You’ll recall an episode in November of 2010 in which, one evening, a manifestly disturbed student with a history of mental health issues menacingly wandered near faculty offices, carrying scissors. Our (resourceful and wise) dean was away visiting relatives, and so it was left to the remaining administrative crew to handle the situation.
To make a long story short, the situation was handled badly, in part because legitimate faculty concerns were not always taken seriously. (It was hard to watch: a fine new hire suddenly feeling unsafe and alone, unprotected by her institution. We did what we could to reassure her and even to protect her. But it was "us" vs. administration for a while there. Admittedly, part of the problem was laws that protect the rights of the mentally ill.)
(See More criticism for IVC administration and Running with scissors).
In this recent case, an instructor reported an odd incident that, as it turns out, involved no threat of danger (near as anyone can tell), but that, in the absence of knowledge of what was occurring (namely, a sociology assignment gone wrong), was truly worrisome.
Again: four young men suddenly entered a classroom in mid-lecture. When they were asked to identify themselves—one kid wore a horse mask—they were unresponsive. Eventually, the instructor, who is very experienced, got the four young men to leave the room without further incident. He then dutifully advised his dean of the episode and filed the appropriate paperwork. He received an obnoxious CYA letter from the head of the Sociology Dept., a woman who exhibited little interest in taking responsibility for the situation. Meanwhile, faculty were assured that the four young men were adequately dealt with (in a manner left unexplained) by a certain Dean—one notorious for piss-poor judgment.
|Sociologists understand people,|
At this point, many faculty are unconvinced that administration understands this.
And the notion that the problematic dean has things under control—well, it just won’t do. She is stunningly incompetent. Many of us continually ask: Why has this person been protected by her superiors all these years? What on Earth is going on here? Surely, more competent administrators are available! (And, no, we're not referring merely to her daft "lock the door" advice. That's a mere drop in a full bucket.)
I and other faculty have no faith whatsoever in this administrator’s ability to handle these situations adequately and professionally. If our assessment is just, then, as Rebel Girl recently said to me, it is only a matter of time before something serious finally happens on this campus. I've got to agree.
Are you listening, administrators?
(Of course you’re not listening.)
After the “scissors” episode, faced with administrative unresponsiveness, some of us took our concerns about the inadequacy of the college’s approach to faculty security to the Academic Senate.
That seems to have gone nowhere. Assurances were made—ultimately by VPs, the police chief, et al. But Dean Incompetence has a key role still.
Trustees? Chancellor? Are you listening?
A few related points:
• As far as I know, faculty have long been told NOT to call 911 but always to call the campus police, in the event of an emergency.
• According to the aforementioned letter, sociology students are always instructed to conduct their norm-violating “experiments” off campus.
• Not all classrooms can be locked from the inside. But there are several obvious reasons not to lock them about which Dean Incompetence seems oblivious.
• This might not be clear from the "outside": college instructors naturally do not want to call in the police (or other authorities) unless it is really necessary, for they typically approach their courses as autonomous leaders of classes—as pedagogical auteurs, so to speak. That one has called in the cops means that one has lost control, that one needs help.
• Experienced teachers are often good at sizing up instigators of disruption and dealing with them on their own. I have been teaching at IVC for over twenty-five years, and I have been forced to deal with disruption on numerous occasions; but I was compelled to call in a campus cop only once. My case is typical, I believe.
• Obviously, one could easily institute procedures that would be too sensitive, yielding numerous (highly disruptive) calls for police, most of them false alarms. On the other hand, one could easily institute lax approaches and procedures that do not sufficiently deal with hazards. Getting this right isn't easy.