Tuesday, December 15, 1998

MATHUR’S INFAMOUS “CLAP” AND POINSETTIA EPISODES by Big Bill

From Dissent 14
12/15/98

[Editor: here's a typical factoid re the "conservative Board Majority." The article below refers to Trustee Fortune or "Dot." Fortune eventually resigned from the board amid allegations that she had for some time been living hundreds of miles to the north, in central California.]

This article was originally entitled:

THINGS COMING UNHINGED: THE INCIPIENT CRACKDOWN; CLASSIFIED GET THE “CLAP”; PURLOINED POINSETTIAS; AND MORE!

By Big Bill

clap n. Vulgar Slang 1. Gonorrhea. Often used with the.

Is it just me, or have things finally started to come unhinged around here?

Yesterday (the 9th, I think), I sought to duplicate something for one of my classes but found that the A200 copier was down for repairs. So I ventured into A100—IVC’s Administration Building—to use its copier, but, when I entered, I found that THE PRESIDENT, Raghu P. Mathur, was conducting a bizarre ritual. He stood before a crowd of perhaps thirty people; he said something—“Bla”—and then the audience responded with a single CLAP. Then he said something else—“Bla Bla”—and, again, a single, loud CLAP. These antics pleased him enormously, though his audience seemed disturbed, like that kid who had to hop on Saddam’s lap.

What, I asked myself, could this possibly mean?

Unfortunately, Raghu had chosen to stand on a spot that was only five feet from where I needed to stand in order to run the copier. This meant, of course, that I could use the copier only by sharing the “stage” with Raghu. Worse than that, it meant that I could use the copier only by joining Raghu in his bizarre clapfest, accompanying it with a rhythmic round of Xeroxing.

No matter; I had duplicating to do. So, to the horror, I’m sure, of Raghu and everyone in his audience, I entered, stage right, and commenced Xeroxing, while the clap-a-thon continued. Bla bla. CLAP. Bzzzzz-woosh (copier noise). Bla Bla. CLAP. Bzzzzz-woosh. Bla bla. CLAP. Bzzzzz-woosh. It was like performance art, only stupider.

It gets better. Later, I was told that, minutes before I entered the building, an enthusiastic Raghu had referred to this curious activity as “the Orange County Clap.” Really.

What could the poor man have been thinking?

* * * * *
On Friday, the 4th, I met with Trustee Wagner over coffee. I told him that I had arranged our meeting (Nancy Padberg was also invited), not to lobby him but, rather, to urge him to visit the campuses, getting to know the people who work for the district. It was unfortunate, said I, that some trustees never seem to mix with instructors and classified employees and deans—or at least they never mix with the ones in my building. If only they would speak to us and get to know us, they might actually learn how things work in the district. Such knowledge would preclude all manner of folly, such as groundless suspicions of nefarious intrigues, as were expressed at the last regular board meeting.

Wagner agreed, and so we began to plan his visit with faculty and staff at IVC—maybe on the following Tuesday. It was like we were pals or something. We did high fives and then exchanged dirty jokes. Well, not really.

* * * * *
Later that day, I got a call from a very worried friend. The friend had heard that the board (or was it the chancellor?) was about to lower the boom on me.

Boom lowerage was already in the air, of course, for we had heard that Pauline Merry, our popular VP of Student Services, was about to be canned—or, at any rate, such was the recommendation of our president, Raghu P. Mathur, puppet of the Board Four.

Pauline’s tenure as an administrator during the Mathurian Darkness has been punctuated by her refusals to accede to the Imperial One’s unreasonable demands. When, last summer, Raghu heard a story according to which—get this!—I had “called a student a whore”(!), he instructed Pauline to pursue the matter. She talked with me about it, and I assured her that no such event had occurred. Raghu pressed her to pursue the matter further. “How do I do that?” she asked, for no complaint had been filed, and Pauline had no idea who the student was supposed to be. “Call up Bauer’s students,” suggested Raghu. As anyone with half a brain knows, such inquiries would have been grossly inappropriate. (Imagine the calls: “Uh, has Professor Bauer been callin’ anybody a ‘whore’ lately? A ‘strumpet’ maybe? How ‘bout a ‘trollop’?”) Understanding this, Pauline told Mathur that, no, she would not make the calls. She pursued the matter no further. In the absence of a student complaint, what else could she do?

I have learned, however, that, both in his evaluation of Pauline and in his remarks to the Board during discussion of her contract, Mathur distorted the facts concerning this matter. According to the President, he alerted Pauline that there was a sexual harassment complaint, he instructed her to pursue it, and she refused to do so. Her conduct, thus misdescribed, was among the grounds for her negative evaluation by Mathur. It was also among the grounds for the board’s decision not to renew her contract. (During the Dec. 7 closed session discussion, Mathur’s remarks presupposed that the ‘whore’ incident had actually occurred. But if his complaint against Pauline is that she refused to investigate the matter, on what basis could he assume that the incident occurred? In fact, it did not occur.)

Are others as troubled as I am by the curious pattern of President Mathur’s reprimands, negative evaluations, admonishments, and the like? These things are visited only upon his critics—Kate, Bob, Bill, me, et al.—and those, such as Pauline, who fail to pursue his unprofessional and unseemly directives with enthusiasm. Others, no matter how venal or incompetent, entirely escape the Imperial One’s notice.

Padberg and Wagner—are you listening?

* * * * *
On the 7th, I drove down to Saddleback College for the public comments portion of the 5 o’clock closed session. Earlier, I had asked Pauline what I could do on her behalf. Since Frogue, Fortune, Williams—and, evidently, the Chancellor—view me as the anti-christ, my addressing the board was out of the question. I opted for silently auditing the public comments.

Those who spoke on behalf of Pauline spoke well. The always-marvelous Julie Willard listed Pauline’s many achievements. She was followed by Jerry Rudmann and Peter Morrison. The Irvine World News described the scene as follows:

Peter Morrison…spoke in Merry’s support before the board made its decision.

“On behalf of the faculty, the senate urges the trustees to reject this recommendation, which can do nothing to improve conditions at the college and will in fact inflame a situation that can only be described as deplorable,” said Morrison.

“Dr. Merry is highly regarded by the faculty, and the recommendation for her dismissal is, in our view, not only unwise but unwarranted. The consequences of such an action are certain to be adverse and will yet further polarize the faculty from the administration at the college.”
Jerry Rudmann, director of matriculation with the Student Services Department, presented the trustees with a vote of confidence in Merry by full-time faculty and staff members in the department. Forty-five out of 58 department members voted in the survey, and all supported Merry, Rudmann said. The survey, he said, included a definition of performance including effective leadership, service to students, promotion of student success and transfer compliance to board policies and other regulations seeking funding for student services activities and support for the spirit of shared governance. Participants were asked to vote confidence or no confidence in Merry, he said.

Rudmann, a psychology professor and one of the original 13 full-time faculty members of the college, said he has worked under five vice presidents of student services, including Merry.

“She’s the best. She’s an inspirational leader and has brought all the people in student services together,” he said.


T. Leon Berry of the NAACP also appeared, speaking of a “conspiracy” to remove Pauline.

And that was about it. Harry Parmer shooed us out of the room.

Outside, I ran into a friend who had heard the rumor that the board was “going to get me.” Maybe tonight.

I drove home to take care of my ailing cat, Buster. By then, I half believed—irrationally, I suppose—that, when I returned at 7:00 for the regular board meeting, I would discover that I no longer had a job. I looked at Buster and told him that I don’t need no stinkin’ job. The pragmatic Buster looked back and said, “Oh yes you do.”

DIGRESSION: The Board Meeting: “Dear Heavenly Father”

The regular board meeting started about a half hour late. John Williams, who, owing to his new mustache, looks just like Adolf Hitler, said the prayer: “Dear Heavenly Father,” it beguneth. The room was filled with people, many of whom covered the left and right walls. They weren’t the usual crowd; they prayed in earnest.

Soon, the Trustees held their “organizational” meeting. Fortune was elected President. Padberg was elected Vice President. Wagner was elected Clerk. I think Lang and Milchiker were elected pencil monitors. Hearts sunk. Someone said, “It’s the Board Five.”

The new board hit the ground running. Fortune sought to move up the meetings’ start time to 6:00. Padberg wanted to end all meetings by 11:00. Lang suggested that we return to the accomodating format whereby the public made all of their comments at the start of the meeting. Milchiker and Padberg agreed. Williams, who authored the current, idiotic two-stage public comments innovation, became peevish. He glowered unpleasantly.

Fortune suggested that Board member reports be limited to 3 minutes. Everybody liked that one.

Mr. Wagner explored ways to allow more public seating in the room. Board members converged on the idea that, from now on, the table would seat only the trustees and the chancellor. Everyone else—college presidents included—would sit in the audience with the hoi polloi, the riffraff. I saw smoke coming out of Raghu’s riffraffian ears.

Maureen Smith noted that it is not practical for a Senate President to sit in a chair in the audience cradling a bulky agenda book. President Fortune’s response—“You’ll be dealt with!”—evoked laughter.

Eventually, we returned to the regular board meeting. Closed session actions were announced. I had already guessed that no action had been taken against me, for none of the trustees was afraid to look me in the eye. The news about Pauline wasn’t so good. We learned that the board decided that she should receive a notice of non-renewal of her contract. The vote was 5-2.

More heart sinkage.

Chief Saddleback cop Harry Parmer was made the (Interim?) VC of Human Resources. Someone said, “Harry Parmer? The cop!? Wha?” (At least he’s a nice guy.)

Next, Teddi Lorch was given a plaque, signed by the odious Bill Morrow, which lauded her “fiscal responsibility” and her determination to “downsize administration.” No mention was made of her help in promoting the district’s insolvency and overseeing the district’s placement on the state’s fiscal watch list. Joan Hueter, too, received a plaque, from the California State Assembly.

Williams, the out-going president, also received a plaque. I think it was a turd nailed to a board. The audience seemed unenthusiastic. Williams glowered some more. Meanwhile, Padberg studied the audience like a hawk.

During the first round of public comments, the director of the Emeritus Institute explained that, thanks to the Board’s recent innovations, “things are now a bit fractured.” Speaking of the older students who give to the Foundation, she said, in closing, “they don’t want to be jerked around too much.” Nicely said.

Retiring senior secretary Alice P. started to read a letter that she had sent to the new trustees. It spoke of the “formidable task” faced by the new members in stopping the “decline” of the district and its two colleges. Before she could finish, however, President Fortune reversed herself and decided that Alice’s presentation did not concern an agenda item, and so she was told to siddown until the next opportunity for public remarks.

Kurt English (?), the president of the Orange County Young Republicans, welcomed Mr. Wagner. Apparently, fifteen members of the group had come out to witness Mr. Wagner being installed as trustee.

An absurdly clean-cut young man named Mathew Harper—Trustee elect of the Board that oversees Huntington Beach Union High School—explained that Mr. Wagner had been his inspiration.

The next speaker had evidently been on the search committee that chose Carol Ziehm (sp?) as the new Lariat advisor, replacing Lee Walker. The message: please approve Carol. Later, another speaker made the same plea.

But then Walker spoke. You will recall that, as Lariat faculty advisor, he has essentially destroyed the paper, turned his students against him, and has even inspired the enmity of his union pal, Ken “I only want to teach!” Woodward. The story is that, after the student-reviled Walker announced his imminent retirement, Woodward, Walker’s dean, with the support of President Bullock, acted to find a replacement student advisor. But Walker had a sudden change of heart, and even though a search committee had already identified his replacement—the excellent Carol Ziehm—he now demanded his advisor job back.

His fight, he said, is for full-timer rights!

Classy guy. I kept expecting Ziehm to burst into tears, but she never did.

The Board voted to table the Lariat advisor issue. (An attempt was made to approve Ziehm, but it failed.) This means, I think, that Lee is again the advisor, and Carol Z is left twisting slowly in the wind. Later in the evening, other speakers urged the Board to replace Walker and approve Ziehm, but the Board was unmoved.

The hiring lists issue came up again. In the course of the discussion, a speaker referred to WSCH (weekly student contact hours), a central organizational concept used by administrators. Naturally, Dot Fortune, the President of the Board, asked, “Would you explain what WSCH is?”

“It’s weekly student contact hours,” said someone. Dot looked confused.

John Allen explained the process that yielded Saddleback’s proposed hiring list. Though it is based on objective data, he said, it does have a “subjective element.”

“So there is no formula,” said Dot.

“There is no precise formula,” said John.

During the second round of public remarks, the Walker issue came up again. Josh Prizer seemed to say that, in effect, Walker actually teaches students to break the law and violate journalistic principles.

Carol Ziehm asked the Board to please make up their minds. She is the only care giver of her ailing mother, and she—Carol—needs to know now what she’ll be doing in the spring.

Alice P. read her bezingered letter for the second time. President Dot set her jaw.

During his report, IVC Academic Senate President Peter Morrison described an analysis he had written of Ms. Fortune’s assertions, in an LA Times article, regarding cost savings yielded by the reorganization. Evidently, Morrison’s findings do not support Fortune’s assertions. Whatever cost savings that were achieved by the reorganization, he said, were realized at Saddleback, not IVC.

* * * * *
The next day—the 8th, a Tuesday—I arrived at 10 o’clock in order to show Mr. Wagner around. We started in the Administration Building and then wandered over to A200. Eventually, I took the new Trustee over to B200, where Rich Z was waiting to continue the “tour.”

Wagner’s visit was, by all accounts, a grand success. It was obvious that faculty and classified were more than happy to speak with him, to begin to work with him. It is hoped that he and Ms. Padberg will come to campus often, getting to know the people who make the district work.

Later that afternoon, after my 12:30 class, I was hailed by the VC of Human Resources, who handed me a certified letter. Evidently, the letter, which was dated Dec. 2—only a few days after the appearance of my Register “Guest Column”—had been sent to my old address and then returned. I wondered if Georgiana had driven all the way up to IVC just to hand me the damn thing.

I went to my office and opened it.

It was from the Chancellor. The fellow seems to think that my publications have created a hostile work environment. He encouraged me to seek counseling. Evidently, the letter will go into my personnel file.

Hey! Whatever happened to process? I have never been advised that my publications are creating a “hostile work environment” for anyone. No one has even asked me if I am the editor of the ‘Vine or the Dissent or if I write for those publications. (In fact, one of the remarks cited in the letter by the Chancellor was penned by someone else.) No one has sought to discuss possible changes in the newsletters with me. No one has discussed with me the possible meaning of any elements of my publications. No. Instead, I am suddenly informed that I am creating a hostile work environment and that a letter asserting that “fact” shall be placed in my personnel file. Wow.

My best friend—an attorney—just received the latest issue of California Lawyer. It contains a piece called, “Lawyers who make us go postal.”

Pretty hostile, boy. Sounds just like Bauer. I wonder if Sampson will send the editors of that magazine a reprimand, too? Hope so. They need a good laugh.

* * * * *
Late Thursday, the 10th, everyone seemed to be buzzing about President Mathur’s latest outrage. He had imposed himself on a lunch for classified employees at around noon. Each table held a lovely potted poinsettia. The idea was to give the thing to the classified employee who had been with the district the longest.

Since she had been with the district for nineteen (?) years, classified employee Linda R was identified as the recipient of the plant for her table. But the President—Mr. Raghu P. Mathur—put a stop to that. He announced that he had been with the district for nineteen and one half years, and so, as he left, to the astonishment of everyone, and despite his never having been a classified employee, he took the plant.

“Can you believe it!” people said. “Who does he think he is?” “What next!” Some among the classified staff who had witnessed the infamy offered suggestions as to where Raghu might plant his poinsettia. (Oh, how they hate him.) My inveterate commitment to peace and loveliness precludes saying more.

At about 2:30, I briefly visited a Burrito picnic out by the temporaries that had been arranged by students. Naturally, people were still buzzing about the purloined poinsettia. Then someone appeared holding two plants that he and others had purchased at Ralph’s—poinsettias, of course. A group of about ten faculty and staff—I was told to stay behind by my self-appointed handlers—took the plants and entered the Administration Building. As they walked past the President’s open door, they loudly hailed Linda R and presented her with the replacement plants. Everyone clapped and cheered. Then one of the group halted the applause. “No,” he said. “One clap.”

Then, in unison, loudly: CLAP!

Again, smoke could be seen exiting Raghu’s riffraffian ears. —BB

NARCISSUS by Niles Nemesis (Dissent's "Northern Field Correspondent")

[From Dissent 14, 12/15/98]

This week’s “Mathurian Candidate” column is provided by Niles Nemesis, the Dissent’s Northern Field Correspondent, who tossed me a hand-written manuscript that looked as though it were scribbled by a doctor. Thanks Niles.

[ORIGINAL TITLE:]
THE MATHURIAN CANDIDATE: Poinsettias, Poinsettias, Who Stole My Poinsettias? (And whatever happened to my strawberries!) by Niles Nemesis, Northern Field Correspondent

The latest antics of our President [MATHUR] have filtered north, where they were widely met with a collective shoulder shrug. It seems that his highness behaves so consistently shamelessly, that even outrageous actions are unsurprising. What I am referring to, of course, is the recent “Poinsettia episode” at IVC classified staff’s holiday event.

In case you haven’t heard, our beloved leader crashed the party, insisted on delivering a seasoned message (“We really don’t think of you as [second class citizens]!”), and snatched the holiday centerpiece—a beautiful poinsettia—from a senior classified staff member by pulling a “six months seniority in the district” card to trump the astonished throng. Never mind that this was a party conducted to celebrate the fine work of classified staff. Never mind that he wasn’t even invited (a conscious decision). And never mind that the purpose of the “contest” to award the table centerpieces was to acknowledge and honor our most senior classified staff members. In the Magoo universe, all celestial objects revolve around him in Ptolemaic perfection.

As I pondered this latest news item, I was reminded of a scholarly article I discovered while browsing the web for an unrelated piece I’m writing. Entitled “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Re-Visited,” author Sam Vaknin, Ph.D., offers a thoughtful and detailed description of the symptoms and diagnostic criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The intended audience is psychiatrists and psychologists practicing in a clinical setting.

While I am certainly personally unqualified to render a medical assessment, I was struck in reading the article with the uncanny parallel (in my humble opinion) between the behaviors of the NPD individual and those of You Know Who.

Dr. Vaknin writes that the patient suffering from NPD exhibits “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following (symptoms).”

He continues, “(The NPD patient)

1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements),

2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or [ideal] love,

3. believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions),

4. requires excessive admiration,

5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations,

6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends,

7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others,

8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her, AND

9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

Hey, I think we’re on to something here!

Dr. Vaknin emphasizes that, contrary to popular conception, the narcissist is not in love with himself, he is in love with his reflection. In other words, unlike healthy individuals who have an adaptive and functional self-image, the narcissist demands a reflection from others to produce the effect of self-love. Another critical [aspect] is the absence of a “compass” or objective and realistic “yardstick” by which to judge the authenticity of the reflection. Vaknin continues, “The popular misconception is that narcissists love themselves. (However), they direct their love to second-hand impressions of themselves in the eyes of beholders. (And) love is interchangeable with other emotions, such as awe, respect, admiration, even mere attention. An image which would yield these reactions in others would be ‘lovable and loved’ (by) the narcissist. The more successful this image is, the more the narcissist becomes divorced from his true self and married to the image. (He) consumes his mental energy incessantly in this process. His soul is fortified and in the solace of this newly found fortification, he guards his territory jealously and fiercely.” Wow!

Vaknin goes on to explain that the narcissist has an unrealistic and inflated self-worth and feels that he deserves whatever he gets from others. Actually, he often feels betrayed and underprivileged because he always feels that he doesn’t get enough. This status is bestowed upon him not by virtue of his achievements or special biography, but because he exists—his mere existence is sufficiently unique to warrant the treatment he demands. I’m reminded that our case history is of a man who confided to a former vice president (with a straight face, mind you) that God wanted him to be IVC’s president!

Vaknin concludes with the following observations:

1. clinical data do not support any realistic basis for the narcissist’s notion of greatness and uniqueness,

2. narcissists are ridiculously pompous and inflated personalities, bordering on parody,

3. narcissists are “forced” to use others to validate their existence,

4. narcissists are unscrupulous in their conduct and are oblivious to the pain they inflict on others and the social condemnation and sanctions they endure in return,

5. narcissists mediate every shred of criticism and disapproval as a withholding of the obligatory admiration of others and as a threat to the very cohesion of self,

6. narcissists must condition their environment to refrain from expressions of criticism and disapproval. They must teach others that to do so will only provoke “justifiable” fits of temper and rage. Others are to blame for the narcissist’s behavior, since they have provoked him and must be penalized accordingly.


Prophetically, Vaknin’s last lines read, “There emerges a portrait of a monster, a ruthless and exploitative person. Inside, the Narcissist suffers chronic lack of confidence and dissatisfaction.”

Better watch out! If five or more of the NPD symptoms signal the pathology, then we have the prototypic exemplar in our midst. —NN

EIGHTY POUNDS OF CHAIRMAN MAO by Red Emma

[From Dissent 14, 12/15/98]

“He always hurries to the main event and whisks his audience into the middle of things as though they knew already.”

--Horace

Writing an occasional column for and about part-timer instructors raises interesting existential problems pertaining to audience, this due in no small part to the nearly inestimable layers of full-time irony available in our divisive environment. To Horace’s critique of overeager dramatization, Red pleads guilty. Whisking is in fact a concern Red often explores with his beginning composition students, sitting in the Humanities Center on a Friday morning. To whom, I ask them, are you writing? What kind of readers? What do they know? What do they imagine? Who, finally, are they? Predictable political riddles often evolve from these queries, often paralleling that curious puzzler offered by newly elected SOCCCD Trustee David Wagner’s confusion over why a union local would actively support him, a rabid anti-unionist backed by the reactionary Christian Coalition and the Education Alliance.

Distance Learning Update: Sitting behind the desk at the Humanities Center last Friday morning, Red Emma observed the following: at about eleven thirty, soon-to-be ex-VP Pauline Merry arrived with, of all people, newly elected Trustee Nancy Padberg in tow. Merry seemed to wear on her face the official smile required of her position, though Red Emma sensed an effort on her part to disguise what must have felt like having a small knife stuck in her skull. “Hi, Pauline,” offered Red Emma cheerily, sensing a perhaps singular opportunity to congratulate Ms. P. on her election and ask her my own funny puzzler about politics. On a televised debate, Padberg, you may recall, offered voters complete bewilderment re Frogue as her campaign’s defining platform point. Perhaps wisely, Ms. Merry steered Padberg away from your profoundly untenured part-time Ace Reporter and shuttled Trustee Padberg instead over to an admirably restrained senior faculty member who, although deeply involved with a student, was forced to shake Nancy’s hand and smile demurely. From a distance of only ten or twelve feet, Emma learned yet another important lesson about audience: an observer of this little scene might have seen nothing at all to suggest the staggering drama transpiring, yet all four players (Pauline with knife in her head, your glib red reporter, senior faculty shooting darts from her eyes, and Padberg as Garcia-Marquez’s General) understood completely the purpose of the spectacle. In short, you cannot make this stuff up.

Though Red Emma has in recent weeks delivered various provocative membership appeals in Adjunct Faculty mail boxes, only God and Ray Chandos know for sure what’s resulted from this effort, a campaign completely unaffiliated with the local. An urgent telephone call from CTA/CCA suggested “somebody complained” that the incorrect membership application form had been offered for processing. Upon double-checking with HQ, Red Emma confirmed this complaint to be baseless. However, in his continuing effort to locate his actual audience, Red Emma requested and soon received by mail a packet of different membership applications, these shiny brochures featuring a fetching group color photograph of either the King Family or typical union members, prominently displayed among them “President for Life” Sherry Miller-White.

Although recently promised a list of active part-time local members, Red Emma can only guess that perhaps a half-dozen of you have responded. Please let me know if you’ve joined, attempted to join, or met any obstacles in joining. My phone number is (949) 497-8776. Ask for Red. Adjunct faculty union members should be aware that nominations for Rep Council and Alternate are open through January 6 for both IVC and Saddleback—one Rep from each campus. Red Emma nominated himself immediately and, thanks to management of the election by the CTA Board Saddleback Team, received hand-written confirmation of his candidacy within days, a response unheard of in the annals of the current local leadership’s election protocol.

Finally, there goes the neighborhood: Chile’s most unlikely export sits in a shabby manor outside London, upsetting the locals. For those of you unable to make the trip to the despot’s winter retreat, don’t overlook the General’s political and spiritual sponsor’s permanent residence in Yorba Linda. The Nixon Museum offers “Wassail Wednesdays” all month long and—be still my anarchist heart—Bruce Herschensohn’s “special” lecture. Disappointingly, the General, beneficiary of RN’s CIA largesse, is noticeably absent in the life-size convocation of world leaders assembled in the library rotunda. Also absent are statues of the Shah of Iran, Franco, Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier. You say you’re struggling to find a fun holiday family outing? A jolly docent bragged to me over the telephone that the bronze statues weren’t really bronze at all, just papier-mache and epoxy sprayed with paint. “They only look like bronze. Why,” she explained, “Chairman Mao only weighs about eighty pounds!” —R.E.

"ENOUGH!" by Rebel Girl

From Dissent 14. Originally entitled:

Rebel Girl Says: “Basta!”—Or Tales of “Bad” Behavior and Nobel Prize Winners

Rebel Girl knows a demonstration when she sees one. And at 1:30, on Thursday December 3, Rebel Girl saw one at Irvine Valley College. All parties involved stood in the shadow of the IVC clock tower, in an odd snake-like formation, beginning at the perimeter of the A-Quad and leading to the large floor to ceiling tinted window of the august IVC presidential office in nearby A-100.

Rebel Girl knows that every demonstration needs props (related to propaganda, from the Latin for propagate or to spread)—how else to communicate a message to the masses? So while concerned faculty and staff arranged themselves in an impressive conga line, Rebel Girl ran to her faculty office and located a half-sheet of poster board stashed between the wall and a bookcase for just such an occasion. The placard was, she decided, large enough for just one word. But, she wondered, what single word would best communicate the nature of the crisis? Granted, one particular event had galvanized the crowd forming outside the President’s office window, but the incident had not occurred in a vacuum. No. During the last months, indeed the last week, conditions at the little college in the shrinking orange groves had worsened. Withheld accreditation reports, reprimands, curious summonings of a select few for Presidential audiences and now, a rumored transfer of beloved staff member. What single word would best capture both the current miscarriage and the parade of past injustice?

That was a tough one.

Rebel Girl is a seasoned veteran of demonstrations. She cut her activist teeth in the 80’s, when Ronald Reagan championed “constructive engagement” with South Africa and Rebel Girl learned how to spell “Apartheid” and “Free Mandela” and was a regular, if unwelcome, visitor to the South African embassy, located on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles. She marched, she chanted, she sat down, she stood in groups. Together with a lot of other people, she made noisy demands. Free Mandela. Free South Africa. She was told, by many people, that none of this made any difference. —By President Bonzo. By the media. By her family. Indeed, she was informed, not only was her behavior foolish, it was embarrassing, uncivil, extreme. It would amount to nothing.

But Rebel Girl knew her history.

Thirty years earlier, another black man languished in jail. Rebel Girl read the letter he composed during his incarceration. It was written in response to criticism received from his colleagues, fellow clergymen who did not approve of the activities that had landed him in jail. The critics called his actions “unwise and untimely.” They deplored the campaign of demonstrations and marches he led. They asked the question, “Isn’t negotiation a better path?” They counseled “patience” and “moderation.”

The jailed letter writer pointed out that his critics deplored the demonstrations taking place—but not the conditions that brought them about. He answered the questions “Why direct action? Why not negotiation?” by pointing out negotiation is “the very purpose of direct action.” Indeed such action “seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Then, in 1990, Rebel Girl was part of the audience that greeted a recently freed Nelson Mandela in the LA Coliseum. Had her actions, her noisy and outrageous demands, and the same behavior by others across the globe made a difference? Nelson Mandela himself said they had, citing the student movement in Los Angeles for special recognition.

Years later, in her cluttered office, the crowd of tension makers outside growing by the minute, Rebel Girl decided what exact word would serve. Six letters, plus the ubiquitous exclamation point. Rebel Girl, an English professor, generally frowns on overuse of exclamation points. The practice is, she feels, often used to make an argument more convincing or to add force to a weak statement (witness the recent spate of exclamatory official emails clogging our virtual mailboxes). Rebel Girl agrees with her associates in the English department that emphasis is better provided through word choice, sentence structure, and reasoning. However, this occasion was, after all, a demonstration, or as they say below the US border, a manifestacion, a term Rebel Girl thinks is a more accurate description of the true spirit of the activity. In such cases, deploying exclamation points is appropriate.

Finished, she returned to the clock tower picket with her sign. It was well received and passed along from one hand to another until it reached the window glass, where it was pressed so all inside could see it. Our message?

Enough!

Rebel Girl invokes the proud legacy of direct action, of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela and countless others who learned the lesson that, as King wrote, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” She invokes this tradition because she was forced to reconsider it in light of the recent manifestacion.

Shortly after the sign was affixed to the window by willing hands, the Chancellor [Samson] concluded his meeting with the President. Intercepted by Ms. J, the Chancellor was steered toward our group, which promptly surrounded him. Accounts of what followed have appeared previously in Dissent and the Irvine World News Weekender, so Rebel Girl will not bore her readers with transcripts of the passionate speeches and entreaties made by some in the crowd, which numbered at this point perhaps fifty. Instead, Rebel Girl will focus on what disturbed her most about this encounter.

The Chancellor cast his eyes upon us and declared that this assembly was no way to conduct business. He did not respect the angry and fearful people surrounding him. He felt that our assembly was, in the words of the clerical critics from 1963, “unwise and untimely.” He counseled moderation. He called us extreme. He exclaimed at one point, with obvious disdain, “Look at you!,” the implication being that had we the ability to see ourselves at that moment, we would be as repulsed as he was. Before excusing himself, he pointedly reminded us that we had no power.

Rebel Girl is, of course, paraphrasing here, but she has checked her account with others in attendance and they agree that her characterization of the Chancellor’s remarks seems faithful enough. Rebel Girl is, however, more than willing to revise or retract her account if the Chancellor wants to suggest that he did indeed respect the gathering, that he understood that these were, indeed, people of good faith gathered to express their outrage over yet another pending outrage, people who felt that all other channels had been exhausted and they had little choice but to stand, on a cold day, in front of the office window of the college president—who, tellingly, kept his back to them for the demonstration’s duration.

The Chancellor’s reaction reminds Rebel Girl of a similar response—this one generated from Steven Frogue. Some months ago, Rebel Girl’s alter ego authored an essay for the O.C. edition of the Los Angeles Times. The essay discussed the efficacy of recall efforts in general and the Frogue recall campaign specifically. Two weeks later, Frogue responded with a letter to the editor, in which he attacked the author: “One would have to see her screaming and chanting at a Board of Trustees meeting to be reminded of the old adage, ‘One may smile and smile and yet a villain be.’”

Rebel Girl sees nothing shameful (or villainous) about indictments of “chanting” and “screaming”—though she remembers doing so at only two of dozens of Board meetings the Rebellious One has attended. Like exclamation points, Rebel Girl advises using chanting and screaming sparingly, only when the situation truly warrants it. Other than the two occasions, Rebel Girl believes that her deportment at Board meetings is exemplary. When possible, she sits, listening, quietly grades papers.

Of course, with her “screaming and chanting,” she is participating in a process older than the Boston Tea Party, a process of which Frogue, a history teacher, perhaps “the best history teacher...in the country” according to him, might be aware. It’s a tradition that helped abolish slavery, establish women’s suffrage (Rebel Girls all!); end child labor, gain workers’ rights and, yes, as in the case of the misbehaving man in the Birmingham jail, advance civil rights. Of course, Rebel Girl knows that the problems of a little community college district in this county don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world, nor do they compare in deed to other infinitely more risky and necessary battles. Or do they? An injustice somewhere is an injustice everywhere.

Rebel Girl very much likes her sign. She has returned it to her office and stashed it between the wall and the bookcase. It will be there to be used when needed. Upon reflection, she realizes the sign sports an all-purpose go-anywhere kind of message. She’s considering retiring her gallery of aging placards and relying solely on this one in the future. Short, simple, to the point, no matter who you direct it at: college president or chancellor; corporate exploiter or union-buster; developer or polluter; white supremacist or fervent nationalist; Bill Clinton or the House Judiciary Committee; Augusto Pinochet or Slobodon Milsosevic. Enough already. Enough! --RG

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