THE NOVEMBER 16 BOARD MEETING:
Bullock and Sampson show real gumption! Frogue calls for list of “class sizes” per district instructor! Lorch urges use of “straight productivity model” for faculty hires; a new era of super-duper micromanagement!
by Chunk Wheeler
Were a stranger to drop on a sudden into this world, I would show him, as a specimen of its ills, a hospital full of diseases, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field of battle strewed with carcasses, a fleet foundering in the ocean, a nation languishing under tyranny, famine, or pestilence. To turn the gay side of life to him and give him a notion of its pleasures—whither should I conduct him? To a ball, to an opera, to court? He might justly think that I was only showing him a diversity of distress and sorrow.
What’s that about? Board observers will recall that, on Dot Fortune’s first night as trustee two years ago, she expressed the groundless suspicion that the Costa Rica program was, in reality, a mere “surf party.” Perhaps that incompetent notion has struck her again.
I arrived in time for item #7: “SOCCCD ADMINISTRATIVE REORGANIZATION.” According to the agenda, “The district, Irvine Valley College, and Saddleback College have reviewed the current administrative structure as directed by the Board of Trustees, and are submitting for review and study their recommendations for realignment of units to best serve the administrative needs of the district and colleges.”
Now, I don’t recall our college having participated in this effort. Evidently, the document, which is a draft, recommends, among other things, nine deans each for Saddleback and IVC. Wow. Later, during his report, Peter Morrison, president of the IVC Academic Senate, stated that “we [the IVC Academic Senate] are not a party to the recommendations discussed tonight.”
Fortune complained about the document’s charts. Evidently, she’s not a chart person; she’s a list person. She complained about the quality of the information being submitted, and, naturally, Mr. Frogue, who suspected intrigues, concurred.
Ms. Lorch indicated that we’re “behind” on the Tustin base project, and so she favored moving ahead with the Tustin “Provost” position. (Some have speculated that the board is contemplating moving the Gooster out to Tustin. Someone asked me, “Do you suppose Lorch’s support for the Tustin position has anything to do with that?”)
Fortune expressed her dissatisfaction with the number of deans “cropping up” in this recommendation. For reasons unknown, soon thereafter, we broke for 20 minutes.
After the break, we moved on to item #8: FACULTY HIRING. The board was being asked to accept “for review and study” the 1999-2000 “Position Request Lists” from the two colleges. As you know, these lists reflect much discussion, compromise, Sturm und Drang. Naturally, the Board Four, showing their usual low regard of every other group in the district, approached the lists with suspicion and disdain.
Ms. Milchiker noted that the district should hire the “best and the brightest,” which has been a district desideratum, she said, from its beginning. Mr. Lang asked how many positions we can expect to fill. Answer: maybe 5 for IVC; maybe 7 for Saddleback. Saddleback must fill many vacancies created by retirements, said president Bullock. Chancellor Sampson urged the board to approve the lists.
At about this time, Mr. Frogue launched into his familiar rant about “wait lists.” “Wait lists, wait lists, wait lists,” he seemed to say. He noted that no business instructors appeared on the lists. He asked if students had had input.
Chancellor Sampson was quick to respond. He assured the board that enrollments and student demand were certainly taken into account in creating the lists. He asked the two Senate presidents to comment. Saddleback’s Maureen Smith explained that a mathematical formula concerning demand, etc., was used early in the process.
Then, Mr. Frogue, surprising no one, demanded “raw meat.” (Or was it “raw data”?) He seemed to suggest that the hiring lists reflected not true need, but a “slant.” As I recall, at some point, Ms. Fortune, too, implied that these hiring lists reflect the desires of those who exert the most influence on the process.
Did they offer any evidence for these suspicions? They did not.
Mr. Frogue was very concerned that five PE hires were on the lists (or Saddleback’s list). John “PE Boy” Williams began to hiss. Smith indicated that, among other things, the list reflected retiree replacements, and that accounted for some apparent oddities.
“I’ve heard,” said Mr. Frogue, that there are PE courses “with 2, 3, 5 students.” (The hissing grew louder.) We should stress class size, he said. He brought up wait lists again.
Thus began the career of the Board Majority’s idée fixe of the evening: WAIT LISTS = HIRING PRIORITIES. The notion metastasized; despite everyone’s efforts, it spread outward and left no survivors.
Eventually, Ms. Hill, the student trustee, weighed in. “I’ve waited sometimes three semesters to get a cornerstone class” in computers, she said.
Ms. Lorch stated that we need to use more of a “productivity model.” (Later, this became a “straight productivity model.”) As things stand, we follow a “program based” model, and, for that reason, we are losing revenue. She said that she did not see “productivity” reflected in the hiring lists. There are long wait lists, she said, for human development classes, and yet no human development instructor is being hired! Thus students will go elsewhere, and we’ll all go to hell in a handbasket.
Mr. Frogue commented that, from the beginning of his long teaching career, he has always been bothered by this talk of a “formula” used to hire new instructors. We need to consider students as more than just a factor in a formula, he said, idiotically. He added that the trustees need to understand the formula that’s being used, for “things have become unglued.”
Chancellor Sampson looked desperate. He noted, lamely, that the trustees’ comments were “appropriate,” that productivity is indeed important. He confessed that he was remiss in not including in his report the elements used—including productivity—in arriving at the lists. He explained that each college had a different way of doing the formulas, but their intent was to respond to productivity concerns. “I think it’s here,” he said. “I just haven’t got it out.”
Ms. Fortune claimed to be quoting former fiscal VC Newmeyer when she proclaimed that if something could not be explained in a paragraph, then something’s wrong. Evidently, she judged that the process by which the hiring lists were determined remained unclear. Showing momentary intelligence, she noted that the issue of class demand does not necessarily imply a need for full-time hires, since part-timers can be used to staff added classes. (I believe that Lorch and Frogue responded to this by forming puddles of drool.) She even commented on the lack of rooms for additional classes. (More drool.)
Mr. Williams then awoke from his dogmatic slumber. He indicated that what he wanted to say had already been said by others. He added, however, that the presence of so many PE instructors on the list reflected the large number of retirees in PE. This was not the only time this night that Mr. Williams and Mr. Frogue seemed to disagree.
It was President Bullock, I believe, who noted that, if we don’t replace the retirees, we will thereby do away with some programs. Earlier, someone had noted the presence of a Fashion instructor on the list and was doubtful; in fact, said Bullock, the Fashion instructor is our last, so if we don’t replace him/her, that’s it for Fashion.
Raghu “the Beav” Mathur asked IVC Academic Senate president Morrison to explain IVC’s list. Peter stated in no uncertain terms that IVC’s list is based on productivity. One element among the considerations was the need to reach the 55% standard. (I believe this refers to the following situation: when the ratio of full-timers to part-timers is below a specific number, the state fines us for being out of compliance.) Peter added that, in arriving at the list, it was left to areas (e.g., Humanities and Languages) to make specific decisions (e.g., Philosophy vs. History). These decisions were examined by the Senate, and if they made sense, we went forward with them.
Saddleback’s Maureen Smith explained that Saddleback is a “comprehensive college.” In fact, Fashion is a vital program. Further, by failing to replace the retiring Fashion instructor, we would end that program, and, she said, you don’t discontinue programs without going through a process.
Ms. Lorch insisted, against all evidence, that she understood the special case of retiring instructors. She now seemed to say that IVC evidently uses a productivity model but, it seems, Saddleback does not. “I am correct, then,” she announced peevishly. Sure enough, somebody isn’t using a “straight productivity model.”
Bullock pointedly reiterated that Saddleback is a “comprehensive college,” and that, therefore, we simply cannot follow a straight productivity model.
Lorch snippily declared that, in pursuing this comprehensive college business, we are doomed to bankruptcy! She fell back into her chair as if to express disgust.
Ms. Miller-White, whose love of fashion is manifest, stated that she had problems with a straight productivity model.
Thereupon Mr. Frogue went into “nut” mode. “Who,” he asked, “has control of the hiring process?” He implied that we don’t always hire the “best and the brightest” because there are people who control the hiring process, and these nasty characters—Communists? Zionists?—make sure that their people get hired.
Frogue was on a nut roll. He launched into his favorite topic: the fate of information as it travels in bureaucracies. He spoke once again of the “universe of information” and “thrice selected samples.” (Mr. Frogue never says anything he hasn’t already said in exactly the same way many times before.) The last time he spoke of these things, he accused administrators of deleting and manufacturing information as it traveled to the board. This time, he seemed to say that the board couldn’t trust the process whereby the hiring lists were assembled. Once again, he demanded raw meat.
“Wait lists, wait lists, wait lists!” he said. And then, a new thought: “I’d like to see a list of class sizes for every teacher in the district!” (You can bet that Mr. Chandos and his friends will soon put a stop to that. I do believe that Mr. C has recently crossed into “negative students” territory.)
The Chancellor gently expressed skepticism of the value of the “class sizes per instructor” list. Perhaps class size lists per area or discipline, he offered. And he was doubtful about this “PE classes with two students” business. Somewhat pointedly, he asked: “What was your expectation [in receiving these lists]?” Did Mr. Frogue expect only Math positions and the like to be on the list?
“Yes,” said Frogue, inspiring laughter. “I need this data to do my job,” he added.
Lorch had evidently used her brief time away from the mike to create a demeanor of utter stupidity and condescension. She now lectured: “We are in a new era.” There is an “industrial revolution in education.” We need to compete with other schools, and that requires being productive. Concerning productivity and its role in the hiring process, she was hearing one thing from IVC, another thing from Saddleback, she said. She just wanted to know whether the colleges were using a “straight productivity model.” “I don’t need more data,” she concluded, once again sinking into her chair with an air of peevitude.
Someone near me muttered that, after 5 1/2 years, Lorch had learned absolutely nothing. Another person just shook his head, saying, “She’s an idiot.”
Not to be outdone, Dot Fortune suggested that what might be happening in these hiring processes is that “the biggest chum” is being hired. Of course, as we all know, there is truth in this. There is truth exactly insofar as we focus upon the subset of hiring processes that involve some of the Board Majority’s supporters among the faculty. Indeed, among that unsavory crowd, the practice of seeking to hire someone you sleep with is not unknown. But never mind.
* * * * *
During public remarks, Jack Drummond, the Frogue-friendly Lariat reporter, spoke on behalf of the similarly deserving Mr. Walker, advisor to the paper. It is not true, said Drummond, that Mr. Walker threw furniture across the room. Blah blah blah, he said.
At that point, the board had heard testimony (a month or two ago) from about a dozen former and current editors of the Lariat, all of whom judged Walker to be doing a strikingly lousy job. Now, upon having heard this solitary dissenting voice, Mr. Frogue proclaimed, “This is what I suspected all along!”
I wanted to burst into peals of laughter. I did, inside. My eyeballs spun.
Mr. Frogue explained that he has known Walker for many years, and he’s a great guy. He said that he wanted to “draw a parallel here.” We see people bent on destroying the reputations of their leaders, using the newspapers to spread lies, and all for selfish ends. Frogue confessed that he never understood that behavior. It is “gang” behavior, said Frogue, and he has always fought against that.
Eventually, Lee Walker spoke “from his heart,” he said. The charges against him are all untrue, he insisted. He said that he would be happy to compare his credentials as a journalist with those of any instructor in the community college system—indeed, in the state university system. After all, he has even taught in the Sudan.
At one point, Walker expressed disappointment that administrators hadn’t come to his defense. “I would think some administrators would stand up to defend me!” he said. For three semesters, said the Walk Man, he has been “brutalized.” Speaking to the board, he said: “I expect you to support me.”
(This is not the first time that Mr. Walker has demanded support in this fashion. He was the Lariat’s advisor many years ago, but when he returned from his epoch-shattering trip to the Sudan, the job had been given to someone else. He thus threatened to resign, but the board pleaded with him to stay.)
Ms. Fortune opined that the attacks against Mr. Walker were “unconscionable.” She noted that none of these students had ever bothered to pursue a written grievance.
Mr. Frogue provided an analysis of the situation. People feel that they own the “vehicle,” the “animal,” he said. Their emotional commitment is so great that they think they own the place.
Somehow, that point inspired Mr. Frogue to denounce the professional reporters (from the LA Times and the OC Register) who had criticized those hapless student reporters who spoke on his behalf during a notorious press conference. It was that old gang behavior again, said Frogue.
“People should be stood up for,” offered the Froguester. “I’ve known Lee for two decades.” He’s a “fine man, a fine teacher.” I detected laughter coming from somewhere in the building.
Frogue concluded by saying that the attacks on Walker were, “un-American” and “disgusting.”
* * * * *
This brought us to the Board members’ reports. Marcia wished Lorch and Hueter well in their “future endeavors.” She also explained that the Irvine Spectrum area will become the “new Silicone Valley.”
Mr. Lang expressed special thanks to Joan Hueter. He congratulated Nancy Padberg and Don Wagner on their recent election victories and expressed hope that they would, as promised, be independent. He also expressed hope that the board would heed the advice of the Accrediting Teams by accepting its policy-making role and ceasing to micromanage.
Mr. Frogue thanked Ms. Lorch profusely, saying that she was “head and shoulders above others” with respect to her knowledge. (No, she’s an idiot.)
He added that, though they often disagreed, he always respected Ms. Hueter. Something tells me the feeling isn’t mutual.
Frogue asked for “extended time” to make his remarks, which were, despite his efforts, bitter and bilious. He has been the subject of two recalls, he said. He feels bad more for the people who pursued them than for himself. They started to believe their own lies, said the Froguester, believing his own lie. He condemned those who play on the fear and ignorance of others. These remarks seemed to be directed to, among others, certain “members of the board.”
He listed some of the officials and institutions that joined the recall effort. But the “people,” he said, rejected the recall “wholesale.” (Well, no.) I may be mistaken, but I believe that he said that those who signed the recall petitions were “stupid.”
At one point, Mr. Frogue displayed cartoons that people had sent him. He seemed especially fond of a cartoon that depicted reporters all drinking from the same toilet bowl. “I beat ‘em with one hand tied behind my back,” said Frogue.
Nevertheless, he added, it is “a time for healing.” He urged the Chancellor to put together a “reconciliation committee.” We should watch to see who refuses to back off from the hostilities—and then we can place blame where it belongs, said the Froguester. Yeah, that’ll promote healing all right.
Ms. Hill said that she learned “how to ask questions” from Ms. Lorch.
Inexplicably, Mr. Frogue interrupted Hill’s report to present John Williams with what appeared to be a broom wrapped in newsprint (issues of the Irvine World News). “I’m supposed to tell you it’s a two-seater,” said Frogue. Williams looked as though he had just been handed a sack of excrement. Everyone else just looked puzzled.
Ms. Lorch, apparently running for office, offered an odd report that referred occasionally to an essay by a part-timer. Lorch seemed to be saying that part-timers are exploited. What had she done about that situation in the last 5 1/2 years?
She closed by urging others to pursue community service. For the community’s sake, I would like to urge her to please stop pursuing community service.
Ms. Fortune blathered about her being unclear whether the reorganization saved money. We never have been able to get a definitive answer from the “fiscal authorities,” she said.
She took a swipe at the Academic Senates, saying that she wanted minutes of their meetings. She said something about wait lists.
Evidently, Dot has just heard about this hot new thing called “distance learning.” Could we have a forum on distance learning? she asked.
“Goo” Mathur’s report was emotional. He explained that things have been tough for him in the last 16 months, but his “faith” has sustained him. At the end of his remarks, he stated, as is his custom, that when one points one’s finger at others, three fingers point right back.
After the reports, item #38 came up for discussion: CLASSIFIED EMPLOYMENT AND STATUS CHANGES. Teddi Lorch seemed to object to the recommendation. After a fairly unpleasant exchange between Bullock and Lorch, the latter stated that “either I was lied to or I don’t get full information. I’m not real happy.”
Chancellor Sampson took Bullock’s side. He seemed to suggest that Lorch’s questions were of such a nature that they should have been asked much earlier in the process. He advised her—and the board—not to pursue issues at this level of detail, at least at this late stage. I seem to recall that Sampson urged the board to focus on issues of policy.
Near the end of the meeting, the issue of “Review of Academic Administrative Evaluation” came up. Peter Morrison pointed out that, according to the Ed code, faculty are to have a role in the evaluation of administrators.
Ms. Fortune simply rejected his point. --BB