[From DISSENT 44, 2/14/00]
February 7: As I neared Library 105, the distinctive smell of charred flesh filled the air. I stood by the locked door. The trustees were still in closed session, and, evidently, they were chowin’ down. Just then, a man sniffed skyward. “Smells good,” he said. I stared at a moldy brown Popsicle stick that lay on the ground.
Campus cop Harry Parmer came by amid the pall to say hello. He spoke of biological weaponry. “This much anthrax,” he said while holding an imaginary beaker, “would take out Orange County.” Wow. Such talk soon led to stories about the JDL’s Irv Rubin and the squad of Frogue-supporting neo-Nazi wackos that once attended board meetings. “I’m sure glad that’s over,” said Harry. “Yeah,” said I. Harry seemed to like Irv, but he clearly disliked the Nazis.
That reminded me of a special union meeting of a week or two earlier. Joe R, in a moment of hyperbole, had rebuked the union Old Guard for, among other things, supporting “a Nazi,” whereupon Lee Walker pointed a finger at Joe and exclaimed, “That’s a hate crime! That’s a hate crime!” Joe regarded Lee for a moment and then said simply: “Yeah. I hate Nazis.”
As we waited, more people gathered, but not many. Someone told me that, earlier—before the board went into closed session—Peter Morrison (IVC Academic Senate president) and Armando Ruiz (IVC VP of SS) had had “words” about something. I smiled. A war of words between Peter and Armando? That’s like a wrestling match between a gorilla and a twig.
Suddenly sensible of sustained stompage, we stared southward and espied Dot [Dorothy Fortune], who marched toward us at the opposite end of the hallway. Upon giving us—or just me—a dirty look, she opened the door to the Backroom and waddled in, causing meaty brown fumes to waft toward us like mustard gas. Someone choked, spilling a Coke on the ground, and we all regarded the foaming puddle of goo. In Hindi, “goo” means “shit.” I did not know that.
Then the main door of Library 105 swung open with explosive and deadly force, owing to the labors of one Nancy Padberg, board president. They say that Dot is just a piker compared to Nancy when it comes to micromanagement. Door opening, apparently, is among Nancy’s new areas of oversight. She dispatched this particular door by herself and then proceeded quickly to the administration of other objects. Oddly, she whisked past the aforementioned Popsicle stick without advising administration how to deal with it.
When it seemed safe, we entered 105, and, almost immediately, there was a roar of conversation, which made me sleepy. I looked over at the portion of the wall normally reserved for the display of trustee high school graduation photos. None was present, except the student trustee’s. A portent.
I looked across the boardroom, through the door to the Backroom, where the trustees, et al., had been meeting in private for the last hour and a half. There, I saw a rumpled fellow in a cheap suit and cheap shoes with his hands in his pockets. “The Cheap Detective,” I muttered.
In fact, it was Alan Willian, one of the district’s bad lawyers. “I bet that guy gets five bucks an hour and he’s happy,” I announced. As I recall, in her written rulings, Judge Audrey Collins, who handled the student’s 1st Amendment suit against the district, referred to Willian as “that fool.” Maybe it was another phrase. Could be.
The BP 8000 juggernaut:
The meeting finally started at about 6:45. Item #1, of course, was the discussion of the proposed “speech and advocacy” policy (BP 8000), of which Mr. Willian is the chief author. That’s what I had come for.
Vice Chancellor Hodge was asked to comment on the proposal. Then the trustees weighed in. Marcia Milchiker opined that the policy is much too long (32 pages!) and much too complicated. It contains contradictions and other errors and it engages in unnecessary “editorializing,” said she. Plus it gives “too much authority” to administrators. In general, it is “too prescriptive”—for instance, the business about how many inches students should stand away from doors and urinals and such. And how are bands supposed to thump, as they ought, when they are prohibited from using the “bass” settings on their amplifiers? Anyway, she concluded, a speech and advocacy policy oughta apply only to students.
Someone awoke Cedric from his dogmatic snorage. He choked unpleasantly into consciousness and sputtered something about taking all this stuff down.
Dot Fortune, erstwhile board president, affecting her idea of elder statesperson deportment, leaned back in her chair and sighed. But before issuing any profundities, she took a gratuitous swipe at one of her colleagues: “Unlike Marcia,” she said, I have provided comments “in writing.”
I watched Marcia, who glared. She seemed frozen in an eternal moment of hatred, the pen in her clenched fist writhing and twisting, the ink of the pen oozing, the steam in her head spouting outward.
Dot smiled while Padberg offered a supportive sibilation. Yes, said Dot, we must acknowledge that there are typos in the proposed policy. She went on to explain that this “speech and advocacy” business stems, ultimately, from a ’98 student lawsuit (against President Mathur). We thought, said she, that this matter was resolved in the spring of ‘99 with the adoption of board policy 5406, but no. That’s why this thing is so prescriptive, she said. We’re just responding to the federal judge! He wants all this stuff in the policy. So we can’t be less prescriptive. And what about playing that heavy metal music, which could go on for 6 hours? Gotta prevent that.
Dot leaned back, apparently weary from having delivered so magnificent and wise a riposte. The springs of her chair groaned salaciously. Willian, now in the audience, belched.
OK. It was trustee Lang’s turn. He had various “serious concerns.” He worried about extending the policy, which originally applied only to students, to faculty and staff. He noted that the policy is unnecessarily long. He spoke of the “word police.”
Nancy P, anxiously clutching her gavel, sensed that she was losing control of the situation, so she insisted on speaking next. The policy is not prescriptive, said she; rather, it is “descriptive and clear.” It gives greater “latitude” than the earlier policy. We’re just responding to the last court hearing, she added. “I think it expands what you are able to do.”
Mr. Frogue, who seemed more bewildered than usual, commended Alan Willian for his labors. “He’s done an excellent job here,” said Steve. (Meanwhile, Don, evidently writhing in some Wagnerian hell, quietly screwed up his face.) The Froguester declared that the policy is indeed “descriptive, not prescriptive.” The board, he added, has been “pilloried” (lovely image) for breaking the law—especially the Brown Act. When, he said, the trustees were alerted to those violations, they were “more than happy” to make corrections. (False.) So now the court has directed the board to amend the policy. Mr. Willian performed “Spartan labors” here, said Steve. We (the board) are an entity, he said, that is wondering which way the court will push us next! It’s one damn thing after another!
I got the feeling that Willian and Frogue are pals. As Frogue spoke, trustees generally cringed, but Willian nodded approvingly. At one point, in my imagination, as Frogue spoke, Willian shouted, “Good one, Uncle Steve!”
Williams, a sneer on his Hitlerian visage, called for the question and snarled.
But wait! Padberg was reminded to ask the student trustee, Jennifer Kalena, to comment on the proposed policy. “It’s a mess,” said Kalena. You say it is clear, but “I didn’t find it that way,” she added.
I think I like this kid.
Fortune groaned, then sighed a world-weary sigh, and everyone regarded her as one might regard a visiting bear. She reminded her colleagues that the proposed policy is “much more liberal” than the policy that was in place up through ’97. That one was very “paternalistic and controlling.” True, those rules were never enforced, “but they were there.” Anyhow, the district went over to UCI and took their new policy. “That [policy] was sued,” supposedly because it was too limiting. But with this new policy, “you can say anything”—as long as you’re not breaking the law. You can post anything; you can have meetings anywhere. The lawyers tell us, she added, that this policy is less restrictive than the ones at Stanford or at “Cal Berkeley.” She was referring, I guess, to the opinion of Mr. Willian, an apparent illiterate. (I’ve read the policy.)
Ms. Padberg suddenly made an announcement for the benefit of governance groups, directing them to provide their input in written form. She seemed pleased. Of course, no governance groups were in the room.
Ms. Milchiker objected to the policy’s assumption that religious events necessarily occur on Sunday. And these restrictions on roller-blading—what do they have to do with speech and advocacy?
Someone called for the question. The item passed.
Next, the “board from Hell” discussed item #2: “final distribution of net litigation proceeds…from [the] Orange County bankruptcy.” Essentially, the district has an opportunity to recover over $600,000 of its investment, if it files by a certain date.
Amazingly, Mr. Frogue sought to prevent the filing, for he was “very concerned” about an apparent cover-up. He alluded to grand jury testimony regarding the bankruptcy, which, he implied, has not been made public and should be “released”—something, he seemed to think, the board was somehow in a position to cause. Thus we should “withhold judgment” until we have an opportunity to look into ways to force officials to release the testimony. This matter, he said, “goes to the very heart of government.” (Willian nodded approvingly; Wagner’s eyes widened.) Frogue declared that he would not vote for approval until he gets “some answers.”
John “Brown Boy” Williams took the opportunity to tell one of his favorite canards: that the bankruptcy caused the district to slip onto the state chancellor’s fiscal watch list! He smiled, which, as I recall, caused his ears to become pointy and devilish. The audience recoiled. Someone whispered, “Look! He looks like Hitler!” Everyone nodded. (Maybe they were talking about Wagner; it’s hard to say.)
Lang opposed delaying the district’s receiving these monies. We need to act promptly, he said. Milchiker agreed, saying that it would be “irresponsible” to do otherwise.
Frogue then launched into a familiar harangue: that decision-makers need good information, but, damn it, information is withheld from them by sneaky and disloyal underlings. For instance, said he, administrators at SOCCCD failed to inform trustees that we were on the watch list until we were placed even higher (lower?) on the list! “We need information,” he added. Information, information, information! Referring to the bankruptcy, he said, dramatically, that it was a “scandal!”
Padberg became pragmatic; she suggested that they take the money and run--while simultaneously persuing this “information” thang. Doing the former does not preclude doing the latter, she said. With that, the item passed unanimously. Whew!
IVC’s “burgeoning administrative structure”:
Item #4 was an “academic personnel action”: “authorization to establish and announce [an] assistant dean position” for IVC. Essentially, Raghu P. Mathur wants to create another administrative position as a ploy to remove Bill H, a Mathur critic, from a quasi-administrative position and to expand his army of goose-stepping Goosters. Earlier that day, Peter Morrison presented the board a financial analysis that demonstrated that the new dean would cost the district $96,000. Ruiz had tried to blow him off. So Peter repeated his point and Armando got hissy and defensive.
Now, Mathur and Ruiz, furiously ignoring the money issue, argued that Bill’s position is essentially administrative, and thus it should be filled by an administrator, not a faculty member. Ruiz explained that he was “particularly troubled” that Bill, a member of the faculty, was evaluating other faculty. (He failed to mention that, during the days of the IVC “chair model,” faculty routinely evaluated faculty, and the sky refrained from falling.)
Mathur and Ruiz insisted that they had solicited “input” from all of the governance groups and that this input was duly “considered.”
When, at long last, trustee Lang spoke, he blew Mathur’s proposal totally out of the water. He said that, in the past, the board has recognized the folly of making ad hoc changes in the administrative structure without regard to the overall structure; it was precisely this sort of change that was being proposed in this case. Second, he said, with the addition of this administrator, IVC will have more administrators than Saddleback, despite being half Saddleback’s size! At IVC, he said, there is a “burgeoning administrative structure.” (Duh!) He also noted that the proposed position has not yet received approval from the state chancellor’s office. Finally, he explained that, in fact, the new position was “rejected by every single shared governance group” at IVC!
Whoa! Good trusteeage, Dave!
Dot opted to ignore Dave’s points. “I believe,” she said idiotically, “that a teacher’s place is in the classroom.” Her chair again groaned, and so did the audience.
Williams, in an effort to silence Lang and Milchiker, who sought to address the matter further, called for the question, but that failed. Padberg snippily ignored Milchiker and Lang and asked Wagner to speak. Wagner asked Mathur if it is true that all of the governance groups reject the proposed position. “It is not true,” said Mathur. How it was “not true” was not made clear.
Eventually, Lang was allowed to speak. If Bill is replaced, said he, the district would still have to pay his salary. Thus the new dean would mean new costs. Marcia reiterated that, since IVC has more administrators than Saddleback, it makes little sense to add more of them.
Frogue, referring to Lang, said that his “facts are wrong.” Not all governance groups opposed the position, said he. We ought to take the advice of the college president, he added.
Suddenly, Padberg remarked that the board needed to proceed to other business. Fortune called for the question, but the motion again failed. Frogue questioned Padberg’s understanding of Roberts Rules of Order. Then Wagner explained that, though he was worried about the number of administrators at IVC, this was not the time to deal with that problem. He worried that, by allowing faculty to evaluate faculty, there would be litigation.
Williams opined, nastily, that the board shouldn’t “second guess the president.” Eventually, the motion passed, 5/2.
Item 7 had been added at the last minute. According to the agenda, someone (the chancellor?) was recommending the belated ratification of memorials “to Dr. Edward A. Hart and Sean J. Sheridan on the IVC Campus.” But wait! Those plaques were installed many years ago! What gives?
Evidently, the board was attempting to address unauthorized plaquage and namage. (Only the board is authorized to name stuff.) No doubt this action has something to do with Mathur’s plan to fire an instructor on the grounds of his alleged refusal to honor the “namage” policy in the case of the “Terry Burgess Garden.” It now appears that, in the past, college officials have often violated that policy.
Curiously, item 7 failed to mention other unauthorized plaques at IVC, including the one that graces the “Dan Larios Garden.” (Apparently, Mathur now plans to quietly remove that plaque. Payback time!)
Marcia asked why this action was being proposed now. Why, she asked, are we dealing with plaques put up 10 years ago?
According to the chancellor, the board has a “new administration in place.” As things come up, they are dealt with. This came up. We discovered the existence of these plaques, he said.
Frogue seemed lost. He thought they were discussing item 6. No, said everybody, we’re on item 7. Oh.
The discussion became raucous. Frogue became unpleasant and coughed up a hairball. Frogue and Milchiker butted heads. At one point, Marcia actually put her hands up by her head and made an infantile gesture at the Froguester. That stopped the meeting cold for about 20 seconds.
Item 7 was rammed through on a 6/1/1 vote.
After the meeting, cat-lover Sharon Macmillan said she had something for me: a book about organic cat care or something. Someone else gave me a “Beanie Baby,” whatever the hell that is. I stuffed it in my pocket, where it could observe the proceedings. It was some kind of rodent, I think. As I shook a trustee’s hand, it seemed to glare with disapproval. The trustee stared back at the Beanie Baby and then left the building.
And that was about it. —CW