Saturday, February 4, 2012

Incivility or bullying? Name that bully!

Part 2 of a series

     Yesterday, I wrote the first in a series of posts about IVC’s “civility initiative,” an effort by IVC President Glenn Roquemore (?) to address a range of campus issues that, as we saw yesterday, apparently include episodes and situations that are darker than is implied by the word “incivility.”
     Roquemore’s initiative commenced with a December “workshop” comprising about twenty members of the campus community (including four faculty and five classified). According to a subsequent REPORT (see yesterday's post), among the worrisome situations or episodes cited by the participants were
  • perceived acts of retaliation or retribution
  • conduct inspiring fear
  • failures to respect others and to treat them with kindness
  • shouting and threats
  • bullying
  • passive-aggressive behavior
     Yikes. Upon noting the extremity of the items on this list, one might wonder why Roquemore’s intiative isn’t described as a response to “bullying”!
     Another perceived problem noted in the workshop is still further from anything one would be inclined to call “incivility.” A high priority for the group was problems with transparency (i.e., prevailing opacity) in college processes. Somehow, said the group, significant information was not being communicated—presumably by top administration.
     But it is not obvious to me how that phenomenon is linked to “incivility” or bullying. It would be an episode of incivility, I suppose, if one were to ask, say, the VPI what’s going on with ATEP only to be met with stony silence. Is that it?
     It is easier to see how administrative opacity might be linked to failures of respect. Perhaps the (or “a”) problem at the college is that an “insider” group essentially runs the college behind closed doors. Now, at an institution that forever trumpets its alleged “transparency” and “shared governance,” that reality can feel like a slap in the face.
     Maybe the problem is that there are certain persons with authority at IVC who are ruthless or officious or autocratic with those whom they regard as "underlings." Such people are disrespectful and lacking in kindness, right?
     But I wouldn’t call that phenomenon “insufficient transparency,” would you?
     I’m getting to think that the workshop’s participants weren’t quite comfortable enough at the workshop (see below) to be completely forthcoming. If there is unkindness, disrespect, and intimidation, then, necessarily, there are persons who are unkind, disrespectful, and intimidating. Right?
     Just who are they? If the workshop provided a “safe harbor” to speak one's mind, why weren’t these people identified? (And if they were, why don't their names appear in the report?)
ruthless |ˈroōθləs|
adjective
having or showing no pity or compassion for others* 
officious |əˈfi sh əs|
adjective
assertive of authority in an annoyingly domineering way, esp. with regard to petty or trivial matters*
John Spevak/College Brain Trust
     At the end of the workshop, participants filled out cards (unsigned), with feedback. Mr. Spevak, the facilitator from College Brain Trust (a Sacramento consulting firm), reviewed these data, and, in his report, he concludes that participants “appreciated the opportunity, felt the day was productive, and looked forward to further steps in developing a culture of civility.”
     Perhaps so. It is worth noting, however, the indications of non-unanimity that can be found in these data about the grand success of the event, particularly with regard to who was allowed to participate. (The group was of course dominated by administrators/managers. See REPORT.)
     Participants were asked to state what they liked about the workshop. Among the participants, some said they felt comfortable being honest, the facilitator seemed to know what he was doing, etc.
     Here were their suggestions for improvement:
· No suggestions; the program was well organized and planned
· A bit more time spent on case studies
· Time to sketch out an actionable plan to move forward (measurable)
· Expand this training to the campus as a whole: faculty, staff, and students
· I’d like to have seen more people from the campus involved—faculty and students—although the smaller scale did facilitate excellent discussion
· Continue with small groups of meetings like this one; provide a report to the whole college about our retreat; and then allow the president and VPs in a school/department meeting during the semester to collect/listen to information/concerns from the retreat
· Suggest even better student participation; more students
· Use “hearts” instead of dots; more coffee
· More students; more guests from outside college—diversity of experiences and opinions
· Continued workshops, discussions
· Role playing; acting out possible scenarios
· I would add a few more folks into the mix from the college. [My italics & emphases.]
     The “range of participants” issue came up under “other comments” as well:
  • [Next time:] Include all participants for entire process rather than having an “in” group and others
  • [Next time:] More students would have added to discussion; the one student who we had was excellent—we should have worked harder to ensure their participation
     If I were Roquemore, I’d pay attention to this “range of participants” suggestion. After all, if the product of this civility initiative is perceived as a creature of the “in” group—or otherwise fails in representing groups at IVC—it won’t be worth spit.
     In tomorrow's post, we'll note indications that Roquemore and Co. mean to push this thing through without further messy input from the academic hoi polloi and that they hope to enshrine this stuff in a board policy.
    Yikes.
    And will they thereby try to enforce their notion of "civility"?

*From my Mac's dictionary
autocratic |ˌôtəˈkratik|
adjective -- of or relating to a ruler who has absolute power : the constitutional reforms threatened his autocratic power.taking no account of other people's wishes or opinions; domineering : an autocratic management style.*

11 comments:

  1. When we need a consultant to tell us we lack transparency (at least as seen by some obtuse administrators and self serving one might add), we have a problem. Faculty and staff, after our last King Tut Mathur, not only found life at IVC and SC bearable but actually enjoyable. Faculty and staff at both colleges ARE civil in discourse. Both colleges have less than competent top leaders. One wonders where the talent really is and why we have so little of it.

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  2. Burnett was hired, despite his lack of qualifications, because of his connections with the Governor. Roquemore crossed over into administrative ranks because he is the consumate opportunist, and, when Mathur became Prez of IVC in 1997, Glenn decided to "play ball" with him (he was working with IVC administration to get Mathur unseated as chair of his School until then; Roquemore was angered that Mathur maintained a stranglehold on that job). He was VPI when Mathur "ascended" to the Chancellorship in about 2002 or 2003. Roquemore then became IVC Prez, but he grew weary of the heavy thumb of Mathur, and he gradually aligned himself with the anti-Mathur (or suspicious of Mathur) trustees, especially Wagner. Glenn gained some support at IVC because he was the enemy of our enemy, Mathur. Glenn got lucky when, as it turns out, Wagner turned against Mathur and, in the subsequent Fuentes v. Wagner struggle, Wagner prevailed. Glenn is incompetent and Justice runs the college, though his ruthless style has caused much demoralization. The trustees can't get a clue about this to save their lives. I'm gonna try skywriting next. Pretty soon, Roquemore will be Chancellor. That's his goal.

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  3. It's so typical of our administrators to initiate this exercise rather than confront the perpetrators. We know who the bullies are, we know who engages in passive-aggressive behavior, and we know the ones who aren't doing their fair share and get paid enormously more than those who are doing the work (usually female managers). I'm talking about administrators and managers and not faculty.

    It will never stop unless the ones who are doing it are confronted. This exercise is pure bullshit and will solve nothing.

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  4. OMG, GR is the invisible man. Smile, look good, nod, never say anything, never do anything, and let Godzilla destroy this nice little college.

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  5. He's too busy with Astounding Inventions. What good that does the college I have yet to figure out.

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  6. Isn't this whole civility issue a result of the accreditation process? Isn't a distrust of the district what started this ball rolling? So, we'll do some workshops and declare ourselves cured. Seems the problems with top admin at IVC are deeper than the issues the accreds noted. I hope Edwards was at that Duck Stop.

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  7. Confront the uncivil ones? Are they f-ing serious? That puts the "complainer" under the district microscope, and gets the ball rolling to get rid of you for doing a formal complaint. It's org. security 101. This report is just a continuation of the status quo of absolving management of their responsibilities.

    I thought this stuff had to be resolved before accred. was restored?

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  8. Accreditation isn't really restored yet. They dinged Glenn with another October 15 report, including recommendation 6, "communication." This time the faculty needs to speak up. The problem is simple--no "civility" focus group needed--and can be fully capsulized in one word: Justice, the vicious dictator who has poisoned all wells. The board needs to can the sob, period, and the ACCJC needs to hear that message loud and clear.

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  9. So the dist. basically wasted who knows how much cash (probably tons!) on that College Brain Trust firm and accomplished absolutely nothing. Where does one find out exactely how much was squandered?

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  10. 12:41, I think you actually agree with 8:29, who was saying that the administrators should confront the bullies. I dont think they were saying that those who are being bullied should do the confronting.

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  11. OK, so why haven't concerned community members been showing up at board meetings in large numbers demanding that something be done about Mr. Justice like they did with Raghu? I see there has been a few confidence/no confidence polls done. Why not take this issue straight to the board?

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