Friday, September 2, 2011

The real problem at Irvine Valley College

     Irvine Valley geology Professor Glenn Roquemore said his campus is in turmoil not because of [Trustee Steven] Frogue's leadership but because faculty have chosen to be at war with one another over his decisions.
     Because Roquemore supports the appointment of [Raghu] Mathur [as IVC President] and the reorganization [that eliminated IVC's school chairs], he is treated as a leper, he said. He walks through the hallway and no one makes eye contract [sic].
     "All this because they have lost their power base. I keep asking myself, 'How far will they go?' They have stepped over the line of common decency, and the wounds are so deep they might never heal," Roquemore said.

OC Register, Sept 18, 1997
     In my view, the chief problem at Irvine Valley College is top administrative leadership—President Glenn Roquemore and Vice President of Instruction, Craig Justice.
     In part, the problem with these two is a problem of character.

     CHARACTER. Glenn has always managed a nice-guy veneer, evidently one made of plastic. But we must always remember who he really is—an unprincipled opportunist.
     At the start of the dismal “board majority” era—circa 1996—Glenn was a new faculty with strong administrative ambitions. That this is so is easily established. He was actively working with administration (my source: the person Glenn was working with: IVC’s then dean of instructional programs) to unseat Raghu Mathur as chair of Raghu and Glenn’s school. (Mathur had used unsavory means to retain an iron grip on the chairship for about a decade. Glenn wanted his turn.) Then, in April of 1997, to most everyone’s surprise, Mathur was chosen interim President of the college. Old timers will remember that, among faculty, no one of any quality wanted anything to do with the scheming and narcissistic Mathur. And so Mathur desperately sought “allies” among faculty.
     All of a sudden, Glenn became Mathur’s greatest supporter. Then, that May, he got the Accred Self-Study chair gig, despite Academic Senate objections. Nine months later, he hit the jackpot: Mathur named Glenn "acting" Vice President of Instruction, despite his utter lack of administrative experience.
     Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!
     (Tea Partiers, please note that I do not object to faculty seeking administrative careers per se. My point concerns the manner in which Glenn became an administrator. For the meaning of "per se," consult a dictionary.)
     In more recent years, Glenn has set his sights on the Chancellorship. (One question we should ask ourselves is, what might he be willing to do to get that prize? What fresh infamy might emerge as a means to achieving his personal goal?)
     As President, Glenn has long protected familiar faculty abuses and excesses such as the notorious “large lecture” scam (scare most students away immediately after census; then pocket the big bucks teaching tiny "large lecture" classes) and various dubious arrangements designed to produce massive paychecks for relatively little work. No doubt, for years, he did that at the direction of Mathur, a notoriously lurid schemer from whom Glenn had no problem taking marching orders—until, that is, the fellow developed the unfortunate desire to actually make the decisions for his college. That ambition, which emerged in mid-decade, was perhaps the main source of ultimate Mathur/Roquemore conflict.
     As President, Glenn has always protected his (professor) wife from efforts by administrators to rein in her legendary “Listen, my hubby is the Prez” excesses. (Ask the administrators.)
     I’ll leave it at that, except to say that, for me, this circumstance—in which the worst of us are rewarded and protected—undermines feeling warm and fuzzy about one’s workplace more than anything else I can think of. It's a serious morale buster. ("Create a culture of mutual respect" my ass.)

Glenn, leading
     CLUELESS. Beyond the serious problem of character, there is the problem of Glenn’s legendary cluelessness. Observe his "leadership." (That is, try to find it.) I will not belabor the point. I will say only that, evidently, Glenn remains largely unaware that the college is actually run by a vindictive autocrat—his VPI.
     Craig Justice knows how to talk the talk of collegiality when he’s out making the rounds. He purrs. He smiles. But by all accounts—I’ve spoken with some former administrators and some faculty who have exchanged testy emails with the VPI—a different Craig often (i.e., routinely) emerges. That Craig barks and snarls unpleasantly. No purring. Biting.
     I don’t think he gives a damn what faculty or any other group think or want. I've read the emails. I've heard the eye-witness accounts. He's a seriously cynical and two-faced guy.
     Am I wrong? (More importantly: am I right?)

     I RECALL A COUPLE OF YEARS ago discovering, along with some of my colleagues, that the college was teaching (contract ed*) courses out at Crean Lutheran High School. We were amazed. As a long-time senator, I know that, if the idea of such a program had been run by the Academic Senate, senators would have noted its obvious hazards; they likely would have sought to nix the deal. But Craig (and Glenn?) ran this whole thing below the Senate’s radar. Nice. It's a pattern.
     So the program was launched sans faculty oversight or involvement—virtually all instructors were adjuncts, who typically stay out of senate business. Given the lack of oversight, a scandal could and did occur. Pretty soon, unqualified faculty were assigned courses by Crean officials (this meant, ultimately, that students could not receive credit for having taken them) and Crean officials were pressuring faculty (adjuncts) not to stray too far from Lutheran doctrine. Good grief!
     I commenced reporting the situation at Crean, and IVC administration went into damage control mode—as if my reporting was the damage. (I never got the sense that they understood a simple fact: the "damage" or "problem" was that they had f*cked up, and in characteristic fashion.) It became very clear, as I communicated with Craig and Glenn indirectly, via Wendy and my dean, what Craig and Glenn wanted: if at all possible, the whole matter should be neatly and quietly “fixed,” and the program should simply proceed. It was clear to me, too, that administration viewed my reporting as an assault on the college, not a case of (as I called it at the time) "watchdoggery."*
     In the meantime, I had communicated with some adjuncts who taught at Crean and they told me how bad things were. It wasn't just that the college was running classes at a Lutheran high school under the faculty's radar. No, there were some seriously hinky things going on, such as the pressuring of faculty not to teach against doctrine, etc. Good Lord!
     I wanted to report that hinkitude. But I was subjected to great pressure from administration to minimize my description of it in DtB. I cooperated, to an extent (I did not then report Crean's assigning econ courses to history faculty and its pressuring faculty to teach within doctrine—and other things that I have yet to mention in DtB!), though not to the extent desired.
     Now, at the time, if Craig and Co. had shown any indication of a desire to really do things right—for starters, to agree that, henceforth, such programs would at least be run past the Academic Senate—I would have been more cooperative. But it was clear, or so it seemed to me, that Craig had no such intention.
     Craig thinks faculty are morons. Sure, some of 'em are. (I'd start my search in B200.) But faculty know enough to avoid such fiascos as occurred at Crean. Craig doesn't understand that.

     TWO YEARS AGO, the “noise” about problems in the Early College Program got loud enough for even me to hear. I made some inquiries, and it became clear that, likely, there were severe and widespread problems in the program (high school administrators meddling with instruction, insisting on use of inadequate labs, etc.). But then we learned from our new senate president/cabinet that there was no reason for alarm, for committees were forming that would investigate matters, etc.
     Ah, but those committees were not Senate committees; they were essentially administration's committees that would likely be dominated by administrators. And so some of us made a big stink.
     Thus, plan B arose: the senate itself would form an independent committee that would attempt to assess the situation in the EC Program. And that’s what happened. (The committee ran a survey, and it revealed serious problems.)


     THE WALL. At about that time (I don’t have the relevant documents with me, so I hope I am remembering correctly), one of the Senate cabinet officers was essentially “fired” by the cabinet. The “fired” person was very upset about, among other things, how she had been "fired."
     It seems to me that that was the first time that the wall came up. "What's this?" I said.
     Evidently, the cabinet had met without that officer and then made a decision that, in view of her performance, she had to go; she was then informed of the committee’s decision. From the beginning, my concerns regarded, not the justice of asking her to resign, but the evidently brutal manner in which this was carried out. (Why hadn’t the president informed the officer of dissatisfaction with her performance so that she could resign quietly, sans cabinet action—and sans a creepy secret meeting?) When senators (perhaps it was only me; I don’t recall) pressed for details, the wall came up. As I recall, members of the cabinet revealed nothing about the meeting.
     That was something new.
     I spoke with some cabinet members in private, and it became clear that some (at least one) of them were very unhappy with the manner in which this firing occurred. Nevertheless, they said, the President had asked them to say nothing about the deliberations during the meeting, and so they refrained from doing so, at least in public.
     I tried to suggest that this kind of action was ugly and unnecessary; it was a bad precedent. My efforts seemed to go nowhere.

     THE LETTER. Not long after, I wrote the President (privately), noting (as I recall) three ways in which, it seemed to me, the senate was “dropping the ball,” failing in its role to hold administration to account. I cited the Crean fiasco and I cited the initial approach to the EC problem (namely, the administrator-controlled committee); and there was a third thing that I honestly can’t recall. (Perhaps it was the “firing” business.) The President—who, I should add, is a friend—responded with great (and, it seemed to me, hysterical) defensiveness and, soon, after she shared the letter with the cabinet, I heard from defensive (and, again, sometimes hysterical) cabinet members as well.

     OK, HERE'S THE THING. My complaint then and my complaint now are essentially the same. As a Senate, we are dropping the ball. I firmly believe that top administration is highly objectionable in the manner earlier described (with emphasis on the VPI). Essentially, we're being blown off. But it is clear, I think, that the Academic Senate President does not view administration in that light. Not at all.
     That’s a problem.

     LET ME COUNT THE WAYS. There are, of course, several ways in which I could be mistaken.
     One is that administration is not the Loutish Thing I have depicted. Glenn isn’t really (so) clueless and opportunistic. Craig is not nearly so crafty or two-faced.
     Another is that, though administration is indeed that Loutish Thing, LDA and the cabinet understand this and, contrary to my “ball droppage” thesis, they are taking appropriate steps.
     “Roy, we really know what we’re doing.”
     Are there other ways? Let me know.
     In all honesty, if I am mistaken, I would like to be persuaded of that. Please show me the error of my ways.
     As you can see, in my view, the fundamental issue here is not LDA. The Senate should hold administration to account. It should fight the unworkable EC Program. It should at least express strong reservations about the Crean arrangement. It should demand that faculty always be consulted about new instructional programs. It should demand more clarity about ATEP—another potential set of new educational programs. It should shine the spotlight on what administration does (especially when no one is looking) and demand explanations. It cannot do its job (in my view) if the President and/or the cabinet do not acknowledge the extent to which administration blows off faculty.
     So, that's the logic of the situation, in my opinion.
     I recognize that I could be mistaken.
     Again, please show me how I’m wrong, if such is the case. —BvT

* * *
     …By March of '98, Board members explained that they were considering a proposal to officially adopt the hiring procedure used to hire Mathur. In an interview for IVC's Voice, trustee Dorothy Fortune opined that the proposed procedure would be "more inclusive than ever." Said trustee John Williams: "This is a much fairer process" (3/5/98). On the other side, in a letter to the Times, trustee Milchiker explained that the new procedures "will invalidate a long-standing collegiate district policy which offers all college constituencies a voice in the selection of administration. This subversion of the hiring process comes at a crucial time"--given the ongoing administrative exodus.
     Eventually, the Accrediting Commission (ACCJC) cited the new procedures as evidence of the board's micromanagement and subversion of shared governance, and thus they were abandoned. This, however, did not end the [Board Majority’s] manipulations of administrative hiring. When Glenn Roquemore didn't survive the final cut in the screening for the permanent VP of Instruction position at IVC, trustee accusations of unfairness again surfaced, and so, again overturning the search committee's decision, Roquemore was interviewed at the second level….
 
—From the Dissenter’s Dictionary, 12/99
     *Because the Crean courses were listed in IVC's schedule of classes—a big mistake that—in my early reporting, I did not recognize that the program was a case of "contract ed," a fact of some relevance, I suppose. On that basis, Craig and Co. took the attitude that I had f*cked up by failing to note this circumstance.
     A typical Craig red herring.
     In fact, the real issue here was, first, that Craig and Co. were pursuing this program without faculty oversight and that, consequently, seriously hinky things were going on at Crean—e.g., that unqualified faculty were being assigned courses, etc. See HERE for details.

16 comments:

  1. Roy is right on regarding IVC's top administrators (top not in the sense of the best and most skilled and most concerned)--just at the top of the heap: that bears witness to the path Raghu took.

    Sad for what it has done and continues to do to students, staff, faculty and some good administrators. Those on the third floor know though. Glenn is burning bridges, ones he doesn't even know are burning.

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  2. Your characterization of the top admin is spot on from my experience. I always wondered about the funny business with the firing. However, the area she chaired was in dire straights. Something had to be done, but they fired the wrong person. I don't think LDA is guilty of anything more than being fooled. Right on, bvt.

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  3. I hope you are correct about the 3rd floor. But, please no--don't fire top job and promote hand job.

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  4. To paraphrase John Williams: "Sir, let's have no more references to hand jobs."

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  5. To 8:38 and anyone else who doesn't understand why a faculty member was asked to resign from a committee chairship:
    How is it LDA and cabinet were fooled and "fired" the wrong individual? Curriculum is a 10+1 area under the Academic Senate's purview. Faculty are in charge of curriculum. If the management of curriculum is dysfunctional due to a chair's inability to manage the process and control the workflow, it is the Senate cabinet's job to bring the problem(s) to the attention of the chair and, if necessary, ask for a resignation and replace that chair. That's what the cabinet did, and just in time, too, because the problems with curriculum would have put our accreditation in jeopardy for something we have total control over at the college level. We wanted any remaining accreditaiton issues to spotlight the BOT and District (Mathur), administrative problems that the faculty had no control over, not issues that are under the direct purview and control of our own faculty, for goodness sake.

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  6. 9:37, yes, and to be clear, my own queries regarding the firing regarded, (and I quote), "not the justice of asking her to resign, but the evidently brutal manner in which this was carried out." For me, it was never about whether she should have resigned. And, again, even at least one member of the cabinet told me, in private, that they were unhappy with the manner in which this action was taken.

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  7. Gwen is also a big problem.

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  8. Gwen is not as serious a threat to the college as 3 others.

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  9. bvt, I second it! Your assessment of the VPI is dead accurate.

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  10. I see bvt's test poll has closed, 90% NO CONFIDENCE! According to your logic doesn't this now call for a formal poll? Bring it on!

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  11. 3:12, the poll is interesting--one would think that Roquemore and Justice would do better than 9%--but it is far from being reliable for various reasons that should be obvious. I do think, however, based on this "poll," that it is likely that, in a real poll, the two would do badly. Not 9% badly, but badly nonetheless.
    But, again, one needs a second act. Suppose a real poll shows a significant lack of confidence in these two. Then what? We need to ask, when are they up for contract renewal? Etc.
    I do hope the trustees are paying attention. I fear that they are not.

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  12. Why not paste the Vp's face into the above Jeckle & Hyde poster?

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  13. BTW, what is an "eye contract?" Was it something he had to sign?

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  14. When is the contract up? Anyone know?

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  15. Glenn leading? Looks like he's falling in that picture.

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  16. I have taught as an "adjunct faculty" (fancy name for the 80% of us who are second class citizens in the college system) at IVC for more than a decade. Since the economic crisis hit the college, I have followed Glenn Roquemore's news releases related to budget negotiations and cuts. He seems to be very willing to endorse cut after cut after cut, and I'm wondering if he himself has had to take a pay cut. Life seems fine and dandy for him as he endorses away. I imagine that his salary is public information. Does anybody have that information on hand?

    Thank you.

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