Monday, December 7, 1998

THE CLOCK TOWER INCIDENT by Big Bill

[From DISSENT 13, 12/7/98]

[Originally titled:]

THE GOOLAG ARCHIPELAGO—or “HOW THE GOO NEARLY STOLE CHRISTMAS BUT WAS FOILED BY THE PEOPLE OF WHOVILLE” by Big Bill

Chancellor Sampson
Mid-Wednesday afternoon, I began to hear about Mr. Goo’s latest outrage. Reliable sources told me that he had set about to replace and transfer his executive secretary, the recently widowed Ms. B. Naturally, Goo had done this without having discussed the matter with her. Neither had he informed her of his action.

B, the consummate professional, is universally loved and respected at IVC. When word leaked about Goo’s action early Wednesday afternoon, the news spread like wildfire, and by 5 o’clock, it seemed that there was no one on campus who was not aware of the situation. “Something must be done,” people said.

It had already been a grim week at Stalag IVC. We learned that Mathur had informed a popular administrator, the unworshipful Pauline Merry, that her contract would not be renewed; another administrator, similarly unadoring of the Imperial Goo, was issued a letter of reprimand for reasons that made little sense; and yet another administrator was scolded by the Gooster for reasons unknown. As you know, the week before, I had received a letter from Goo objecting to my uttering the phrase “rat bastard” in the A100 building while speaking with friends there. IVC seemed suddenly to be lurching into the final stages of tyranny, and the atmosphere was miasmic. (Well, no.)

* * * * *
The next day, Thursday, I entered the miasma at about 12:20, where I saw three of my colleagues, including Ms. L, huddled in an office in A200. “What’s up?” I asked, though I already guessed. L was furious, of course, about Goo’s latest infamy, and so, she said, she (they?) had hatched a plan according to which all work on campus would cease for fifteen minutes starting at 1:30. Everyone would gather by the Clock Tower and then march right into Goo’s office demanding that, for once, he behave decently. We should not wait to take action, she said. If we waited, it would soon be too late.

At 1:30, I arrived at the designated spot, where a group of fifteen or so people had gathered, but something was amiss. Ms. P was explaining that our Ms. B, though very appreciative of our efforts on her behalf, had asked that we not carry out the plan. We were of course inclined to honor her wishes, but somehow this failed to disperse us. Instead, our group continued to grow, despite the efforts that had already begun across campus to call off the “protest.”

After a few minutes, I went into the nearby A100 building, where I was told that Chancellor Sampson had recently arrived and was speaking with Goo in his office right that minute! I went outside and advised everyone that, if we were going to stand around and discuss things, we really ought to do it where Sampson and his Gooster can see us, and so everyone walked toward the area visible from Goo’s large office window, which looks out onto the Clock Tower. Ms. J insisted that we stand as close to Raghu’s window as possible for maximum effect, and many complied.

At that point, there were perhaps thirty people in the group, which formed an odd queue trailing outward from the window, an arrangement so awkward that dissipation threatened. Someone, however, suggested that we approach Sampson as he exited Goo’s office—an event expected at any minute—to ask him to speak with us about the Ms. B matter or perhaps other matters, and that seemed to halt the disintegration. Someone—Ms. LD—had brought a sign that said “ENOUGH,” and displayed it so that it could not possibly be missed by Sampson and Goo. Others—classified, faculty, students, et al.—continued to join us.

Just before 1:45, J emerged from the A100 building with a faintly foppish Sampson in tow. (One senses that our new Chancellor cares more about his haircut than about, say, the Brown Act.) A circle immediately formed around him while Mathur, the consummate unprofessional, still in his office, scribbled at his desk with his back turned to us. Later, a friend told me that she kept watching him, and he never once turned around.

What happened next was amazing. For the next half hour, as the crowd grew to perhaps sixty (others stood off to the side and watched), Sampson was peppered with challenges from this disparate group of people who nonetheless agreed that we had had enough. At least a dozen people spoke; they spoke eloquently and passionately and unanimously about Mathur’s arbitrary and autocratic ways. It was a proud, if rare, moment in the history of the Goolag.

Sampson, for his part, though not quite unfriendly, consistently expressed dismissal or repudiation of what we were doing and saying, infuriating many in the crowd, who nonetheless remained polite to the end. He seemed to say that our feelings and views were wrongheaded, and he trivialized our concerns. We had taken on the Board and lost, he said, and we needed to recognize that the “Board is the Board.”

IVC’s student newspaper, the Voice, whose office was only fifty yards away, covered the event. In the issue distributed the next day, reporters John Bean and Sam Stimson described the scene as follows:

…Cedric Sampson, district chancellor, came out to address the group. As students looked on, emotional faculty members confronted Sampson on the problems that have been plaguing the district for years.

Sampson defended the actions of Raghu Mathur and the board majority, saying that the demonstrators had no reason to be there. He told the demonstrators that they were in a war, that they had friends and enemies, and that they should remember that.

“You think you’re all aware and enlightened,” Sampson said. “I don’t think you are. You took on the board of trustees. I think there has to be some recognition that the board is the board.”

Sampson said that the board is the board when it has four votes, but that there was no board majority. Several in the crowd of demonstators emphatically disagreed.

“And we call that the tyranny of the majority,” said Traci Fahimi, Political Science Instructor. She said that the system of checks and balances to prevent tyrannical control of the colleges had broken down.


At one point, Sampson, who seems unable to recognize that a knave is a knave, defended Mr. Frogue and his incompetent reasoning according to which we ought to hire English professors, since there exist, in the early days of the semester, long wait lists for English classes. An incredulous Mr. L looked him in the eye and stated, “You know better than that.” As a chancellor, surely he knows that hiring a full-time instructor does nothing to add new sections. Hence, it does nothing to reduce wait lists.

At no point did Sampson acknowledge that this board has repeatedly violated the California Open Meetings Law, that it has violated its own hiring policies, and that the Accrediting Teams were so appalled by the conduct of the Board and its toady, Raghu Mathur, that the Commission is about to smack these people hard upside the head.

* * * * *
Later, a friend speculated that someone had gotten to Sampson—had successfully demonized the IVC critics—for, on this day, the benighted chancellor persisted in speaking to us as though we were the merest of disgruntled knuckleheads who did not know what we were talking about. Among the “unenlightened” who were thus received were several “teachers of the year” and a number of senior employees with sterling reputations for wisdom and reasonableness. These “unaware” persons, and others, consistently rebutted Sampson’s remarks with passionate statements of compelling reason.
But it did not matter. He heard nothing.

Later that evening, a friend who had witnessed the chancellor’s performance called me and confessed to having cried intermittently since the event. “We’re screwed,” she said, pithily. Another friend called and made a similar pronouncement, though she also expressed her pride in her colleagues, who would not put up with Sampson’s specious rhetoric and strained defenses of the indefensible. On Friday, two friends told me that they had had a sleepless night. “Sampson’s as bad as the Board Majority,” said one. “He’s utterly clueless, or he’s a coward who will do anything to keep the Board Majority happy.”

* * * * *
The Clock Tower Incident, as I shall call it, had perhaps one very positive result. By Friday morning, there was talk of an email from Mathur that offered a “clarification” concerning Ms. B’s status. It appears that Ms. B shall remain among us at IVC after all. Friends in A100 tell me that Goo is leaving the impression that he himself had had no role in any processes designed to remove her.

Oh, how they hate him. —BB

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