Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hammering out differences

don't it make you smile?
don't it make me smile?
when the sun don't shine, it don't shine at all
don't it make me smile?
i miss you already... i miss you always
i miss you already... i miss you all day
this is how i feel...
i miss you already... i miss you always

--Pearl Jam's "Smile"


s you know, our colleges recently received a dismal report from the accrediting agency (ACCJC/WASC). The accreditors were mostly critical of our defiant board, its practices (especially re executive hiring), and its persistent "micromanagement." These elements plus the Board's support of Chancellor Raghu Mathur, despite his sub-Bush popularity among faculty, et al., have resulted in a palpable "plague of despair." Or so opined the two accrediting teams.


With this last action--the granting of skin-of-teeth accreditation conjoined with numerous requirements--the accreditors are turning up the heat. If, next October, the accreditors judge that our board is still micromanaging and is still embracing questionable hiring practices, very serious actions will result.

Remember Compton Community College!

In response to the new thermal environment, the Chancellor has become a fan of "technical assistance," a process whereby, with the assistance of outside agents, an attempt is made, among clashing parties, to work out differences and to come to agreement.

In the past, the academic senates have called for TA only to be spurned by the imperious Chancellor. It is remarkable how quickly he has come around to the faculty's way of thinking, now that the accreds are breathing down his neck.

The chief Clashoids are the Board/Chancellor and the Academic Senates (the faculty), though those two groups are not the only concerned parties.

In the view of faculty--and the Accreds--the Board and Chancellor have consistently ignored faculty input. They have done so even to the extent of violating the law--or so judged the courts in the specific case of the development of faculty hiring policies.

The Chancellor's sudden enthusiasm for TA resulted in last night's meeting (Feb. 13) in which representatives of all constituency groups (classified, faculty, students, mold spores) sat around a large table and attempted to arrive at agreement concerning what should now be done in response to the accrediting agency's recommendations.

Time's a wastin'! If we don't get on the stick, we'll never make the kind of progress that the Accreds require.

WALTON AND WOODRUFF. The designated outside parties were the agreeable team of Ian Walton of the State Academic Senate and Dianne Woodruff of the Community College League of California (the former represented faculty; the latter represented the district).

Walton and Woodruff outlined their proposed agenda. All parties were essentially agreeable, ceptin' for Trustee Fuentes, who seemed determined to redefine the meeting, not as an attempt to arrive at agreement, but as an opportunity for the trustees to "listen."

He even bristled at Walton/Woodruff's suggestion that participants should restrict their behavior as a gesture of respect for others (e.g., refraining for leaving until the end of the meeting).

"Who," he seemed to be asking, "are these pinheads to tell us what to do? Why, the temerity!"

One might guess that, in Fuentes' mind, the elected board is a body so exalted that it should decide, well, everything. It is difficult understanding that sort of thinking.

According to Walton and Woodruff's proposed plan, the first half of the meeting would comprise the "presentation of solutions." That is, each participant (most groups were represented by more than one person) was given five minutes to present three "constructive suggestions" for addressing the accreditation recommendations.

That opened the floodgates of blathery. Since most participants came with more than three suggestions--and some dreamt up new ones while drivin' over--the number of "solutions" mounted quickly. In the end, there may have been 100 or so. Or maybe it was a thousand. It seemed that we were in a thicket of motley suggestery.

(Not just motley. Some of the suggestery was flat ridiculous: "respect others." "Hand your enemies a cold salmon." I think Raghu found his set of 10 inanities in Orlando, Florida, at the Disney World Hilton. More on that later.)

I can't provide even a fraction of the many suggestions (as audio files) that were presented last night, and so I've chosen to select only a few.

A "HANDS ON APPROACH"

The following audio file presents Trustee John Williams' "constructive suggestions." (About three minutes.) Here, he seems to accept all of the Accred's harsh remarks re the board.

The downside? Williams' solutiion is handing everything over to Raghu.

this is an audio post - click to play



Some thoughts:
* The purported link between the bankruptcy and the board's micromanagement seems to be a new wrinkle. Isn't Williams singin' a new tune here? Since the 1998 Accred action cited micromanagement, one would think that this "the bankruptcy made us do it" guff would have come up then. Did it? Don't think so.
* When the district was placed on the State chancellor's fiscal "watch" list, I don't recall this blather about the bankruptcy. On the contrary, I recall a defiant board who insisted that nothing was amiss. Am I wrong?
* Williams was supposed to provide three constructive suggestions. So just what is his suggestion? "Let's stop micromanaging" is a good idea, but we need to know what that really means.

"GUIDED BY LOVE" (about 2 minutes)

Here is an audio file of Trustee Tom Fuentes' "constructive suggestions." It is notable for the remarkable contrast between Mr. Fuentes the person and the dreamy things that emerge from the Fuentean mouth. I do believed the fellow twinkled. Right into the camera. I think he was givin' me the whammy.

Also: just what is Fuentes' constructive "suggestion"? "Be guided by love," I guess. Or maybe: don't forget "Valentine's Day." I wonder how long it took him to arrive at these "solutions"?

this is an audio post - click to play



WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS TO WHICH WILLIAMS REFERRED?
(Get a load of this!)

Here are excerpts from pages 9 to 15 of the Accred report for Saddleback College (which has nice things to say about the college, by the way--the problem is the BOT/Mathur):

Recommendation 4: The Board of Trustees [BOT] review and revise the "Employment Procedures for Executive Positions" so that it conforms to accepted best practices. Specifically, this process should be fair, equitable, and provide for meaningful constituency input....

...The team is concerned that for the second time, The Board of Trustees of the SOCCCD has formally ignored a recommendation that was cited by the last two accreditation evaluation visiting teams. The Board failed to have any substantive discussion on this item and they failed to review and revise the "Employment Procedures for Executive Positions" to conform to best practices as was specified in the prior recommendations of the visiting teams. It is not clear why the BOT has failed to act in a formal manner in regard to this recommendation and why they have failed to even have a public discussion of this issue at a BOT meeting....

Recommendation 5: The BOT cease their involvement in college and district operations and delegate all non-policy issues....

...Viewing a videotape of a SOCCCD board meeting or reading a transcript of one of these meetings clearly stands as proof that this board continues to engage in business that is not at the level at which a board should be engaged. Debating the merits of particular floor types, whether a speaker should be allowed on a campus, or whether or not a field trip is appropriate...demonstrate that this board has not ceased its involvement in college and district operations....

...[T]here is no written or othe substantive evidence that the board took any action in regard to their own behavaior or to comply with the spirit of the letter of the recommendation made by the 1998 visiting team and reaffirmed by the 2004 visiting team.

...[O]ne board member indicated that he had never seen any evidence of micromanagement. It is not clear to what extent this sentiment is shared by other board members but several of them seemed to be sympathetic to this point of view. As a result, it is hard to sort out in such a short meeting if SOCCCD Trustees do not understand what behaviors constitute micromanagement, if they are in denial about their own micromanagement, if some of them rationalize their own micromanagement as being appropriate in certain circumstances, if it is a habit that is difficult to stop, or if some of the trustees fundamentally believe that no outside agency has the right to regulate their behavior. [Bingo.] [I]t is clear that the SOCCCD board has not ceased its involvement in college and district operations....


More about the Feb. 13 meeting coming soon. I've only scratched the surface. --CW

1 comment:

  1. What happened to Compton Community College?

    I mean, what can the Accreditation people do except keep coming back and writing letters? I mean, this has been going on for YEARS now. A plague of despair indeed.

    Do they have any real power? If so, will they use it on our behalf?

    ReplyDelete

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