Friday, November 15, 1996

Adventures in Advertising: The real purpose behind gay-baiting at Saddleback College

Orange County Weekly,
November 15, 1996

Adventures in Advertising: The real purpose behind gay-baiting at Saddleback College


      LOCAL POLITICAL observers are calling it the "most scurrilous and vile" campaign ad of the season, and it wasn't the deft handiwork of U.S. Congressman Bob Dornan, Orange County's most infamous negative campaigner. No, the ad—which critics say was designed to tap anti-gay sentiment—was sent by a college-faculty association on behalf of a slate of three conservative candidates and one Democrat vying for seats on the governing board of the Saddleback College District [since renamed the "South Orange County Community College District"]. Three of the candidates supported by the controversial ad-including the Democrat-won.
        According to the four-page mailer, same-sex marriage advocates are plotting to "TAKE CONTROL of your tax dollars and your community colleges." The ad-sent to thousands of South County Republicans during the election's final three weeks-rails against domestic-partner health benefits and discussions of gay and lesbian lifestyles in college classes or seminars.
        "Don't be misled by ultraliberal political groups. Keep Saddleback independent," read the red, white and black mailer. "Reject tax-paid health insurance for same-sex 'partners.' Vote to protect [their emphasis] the integrity of Saddleback Colleges."
        But while same-sex marriage, domestic-partner benefits and gay-related curriculum are certainly inflammatory wedge issues, they had nothing to do with the nonpartisan race for trustee slots at Saddleback, the state's sixth-largest community college district with 33,000 students and an annual budget of more than $70 million.
        "Personally, I am open to the idea of domestic-partner benefits," said Lee Rhodes, one of those blasted in the anti-gay mailer. "But it just isn't on the radar screen of pressing issues we face."
        The nasty rhetoric obscured the real struggle: which group of trustees is likely to be more generous with teachers at the district's two community colleges, Saddleback in Mission Viejo and Irvine Valley in Irvine.
        The anti-gay mailer was paid for by Taxpayers for Responsible Education, a political-action committee (PAC) established by the Saddleback Community College District Faculty Association. The "taxpayers" are mostly Saddleback Community College faculty eager to elect a board that will cut a better deal with teachers when their contract comes up for renegotiation this year.
        Michael Channing, the association's treasurer and a Saddleback College English professor, said that he was unaware of the ad's content before it was mailed. "I really don't want to be associated with this," he said.
        Channing declined to answer further questions and referred inquiries to Sherry MillerWhite, president of the association. She could not be reached for comment. The faculty-controlled PAC reported spending $44,000 through Oct. 19 on behalf of ultraright-wing incumbents Steven Frogue, John Williams, Democrat Dorothy Fortune and Don Davis. Only Davis lost.
        "The ad was manufactured lies and misinformation," said David Lang, a CPA who ran on a slate with Rhodes, Dianne Brooks and Suzanne Moraes. The ad targeted the slate for defeat; only Lang survived. "It's disgusting and shameful that they would involve the gay community in this [election], but it shows the lengths they will go to control the colleges."
        But the most interesting beneficiary of the mailer was Fortune, who was a presidential delegate for Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
        "I had nothing to do with writing it, mailing it or paying for it," Fortune said after the election. When reminded that her picture and biography appeared in the ad, she said, "I'm sorry, but I was not in the loop at all."
        Members of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club, to which Fortune belonged, were outraged by the ad and voted to strip their endorsement from her campaign in the final weeks. The club issued a statement decrying any candidate who attempted "to kindle fear and hatred in voters as a technique to garner support."
        "Fortune may not have mailed it or paid for it, but she certainly was open to her campaign benefiting from it," said Anne Cox, club president. "I spoke with her at length after the ad came out and explained how betrayed people felt about its tone and message. But she made it clear her goal was to win the election-obviously at any cost."
        Rhodes, the incumbent trustee and fellow Democrat whom Fortune defeated, called the brochure "despicable" and, along with Lang, charged that someone forged their slate's campaign brochures by inserting a statement that they were actively pushing for domestic partner benefits at the colleges.
        "That flier appealed to the worst in human nature by trying to incite certain elements in our community that are susceptible to hatemongering and hysteria," said Rhodes, a retired biology professor associated with Saddleback College for 28 years as a teacher and trustee. "The piece could not have been further from the real education issues at stake. It was just an underhanded smoke screen."

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

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Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary