Rebel Girl was pleased to discover that Reuben Martinez, bookseller and community activist extraordinaire, promoter of literacy and recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, was on campus on Wednesday, addressing students visiting from a local continuation school. Rebel Girl couldn't make his talk (she was teaching at the time), but she hustled over in between classes to greet him and check the scene out.
And what a scene it was, enough to warm her oft-chilly end-of-the-semester-heart. Nice. The counselors were doing what they do best, making the teens feel at home, encouraging them about possibilities, the future, how higher education was for them. Nice. Frank Marmolejo was working the tables of students who were busily eating slices courtesy of Papa John's pizza. Nice. Reuben was holding court talking about hanging with Carlos Fuentes and Gloria Estefan. His table of students was transfixed. Nice. All in the deep shadow of the new performing arts complex (PAC).
A counselor approached Rebel Girl and gushed about Reuben. Wouldn't he be a great commencement speaker? she asked. Funny you mention that, Rebel Girl replied
Rebel Girl remembered the sad story about last year's commencement speaker committee. Reb was on the committee and showed up with proposal for three candidates, including write-ups. Reuben was the top of her list for all the obvious reasons. Suffice to say he was, apparently, not nearly as impressive as many others. She remembers someone pointing out his age: ouch! And another comment had to do with the fact that he had not gone to college himself: ouch! (At least no one mentioned that he was Mexican-American (ouch!) though Reb was waiting for that one, but maybe it's not said aloud anymore. Still, Rebel Girl can't think of a single Latino who has ever had the opportunity to address the graduating class as the commencement speaker, not in 15 years. But maybe she is a just a bit too sensitive on this point. And women? Don't get her started. You know what she's like. What a bean counter. Ouch! Holy Frijoles!)
Despite these "concerns," Reuben's name was forwarded to the college president as, if she remembers correctly, the last on the list. Needless to say Reuben wasn't chosen. Some of you may recall who spoke to us last year. Rebel Girl will allow you to wallow in your own memories of that event. Some of you may even want to go back further than last year and recall all our recent stellar speakers...
Before she left, Rebel Girl stopped by Reuben once again and asked if he ever did the commencement speech thing. "Oh sure," he replied, "I'm already getting booked for next year. Cal State Long Beach and then Columbia. At Columbia," he went on, "I'll give the commencement speech for the Department of Education."
In the hours that followed, Rebel Girl worked with a record 45 students in the Humanities Center. It's the UC application season plus the end-of-the-semester crush. Ouch! It's nice to be wanted but sometimes students get impatient. One young student was particularly so, complaining about the wait. Rebel Girl apologized, then began to review the work at hand.
Without going into too much detail, it quickly became obvious that the student had submitted a plagiarized work. Then it became obvious that the plagiarized work was not even the student's own work – that the student was in the center submitting the plagiarized work on behalf of a friend, another student. Then it became obvious that the student had used another student's enrollment in the center and falsified records in order to receive the attentions of an instructor like Rebel Girl on the plagiarized essay.
Rebel Girl declined to work further with the "student" who didn't really seem to care at all. When last seen, the student was busily punching away at some electronic device.
Rebel Girl continues to stew over what her next step, if any, should be.