Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The stunningly unacademic choices of one OC college

     Yesterday morning, the Irvine Valley College community received an email from college President, Glenn Roquemore, announcing the college’s 2013 commencement speaker:
     It is my honor to announce the 2013 Irvine Valley College Commencement Speaker Mary Niven, Vice President of Disney California Adventure® Park and Guest Services at the Disneyland® Resort in Anaheim, Calif. It was the request of our ASIVC students that this year’s commencement speaker be an executive from Disneyland.
     The announcement was remarkable for at least two reasons. First, in years past, selection of commencement speaker has employed a process including (1) the identification of recommended speakers—the task of a committee with wide college representation—and (2) final selection by the college president. Usually, this process occurs during the middle of spring semester—i.e., many months from now.
The utterly unacademic
college president®
     Second, the selection process has always been somewhat controversial, and it has been particularly controversial in recent years. Faculty reps (on the aforementioned committee) have often objected to a tendency at IVC to select speakers who do not reflect, and who sometimes contrast harshly with, the values of academia and higher learning. For instance, one commencement speaker, the founder of a well-known restaurant chain, seemed actually to suggest (to our students) that a college education was not necessary for success. ("Why, look at me!" he seemed to say.) Another speaker was a personality/performer in the world of exercise videos; he had no apparent connection to higher learning or scholarship.
     One might say that these choices reflect, in part, the notoriously unscholarly preoccupations of contemporary youth and pop culture. Other choices seem to reflect the limited and stultifying perspective associated with the world of business or the Neanderthalic patriotism and conformist attitudes of Republicanland. Our last commencement speaker—a pleasant fellow somehow selected by the President despite not having been recommended by the committee—actually plagiarized some of his address. (Plagiarism may be swell in the worlds of business, fish tacos, or jumping-jacks, but it is still considered sin #1 in academia.)
"Here, clasp my plastic hand!"
     Owing to a combination of luck and the efforts of determined faculty, decent commencement speakers befitting an institution of higher learning have occasionally been selected. But such occasions have been exceptional, and they have always required much overcoming—an uphill slog up a mountain of unconscious anti-intellectualism and fatheaded conventionalism.
     What is remarkable, then, is that, with this particular history of controversy, the college president has chosen to select the thoroughly unacademic Mary Niven, a horseshit-spouting flack for Disney. And he has done so without apology and with his trademark opacity. How did this selection come about? Was this year’s selection process simply a matter of heeding “the request of our ASIVC students”? By what logic is a professional BSer for a theme park a good choice as commencement speaker?

Glenn, carrying the weight of the world, on his cardboard

     For a tiptoe through the tulips of past IVC “commencement speaker” controversies, please peruse the following:
• Plagiarism is a form of theft, Glenn (but all is well, really) ~ Commencement speakers shouldn't steal, in our opinion
• "Too Political" 
~ Guys in suits don't have politics, evidently.
• That's some leadership, that leadership à la Roquemore ~ the President and the Process. They say Rocky gets animated about rocks and such (he's a geologist). Could be.
• News about Gustavo Arellano, who, again, won't be commencement speaker ~ The NYT praises the Mexican's Taco USA; meanwhile, IVC woos Del Taco
• Irvine Valley College commencement speaker announced  ~ Maxwell, the Geico pig
• The Saddleback College Academic Senate pushes back against Prayer Boy ~ Prez overrules Commencement Committee choice not to have a Commencement prayer.
President Roquemore
• Commencement speaker choices: the controversial and the unimaginative ~ Glenn passes on Gustavo, then UCLA snags ‘im
• Commencement speaker choice a good one ~ A decent speaker, for once
• I(VC) coulda had a V8! ~ Glenn passes on "Gustavo & his Epicureans" in favor of "Jack Scott & the Bromides"; but that's OK cuz UCLA soon snagged the Mexican bandleader for their little fiesta
• Free advertising! ~ According to IVC, Gandhi was an African-American. Odd that.
• Perfect grass ~ Sharon Salinger of UCI squawks like a progressive; Glenn faints into the arms of Mike Carona's ghost
• Irvine Valley College Commencement (2008)
• “Don’t go!”—the 2007 Saddleback College Commencement  ~ I think the speaker was OC dog catcher or something
• What about Gustavo Arellano? ~ Baboons run this district (2008)
• Ouch! ~ Reuben Martinez gets all humane and friendly; Tio Tom Fuentes has an aneurysm
• Irvine Valley College 2007 Commencement ~ Motivational Claptrap
• Pompous and Circumstantial ~ Rebel Girl commentary, 2006. Gentle bombs
Mary Niven starts at 00:50 -- "put on your magical [Mickey Mouse] ears"


  1. Glen is trying to fix a broken process. We needed more time to find speakers. Now we have one.

  2. We used to have criteria that we applied to the candidates - and discussions about their merits. The list we often forwarded had a diversity of candidates representing different factions of our community and each with clear ties to the community college or university. that seems to have gone by the wayside. She'd be appropriate for the foundation. Disappointing choice for commencement.

  3. I think it's important that the choice be made earlier but this does seem like a poor choice and a poorer process. The cmte should have been reconstituted after last year's fiasco and should have been charged to make a new list or re-rank their nominees. I understand that at least one faculty member on the cmte was supportive of this choice. And yes, more suitable for one of Morely's Foundation events - not an academic ceremony. But it's hustle now. "Let's do the Hustle."

  4. Some people like Disneyland.

  5. mice and rats like to hang together....

  6. is she providing season passes for all?

  7. I don't think the question is whether one "likes" Disneyland or not.

    And I think we probably might want to try and deal with the fact that many many campus people don't understand our objection to such choices. They really do not. And we are probably in the minority. However, that doesn't make our concerns less valid. We just need to communicate them more effectively. We're up against an increasingly corporate model of education with corporate values.

    But yes, I heard she is giving every one free passes - and jobs too!

  8. I wish Glenn could fix--well, Glenn!

  9. Glen is working off the list he was given last year. He is following the process. I think Disneyland is great.

  10. My favorite ride at Disney land is Pirates of the Caribbean. I like going up the down waterfall.

  11. Let me see if I understand the problem...We have selected a Female Senior Executive from a local, well respected, Fortune 100 Company as our commencement speaker. The primary objections seem to be that she is not from halls of academia, but from the public sector. Our students however, seem to be in favor of someone from the private sector who can address issues about the local economy, job opportunities and the business enviornment. These are issues that are critical to our students and their plans for the future. I believe a speaker who can deliver a message that inspires and engages our students to seek success would be welcomed at IVC.

  12. Gosh, Dennis, do you get paid much for being Glenn's apologist? You seem not to understand the point.
    The problem here is not that this woman will be our commencement speaker; the problem, rather, is that, (1) in general, we do not choose commencement speakers who reflect the values of academia. (2) Roquemore continually does things, including this selection, that reflect a failure to respect "process" and transparency. Want a list? It's a long and disturbing one.
    When we first recommended Reuben Martinez (MacArthur "genius" prize recipient), Glenn passed on him in favor of what turned out to be an unfortunate choice. Martinez went on to do the commencement of Columbia. Repeatedly, Glenn rejected the recommendation of Gustavo Arellano, who, instead, did the commencement speach for UCLA. And who did we get? The snore-worthy state chancellor, who showed up late and offered predictable bromides.
    One woman (now two) in the last twenty years? Is that really something to be proud of? Dennis, do you really not understand our desire to adjust the process more towards Maxine Hong Kingston and less to Mayor Lou Bone and a woman who gets excited about "magic" Mickey Mouse ears? Really?

  13. I'd like to see more speakers who are less Fortune 500...we're not a business school.

  14. Roy, I don't think any apologies are necessary. This is a speaker for a student commencement. I believe our students (whether they are business students or not) are interested in hearing about the challenges and opportunities they will be facing once they leave IVC.
    It's not about Mickey Mouse ears or Disney Magic...it's about the real world they will be facing.

  15. I really don't understand your objective to this. Colleges and universities have non-academic commencement speakers all the time. This is for the students and, if we want more of them to attend graduation, then it's time we give them something to look forward to. At my graduation, the president of a national clothing designer came to speak. Was I a fashion major? No. Did I find him interesting? Absolutely. He provided a dynamic, fun, speech with real-world, business examples. Graduation is not for the faculty, it's for the students. Loosen up.

  16. You mentioned you want Maxine Hong Kingston? ok cool, who has the money to pay for her to come out here? How many IVC studentw will want to sit out in the sun listening to Kingston ramble on and on about nothing? How many students at IVC are inspiring writers? 24?
    You get what you pay for.
    BTW I would rather have Suzanne Collins who wrote the HUNGER GAMES or Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the TWILIGHT SAGA. How many students at IVC have read Maxine's work or know her? How many IVC students have read those books or watched the films? I am guessing 5,000.
    Choosing a commencement speaker should begin one year ahead of time. period.

  17. I remember when we had that black woman speaker. She came from academia, she was a good speaker, but she came off as a campaign operative for Barak Obama because she couldn't stop praising the guy and his agenda. Are we to always expect politicized speeches with the more academic types? Students should not have to put up with Dem politics shoved in their faces on their special day.

  18. 1:42, the issue at hand (not about the process but about appropriate commencement speakers) is an old one and it is ongoing across academia. Obviously, if we gave students the speakers they want, we’d invite the likes of John & Ken or Honey Boo-boo or, say, Christina Aguilera. When such non- or anti-academic speakers are invited, inevitably, a debate erupts between academics who believe that there are academic values—the embrace of which would yield avoiding louts and Boo-boos and vamps (not that there’s anything wrong with vamps)--and those who wish to make commencement a phase in some unfolding par-tay, ending with the usual Dionysian excesses.
    I do not object to the selection of this particular woman per se. Rather, I object to the tendency of the leadership of this college to proceed as though academic values either do not exist or are suspect. Judging by our commencement speakers over the years, IVC is a business college with strong sports programs and a wing dedicated to Ronald Reagan.

  19. They should bring in Lindsay Lohan!

  20. 1:56, evidently you are unaware that, twenty or so years ago, Hong Kingston was our Commencement speaker. As I recall, she was very well received, and her appearance was a serious morale booster among at least some of the faculty, who had grown accustomed to hearing from lesser lights.
    The point of higher education, of course, is, among other things, to mold and direct students’ interests and desires and objectives—i.e., to create thoughtful and knowledgeable independent thinkers. Accordingly, one hopes that students who start out reading the Twilight Saga (or nothing at all) would end up reading works of more lasting value. I just finished a lecture in which I argued, passionately, for the value of studying the “history of ideas,” which, of course, we have been doing for the past 16 weeks. In my estimation, it is a great accomplishment to take students who regard Rush Limbaugh as their political guru and to show them that one does better understanding politics by studying, first, the works and influence of Hobbes, Locke, Burke, Marx, Mill, et al.

  21. Earth to 2:38: just what are you smoking? We've had no such person as commencement speaker. Get a clue.

  22. Dear Anon at 2:38:

    IVC has NEVER hosted an African-American female commencement speaker. Never. Ever. (Just ask Glenn. He'll tell you. We've nominated some but they ahve never been selected.) Your reference to Barack Obama suggests she would have spoken within the last 4-5 years -

    2012 - Keith Rhodes
    2011 - Martin J. Smith
    2010- Jack Scott
    2009 - Sharon Salinger
    2008 - Rueben Martinez
    2007 - John Spencer Ellis

    Could you be thinking of Saddleback or another local community college?

  23. 2006 - Wing Lam, aka the Wahoo's Fish Taco guy

    2005 - Lou Bone

    2004 - ?

    2003 - ?

    Other years?

    Can anyone help fill in the blanks? In the 80s IVC had journalist Robert Scheer and writer and Berkeley professor Maxine Hong Kingston...

  24. Glenn was the commencement speaker at Concoria's graduation at the Bren Center last May and I have to say it was one of the most boring and forgettable commencement speeches I can recall. The buzz among the Concordia faculty was the reason Glenn was chosen was that the Concordia administration thought his participation would be a helpful tool in steering IVC transfer students to IVC

  25. I believe anon is referring to the black lady who spoke in 2010 before Jack Scott spoke.

  26. I think anon means Sharon Salinger in 2009. Is she black? She did mention Obama throughout her speech.

  27. Check out Salinger's pic on her UCI profile HERE. If she's black, I'll have to get my vision checked.

  28. OMG - now I want to email Dean Salinger at UCI and ask her for copy of her speech just to show you guys. Jeez. Just because someone mentions we have a president named Barack Obama she is suddenly a "shill"? OMG.

    This is so embarrassing.

    I am not even going to touch the race thing. OMG.

    Jeez. It's worse than I thought here. Another reason why perhaps we should have people like Dean Salinger, speakers who can write their own speeches and have something to say beyond plagiarized platitudes.

  29. I like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

  30. I don't appreciate Harold Lloyd being smeared by having his picture associated with IVC commencement speakers...

  31. I'm a big Harold Lloyd fan myself, which is why I occasionally stick these stills from his films onto blog posts. (I do the same for Buster Keaton.)
    Did you catch the reference to his "plastic" hand? Actually, the prosthesis was made of rubber and replaced only his thumb and index finger. He lost those digits in a bad accident on the set. Was blind for a while, too. Came back stronger than ever, with a rubber hand.

  32. I heard someone say that it doesn't matter anyway because who will really remember what she says but I wonder what it would be like to have a speaker who did not utter immediately forgettable things.

  33. "As I recall, she was very well received, and her appearance was a serious morale booster among at least some of the faculty, who had grown accustomed to hearing from lesser lights." Commencement is not for the faculty or the staff. It's for the students and their families.We attend merely to celebrate WITH them. Not because of what we think we may or may not have done. Who gives a rats ass how the faculty felt about a commencment speaker, it's not about them. If the students feel motivated, informed, entertained, or any other positive thing about a speaker they want, good for them! They listened to you all semester. Let them have THEIR time without listening to you bitch and moan.

  34. Under the canopy covered stage during commencement everyone looks black.

  35. 9:31, the degrees are conferred by the faculty, not by administrators, not by the college, not by the trustees, etc. The notion that commencement is a day for the students' enjoyment--not for the marking of a transition with a particular meaning--is a vulgar absurdity that has arisen only in recent decades. It has the provenance of a used whoopy cusion.

  36. The faculty have long been concerned with securing a speaker suitable for the occasion - a commencement - not a job fair or some kind of fundraiser or frat party or comedy stand-up. It's not about WHO the faculty want to listen to - it's who might best speak to the day, the accomplishments of the students and what lies ahead - which is, of course, more study, more education, not less.

    If anyone is using the commencement for their own purposes it's the administration.

    And yes, the faculty confer the degrees - not the admin or the students. We're part of the day too. It would be nice to get more than just lip service about that.

  37. As so often before, I watch and listen from afar, absolutely agog. I'm so sorry that your "leadership" doesn't know a thing about what higher education is for--as you say, Roy, not to give students what they want, but to shape, guide, inform--uh, to EDUCATE. Two years isn't enough time, apparently, if it's true that the students somehow thought that a corporate entity like Disneyland should have anything at ALL to do with their commencement.

    This is far more suitable as a topic of vehement protest than is the new (admittedly awful) UC logo.


  38. At my college where the administration seems to understand and respect the faculty a bit more and recognize that commencement is more than just a time to flatter local pols and business-types (YAWN), we have an unofficial rotation among the schools and departments so each field of study promotes a suitable candidate, sometimes a former student who did well (no, not in a Fortune 500 way), sometimes a prof from the local university in one of the most desired fields, etc. This way the students (and their families) get a glimpse of what the future might be and our programs are promoted and affirmed - as is our teaching. Our commencements are now distinctive in ways they didn't use to be. We use to have these speakers and they reminded me of the kind of ministers for hire who do funerals for people they don't know.

  39. At Fullerton College they had Sylvia Mendez of the Mendez vs. Westminster education case. A bit of O.C. history with national ramifications. Nice choice.

  40. Saddleback once had historian and then-state librarian Kevin Starr as a speaker.

  41. Chapman U had Dr. Lucy Jones, that earthquake specialist one year. She was great. I think it's a terrific idea to have different schools or departments forward names of specialists from their fields so that what we do here is somehow represented. That would make commencement even more collaborative - and interesting! These store-bought canned speeches, no matter how well-delivered, are quite embarrassing. Last year's was the worst. Plagiarized. I'm sure Glen's friend will do fine this year but I am also sure it is a speech that she gets paid to deliver elsewhere throughout the year, just dolled up for us here. Our students deserve better.

  42. Lucy Jones! That's an innovative choice. I like the ideas here. Somehow there isn't leadership that allows ideas like these to grow - instead things are quashed and the mediocre status quo continues. I can only imagine what's happening with the scholarship program. everyone complains that there is no time for these things but isn't it someone's job to make it all work and to make it work responsibly?

  43. Did you hear? Our new commencement speaker is influencial! ::groan:: So much for being an institution of higher learning.

  44. She's probably a very nice lady and all, but she's been "influencial"[sic] apparently in food services at D'land. This does not seem to comport with the idea of a distinguished speaker at a college commencement.

    And why, because a few student government types want someone from Disneyland, of all places, is that to be the final determination of a speaker's credentials?

  45. Doesn't anyone counsel the students about this? What do they think, that they're going to get jobs at Disney because their commencement speaker was from Disneyland?

    Again, it's supposed to be a COLLABORATIVE, COLLECTIVE process. Last year Glen went beyond the finalist and picked his own plagiarizer. This year he just did what he wanted to and hid his decision someone's notes from last year's rushed, poorly facilitated meeting and ASIVC's crush on Disney.

    I am sure she's nice and perhaps even "influential" (gee, if OC Metro says so it must be true!) but could we do better? Obviously. nice ideas here, by the way, if Glen is reading (I am sure he is - that's why he sent that email, right?)

  46. Glen is hiding behind the students. This is what he and Morely want.


Trolls and flamers will be cursed by our team of black magicians