among many children.

* * *
     THE "WHOLE LANGUAGE" READING INSTRUCTION PHILOSOPHY. Another example of catastrophic rational error in education is California’s on-again/off-again embrace of the “whole language” reading instruction technique. The core idea of the WL philosophy seems to be that, since those who have mastered “reading” read whole words and phrases (and do not detect and assemble word parts), instruction should, from the start, emphasize whole words and phrases and not the parts. The empirical evidence, however, suggests that, whatever its intuitive appeal, approaches to instruction that (exclusively) teach “whole” words and phrases are less successful than approaches that teach phonetic parts and their assembly. Nevertheless, there are important groups within education who have continued to insist on the “whole language” approach despite the evidence. Some argue that California’s embrace of WL has been disastrous for education in the state, which does poorly compared to other states. (See Whole Language. I should mention that, over time, the war between proponents of WL and “phonics” has increasingly been seen as a false dilemma, that, though the phonics approach is indeed important, elements emphasized in WL also have a place in good reading instruction. The WL crowd is not happy with this judgment.)

* * *
     That brings us to the topic at hand: what are we to make of the “SLO” philosophy that drives so much in higher education these days? Is it all just another rational error of the "systematic" and "catastrophic" variety? (Yep)

* Part II coming soon *

*It would be an error to read this post as expressing a general skepticism toward science or, more generally, toward the pursuit of knowledge. In particular, I am no skeptic regarding the methods and claims to knowledge in the natural sciences. Obviously, such phenomena as occasional fraud and unintended bias toward positive results in journals (etc.) are consistent with general health in the relevant expert communities (i.e., fundamental mechanisms for reliability—peer review, etc.—continue to function). I have no doubt that scientists will increasingly address and resolve these particular difficulties. 
**Please note that I'm not attacking self-esteem or high self-esteem. I am certainly not saying that children shouldn't have high SE! But I insist (as does Dawes) that the possession of high SE should "reflect reality"—that is, high SE should be the product of sustained effort on the part of the child. Students should be encouraged and enabled to see the world such that they are motivated to achieve (appropriate) things and thus to try. That trying is the proper basis for the having of high SE. Skipping the effort part and, instead, getting kids simply to regard themselves highly is absurd and idiotic and a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

     …Warnings from an architecture professor overseeing the jury that reviewed competition finalists that the Design Studio was a risky selection because of its inexperience and “uncertainties about who would be on site overseeing the project and other management issues” were “largely ignored,” [the auditing firm] HSNO found.
     The auditing firm also reported former Councilman Larry Agran “misled the public” in 2006 when he said the Great Park could be built for $401 million. He had heard in November 2005 an estimate of $1 billion, the report stated. The longtime politician’s recommendation got consultant George Urch hired and he directed work to be done that was outside of the project’s scope, HSNO said.
     Public relations firm Forde & Mollrich was paid $7.2 million from July 2005 to December 2012; $6.3 million was under design contracts, according to HSNO. “Strategy and Public Relations do not appear to be consistent with design function,” the auditing firm stated….
Final Audit Report Shows Larry Agran's Great Park Plan Was A Debacle From Outset (OC Weekly)
     …"The Master Plan was killed not by the recession or the loss of the redevelopment funding, it was killed by its own hubris, the failure to engage in a honest dialogue about how it could be funded, and failure to keep the consultants operating with any sort of affordable budget," Aleshire and Taylor concluded….

Sunday, March 22, 2015

There'll be no "micromanagement" on their watch
Chancellor's ears not to scale

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Failure to communicate, Part III: SNAFU@ivc

     This afternoon’s meeting of the Irvine Valley College Academic Senate (senate = faculty qua participants in shared governance re academic matters) was pretty wild, dominated by discussion of the recent wildly unpopular faculty hiring decision. (See IVC Recruitment Stopped, but Saddleback Continues to Hire!)
     Among visitors today was Dan W, Pres of the Saddleback College Ac. Senate.
     Kathy S, IVC’s Ac. Sen. Prez, commenced speechifyin’ like she does. She said she’d keep her remarks short, but, somehow, they failed to respond to her intention.
     With regard to the recent explanatory/apologetic letter from VPI Craig Justice regarding the rationale for eliminating the three faculty hires, there are two distinct issues, said Kathy:

  • The number of positions.
  • Which positions?

     Kathy reminded us that, “at the end of the day,” the senate and other groups offer only recommendations to the President. The final decisions are made by the President.
     The big picture here, according to Kathy, is essentially this: administration seems to have made the decision to hire only 6 faculty (not the nine that had been sanctioned and pursued) back in mid-December, but, oddly, they kept that particular light under a bushel: other groups at the college were not informed about the decision as per “collegiate consultation” or “shared governance.” According to Kathy, when asked why they failed to communicate their decision for three long months, they commenced pointing fingers, assuming, evidently, that somebody else would convey the info to whom it may have concerned.
     I.e., SNAFU@ivc.
Director, Opacity & Rubbish
     Last year, the process was a model of transparency and such, and so we all expected things to proceed apace this year. But that’s not what happened.
     President Glenn Roquemore and VPI Craig Justice have essentially apologized (said Kathy). Academic Senate leadership has pressed hard for assurances that procedures will be put into place (or whatever) to make sure this communication breakdown does not happen again.
     The college planning committees were never clued in about the decision. And so, when Craig’s memo (announcing the decision) was promulgated last week, it came as a “shock” to many. Many were “dismayed.”
     We were told that, yesterday, the fit hit the shan at the Budget meeting: senate leadership took Davit K (Beancounter in chief) and Glenn (Craig was absent) to task for these failings.
     The other issue, of course, is the faculty positions that made it to the list, especially the Automation, Electronics, Electrical and Robotics position (and, secondarily, the Laser position)—and the ones that did not. You’ll recall that the Robot Hire was the choice of the deans (Tier 3), who appear to have modified the position considerably over the last few months (including its school location). It morphs.
     At one point, Kathy projected upon the wall the relevant section of the Board Policy re Tier 3 (deans’ choice) positions, and it clearly states that administrators are obliged to consult with relevant faculty in identifying and defining needed hires. It’s clear that that did not occur.

     The always genteel Ms. W, math instructor, was on hand to explain, in her subtle fashion, the degree to which faculty in her area were left out of the loop in the development and definition of this position (which is now located in Math). Later, whilst discussing the Laser hire (I think), physics guy M told a similar tale, repeatedly using the word “shabby” to describe how all parties, especially faculty, have been treated in the pursuit of this position. Ms. W made clear that the college is utterly unprepared to provide teaching/students/program for this hire. Later in the meeting, the relevant administrator made similar points. Meanwhile, very strong cases can be made for new Math hires and other hires that are no longer on the list.
BeanCalc Czar
     The discussion was utterly one-sided and pretty overwhelming.
     It looks like Glenn’s “vision” for ATEP (Lasers, robots, cold fusion, and perpetual motion machines) is more important to him than providing the kind of instructors we actually need. That seemed to be the tacit theme of the discussion, if aural and body language are any indication.
     In the course of the discussion, Kathy and VP Bob explained that they have always sought to make the hiring process (and other processes) more open and participatory. Toward that end, as members of the budget/planning committees, they were regularly given budget updates and projections, which made the relevant data clear whilst collegiate deliberations progressed. Unfortunately, this time around, the updates and projections, though repeatedly requested, did not materialize, and Kathy/Bob were caught by surprise when, all of a sudden, the decision to cease the three hires, seemingly based on FON (explained below) data, came to light. (Kathy, or at least Bob, apologized for not being “suspicious” enough.)
     As it turns out, the Presidential Exec Cabinet (PEC)—the cozy group of P and VPs—made the decision to pull the plug back in December and then didn’t tell anybody about it. Ordinarily, the discussion and decision would have occurred on the Budget Committee(s), but not this time (said the Bobster). Prior practice with regard to the location and nature of these discussions was abandoned in favor of this shell gamery.
     Kathy wryly noted that administration’s less-than-popular “create a new dean” initiative went through the usual process without any administrators mentioning the faculty hire cancellations. Golly. What are we to make of that?
Minister of Machinations
     You’ll recall that the FON (Faculty Obligation Number) was cited by Craig as a major factor in the decision. Kathy (and Dan of SC) explained that FON is not a target number. It is a floor, a minimum (of faculty hires; as you know, the low full-time/part-time ratio has been a scandal in the Cal CC system for decades). You don’t want to get too close to that “danger” line, ‘cause if things go south you’ll end up paying a serious fine. Evidently, there’s a district guy (Peter Lorre, I think) who calculates the FON for the district and the colleges, and it is pretty mysterious how he does that calculation and what sort of data he uses. Clearly, transparency issues are afoot.
     Another issue here concerns the much-discussed factoid that IVC is growing (actually, at present, it is flat, but projections are positive) and Saddleback College is shrinking into an unpleasant old turnip. How does that enter into the determination of how many faculty should be hired at SC and IVC?
     Kathy acknowledged that it is clear that the college opted to drop these hires as a money-saving move. Administration’s explanatory/defensive verbiage offers red herrings about FON and whatnot, but this is about money, plain and simple.
     Kathy noted that, when an administration has conducted itself in a manner generating suspicion, they are well advised to proceed all “squeaky-clean.” Well, they’re not proceeding squeaky-clean nohow. They should be honest and upfront about why this happened, how it happened. Why can’t they do that? (Well, they never do.)
     Steve made a motion: to request that the algorithm and data used to make the calculation (by the district guy, Bela Lugosi) be made public. That was approved unanimously.
     Steve’s second motion was that we recommend that the college move forward with the full list of 9 faculty. That was approved 22-1-2.
Director, Mellifluent Malarkey
     Of course, Glenn has no obligation to heed our recommendations. Undoubtedly he will opt not to.
     In his report, VP Bob explained that “we were completely blindsided” by last week’s announcement that the three faculty hires would cease. We had fallen into the trap, he said, of expecting budget reports, but these never seemed to materialize, and then this announcement dropped like a bomb. (Bob was apologetic.) Bob co-chairs two of the budget committees, and yet he had heard nothing about the Dec. 15 decision by the Presidential Gang. (Recall that we are going forward with a new dean position, and that will be pricey.)
     Trust has been a casualty of this episode, announced Kathy.
     Steve suggested that we ask Glenn to come to the senate and explain why the December decision was not communicated until March. That passed, 25-0-0.
     (At one point I noted that the confusion, incompetence, and failure of transparency that is manifest in this episode is an established pattern among Rocky and his friends.
     (We need to think about a “vote of no confidence,” I said.)
     Have a nice Spring break!

IVC faculty hiring: Failure to communicate? Part II

Flapjacks? Yep. Shared governance? Not so much
     I am told that, at yesterday’s BDRPC (budget development) meeting (at Irvine Valley College), discussion focused on recent hiring decisions, a matter that was not even agendized. The latter circumstance indicates that passions were high. (See Omnishambles II).
     With regard to the hiring of faculty, one faculty member noted that at the end of the summer when hiring was last publically discussed, FON (the district-wide minimum full-time faculty “obligation” number) was not mentioned. And yet it was central to VPI Justice’s account in his recent memo. (See Failure to Communicate?) Another faculty member noted that Justice’ announcement in that memo did not go out to any of the planning meetings. The announcement was made only in the President’s Executive Cabinet (PEC), a meeting of the college’s president and vice presidents only. A senate officer observed that PEC’s data, upon which their decision was based, was not shared. These circumstances have produced significant fallout among faculty. And why, it was asked, was the new dean position spared while three faculty positions were cut?

     Another Academic Senate officer objected to the failures of communication by administration in this matter.
     At today's meeting of the IVC Academic Senate, this matter will be discussed.
     I expect fireworks.