civility!

     Ruthlessness is the exception, not the rule, among officials and leaders in higher education. But, owing to California community colleges’ peculiar origins—an extension of the relatively authoritarian K-12 system rather than higher ed—an usual degree of top-down thinking and organization has long been the norm there. Not that top-down organizations need be ruthless; but it sure helps.
     Still, the degree and kind of ruthlessness that broke out in our district in the 90s was remarkable.
     Part of the story goes back to the origins of the district in the mid-60s. Orange County—and South OC in particular—was home to some particularly Neanderthalic political philosophies, including the extremist anti-communism of the John Birch Society. And so when the district was formed, the local Republicans, who controlled political life in South County, were all over it. Thus it was that the founding board was utterly right-wing and often exhibited the expected paranoia and clueless foolishness, as when the plans for the college library were altered to turn it into a fortress against imagined violent students, or when the board acted to “resign” from the California School Boards Association on the grounds that using taxpayer money to join a “private” group was “immoral.”
     So our district began with a rogue board, happily imposing patriotism and prohibitions against such anti-Americanisms as long hair and bell bottoms.
     Many of these excesses slowly faded, but the local norm of a clueless and micromanaging board never quite died, despite the occasional appearance of relatively enlightened trustees.
     By the 90s, the faculty union was feeling their oats, having taken a strong role in ridding the district of a much-hated chancellor (in the early to mid-80s). This was accomplished by successfully targeting problematic trustees for electoral defeat.
     The union evidently emerged from this period with the dream of a complete board takeover. In the mid-90s, using various unscrupulous and notorious means, it managed to “buy” the board that appeared in November of 1996; and thus it was that the “board majority” era was born, along with general decline and endless low morale.
     Chief among the instigators—and beneficiaries—of this takeover was endlessly disgruntled IVC chemistry instructor Raghu Mathur, who, overnight, went from his role as part-time chair of his School to President of the college.
     Mathur, first as IVC President and then as district Chancellor, ruled by fear and patronage. He was the imperious conniver, Chancellor Narcissus.
     By 1998, again thanks to election assistance from the still-corrupt faculty union (it was reformed by about 2000), the conservative board majority grew stronger with the addition of Don Wagner and the replacement of Teddi Lorch with Nancy Padberg, both affiliated with the ultra-right “Education Alliance” of Tustin.
     You can read the details elsewhere; suffice to say that ruthlessness and micromanagement prevailed, a situation made much worse with the strategic resignation, in the summer of 2000, of Holocaust denying trustee (and union favorite) Steve Frogue. Naturally, he was replaced by the long-time iron-fisted chief of the OC GOP, Tom Fuentes, an action fully endorsed by the old guard of the faculty union.
     It was the beginning of a new low. Let’s just say that old Tom was as ruthless and unprincipled as they come. And he ruled the district.


     By the end of the first decade of the new millennium, however, Mathur had engaged in one too many acts of self-serving connivery, and Wagner was determined to "fire that bastard." That created a serious falling out between Wagner and Fuentes, and the result was a power struggle that left Wagner and a “new majority” on top. It was the beginning of the end for the conservative board and, well, all manner of ruthlessness and ugliness. Soon, Mathur was out and Wagner left for the State Assembly. After a period of transition, mild-mannered and well-liked administrator Gary Poertner took on the Chancellorship with the now largely jackass-free board. It looked like the opening of a new era, and, in many ways, it was.
     Naturally, the Accreds (the ACCJC) had attempted to police the district during this entire benighted period, a tract of time characterized by a “plague of despair” across the district.
     The upshot: the accreds, a group saddled with its own profound cluelessness, demanded “civility” at the SOCCCD. Or else. Never mind that the cause of most of the tensions had by now been banished or rendered impotent. Leave it to the Accreds to order the shooting of the fox after the critter has left the farm for good.
     Though Mathur and his supporters were gone, a remnant of the old power structure—President Glenn Roquemore of IVC—remained. One place that one could still find the constant red glow of ruthlessness and contempt for "process" and shared governance was in that utterly unimaginative and unintelligent man’s odd, smiley, regime, with VP Justice as hatchet man and de facto college runner.
     Well, that’s the set up, bringing us to about 2011. Enter: the "civility" initiative. Good grief. It's been a rough ride.

• The benighted “civility” report ~ You get what you pay for
• What goes on at this college? (Part 1) ~ The December "civility" workshop (at the "Duck Club")
• Name that bully! (Part 2) ~ Who's doing these things, anyway?
• Saying no to wider participation? (Part 3) ~ The workgroup has lots of deans and managers
• “Make things nicer!” (Part 4) ~ Our district's history of enforcing "civility"--to silence dissent
• Roy Bauer’s concerns? (Part 5) ~ The Academic Senate bungles an agenda request
• A civil discussion (de facto Part 6) ~ The Senate meeting in which all was undone
• A civility policy? Arf! ~ We saw it comin'
• One step forward, two steps back: Glenn's clueless email ~ So we're pursuing a board policy on civility after all! Good grief.
• Today's "civility ball" (part 7)
• Civility initiative, part 8: new proposed statement
• A civility policy—at a college? - Sep 12 2013

     Allow me to state the obvious: a "civility" policy has no place at an institution of higher learning. -RB

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