SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES: THE DECEMBER 13 BOARD MEETING by Chunk Wheeler
“I never go to church; kneeling bags my nylons.”
From [Billy Wilder’s] Ace in the Hole, 1951
DECEMBER 13: I arrived at Library 105 just after 6:00 p.m. and, for once, I found that the room was packed. Why? Lee Walker, dressed as an American Revolutionary, was busy organizing something. But what?
All the seats had been taken, and so I leaned against the right-hand wall near the main door. After several minutes, I looked to my left: Lee, now strapped to a drum, had settled in the doorway. I regarded him. He regarded me. I said, “Nice drum, Lee.”
Right about then, the audience thrilled as one of the videocamera operators initiated an impressive TV studio-style countdown, culminating in the point of a finger at Dorothy Fortune, who then spoke to all the lovely voters out there in the dark. She explained that a group known as the “Sons of the Revolution” would help us to celebrate the 200th anniversary of George “Worshington’s” death. That was Lee’s group.
The lights dimmed; then four of the Sons, including two musketeers, marched the colors up the left aisle. Meanwhile, Lee, along with a bugler and a fifist, tooted stoically up the right aisle. When they reached the back of the room, Lee played his drum. Then a woman warbled the national anthem. Trustee Padberg said something about “honoring our war dead”; this was followed by a moment of silence.
Boy, it was one damn thing after another.
Next, John Williams led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Naturally, this was followed by a brief address from the “great great grandson of Francis Scott Key.” The fellow spoke warmly of the Father of Our Country, highlighting his military victories. He neglected to mention our national Dad’s vast slave holdings or his questionable abilities as a military commander. In general, the evening’s anniversary “activities” presupposed a Disneyesque take on American history--a Goofy history.
Suddenly, a Gold Star mother stood behind the podium to read a “poem.” It said that it is the soldier, not the “campus organizer” or the “reporter,” who ensures our liberties. Thanks to brave American fighting men, it continued, those darned campus protestors are free to “burn the flag.”
One suspects that, if it were up to this Gold Star mom, flag burners would be skinned alive. Trustees nodded and smiled approvingly.
Next, a student, doing an impression of Henry Gibson, got up and said, simply, “George Washington,” whereupon he recited five or so bowdlerized factoids about “the Father of Our Country.” Williams and Frogue took notes.
President Fortune attempted to say something: “Now we will have”--SQUONK! Apparently, the bugler, having studied Dot for several minutes, decided it was time for “Taps.” He spewed the tune all over the back of Marcia Milchiker’s head; the latter, plus its owner, fled to the wings. When the horn emitted a breathtakingly sour note, everyone thought: “F Troop!”
After Taps, one of the Sons took command. “Skirt the obstacle! March!”, he barked, and the color guard tramped back down the left aisle. Meanwhile, the Lee Walker Trio tramped down the right aisle. No one was surprised when the strap of Lee’s drum caught one of the legs of a video camera, briefly offering the hope of a dramatic and expensive faux pas. Alas, Lee managed to extricate himself and soon caught up with his pals, who, in typical American Revolutionary fashion, had deserted, leaving Lee to fight the camera leg alone.
Pam Zanelli, her brain a needle in her haystack head, preserved the moment on film. I think Lee looked up and said “cheese.” Then, as Lee marched under my nose, I briefly met the glances of the two senate presidents, who, judging by their wild eyes, were either very ill or much amused.
When it was clear that the Sons of the Revolution had finished their performance, the audience simply got up and left, taking no notice whatsoever of the board meeting that struggled to continue in the background. After all, they had come for flag-waving and protester-bashing, and that was now over. Why stay for the actual meeting? Why would anyone do that?
A year of Miss Fortune
The board clerk, Mr. Wagner, read out the board’s closed session actions: Glenn Roquemore, an IVC geology instructor and Mathurian crony who, despite an almost total lack of administrative experience (he had been a school chair for two months), was appointed Acting VP of Instruction two years ago, was now appointed as permanent dean of Advanced Technology, a role, naturally, for which he is not even remotely qualified. (Also, a man named Deshazer, I think, was appointed the assistant director of something.)
Next, in another exercise in bowdlerization, Dot listed the board’s alleged achievements under her presidency. The first of these was the televising of board meetings, an act which, she said, “expresses” the board’s “openness.” (I wondered what its “persistent and defiant” violations of open meeting laws expresses?)
Meetings, she said, have been productive. Plus board members are now dedicated to “civility and respect,” and they’ve “stayed on point.” Trustees, she added, asked for reports—for instance, they requested an accounting of faculty “release time,” which led to a cap on release time expenditures that, she insisted, saved the district big money.
Dot failed to mention the $127,000 the district spent on its own attorneys unsuccessfully defending El Ced when he violated the Constitutional rights of a certain philosophy instructor. (Eventually, the district will have to pay his attorney, too, though they seem to imagine otherwise.) And what about the huge legal costs incurred in Brown Act II, which the district lost? And the legal expenses incurred defending the district’s unconstitutional speech and advocacy policy?
The board, she said, has tried to improve its relationship with the faculty, even scheduling a “prayer breakfast.” Dot forgot to mention that only one instructor showed for the prayer breakfast, and the board’s relationship with that guy was already pretty good.
Evidently striving for maximum irony, she added that the board has worked to increase “accountability.”
Hiring processes for administrative positions, she noted, have yielded the “best candidates” rather than the “in house” crowd. That remark was mighty strange in view of Glenn Roquemore’s appointment a few seconds earlier. And what about Armando Ruiz’s appointment? Wasn’t he “in house”? And how does all this “best candidate” guff square with the fact that almost no one is applying for SOCCCD administrative openings? And why did Patricia Spencer, IVC VP of I, flee to Fullerton College after only one semester?
At the end of her account of board achievements, Dot expressed relief that she could now remove the “cross” of the board presidency from her shoulders.
Yeah. Everyone else was pretty goddam relieved, too.
An uncivil action
Next came the organizational meeting, the chief task of which was the appointment of officers for the coming year. Trustee Frogue explained that he had witnessed Nancy Padberg’s performance as vice president over the past year and was therefore pleased as punch to be able to nominate her for the presidency. She was the only nominee.
Evidently relying on intuition, Dot dispensed with a formal vote and declared that Padberg was elected “by acclamation.” She then handed the gavel to Padberg, saying, “It’s in your hands.” That was Padberg’s cue: she walked over to a bag behind the table and pulled out an ugly brown plaque to which a wooden gavel was afixed. She handed the thing to Dot, who yanked the gavel from its mounting and said, “This is very handy.”
Next, Don Wagner was elected vice president—again, “by acclamation.” That left only the office of the clerk. Marcia, who has held every board office, nominated Dave Lang, who, despite his three years on the board (two more than Padberg or Wagner), has held no board office. No doubt she refrained from nominating Dave for the higher offices because they are powerful, and the Board Majority will not share power.
Marcia noted some of Dave’s virtues. Then she expressed her quite reasonable belief in the rotation of offices among trustees. It was high time, she said, for Lang to “become an officer,” even if that office was only clerk. Surely she was right.
Fortune, Williams, Padberg, Wagner, and Frogue were unmoved by Marcia’s plea. Indeed, they simply ignored it. Amazingly, without discussion, they made Mr. Frogue, who has already held various offices, the new clerk on a 5-2 vote.
It was a clean sweep for the Board Majority.
It was also a nadir of board “civility and respect.”
When, a few days later, the board meeting was broadcast, TV audiences saw none of this. In the broadcast, after Wagner’s election “by acclamation,” the screen fades to black, and the following message is displayed: “Due to a loss of video during the taping of this meeting, the election of Steven J. Frogue as Clerk of the Board was not recorded. He was elected in a 6-1 [sic] vote.”
How’s that for “openness”?
The snubbing incident seemed to anger Marcia. She spent the rest of the evening voting against Board Majority initiatives and sniping at Miss Fortune.
During the break, I asked the student trustee why she had failed to vote for Lang for clerk. She said, “Well, I talked to Dave. He didn’t seem interested.” “Yeah,” I said, “but Frogue’s a Nazi.”
That, of course, was only a joke, a poor one. Still, Frogue never repudiated the support he received from hard-core neo-Nazis and racists (such as Joe Fields and George Kadar) in the days following his Michael Collins Piper “seminar” fiasco. Frogue’s friend Piper, of course, works for Willis Carto, who, in a sworn deposition in 1979, acknowledged that he embraces the tenets of Francis Parker Yockey’s “Proclamation of London,” a document which advocated the expulsion of Jews from Europe. Carto, publisher of the anti-semitic The Spotlight (one of Frogue’s favorite publications) and founder of the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review (one of Frogue’s favorite organizations), has reprinted Yockey’s infamous book, Imperium—The Philosophy of History and Politics, which is dedicated to—you guessed it!—Adolf Hitler. But I digress.
Lip buttoning & gratuitous prize-giving
When the meeting reconvened, the trustees tackled more “organizational” issues. Wagner urged the board to hold more meetings at IVC, but Dot demurred, saying that Wagner’s proposal—to hold every third meeting at IVC—was “a little excessive.” She asserted that Irvine meetings burden the staff. Marcia responded by saying, “I appreciate that Dorothy Fortune thinks she knows everything,” but on what basis was she making these assertions?
In the end, Wagner prevailed—mostly, I think, because IVC’s Raghu P. Mathur, who never misses an opportunity to enhance his importance, enthusiastically supported the initiative.
Somehow, Study Abroad came up. Dot, who has consistently expressed contempt for such programs (she once referred to the Costa Rica program as a “surf party”), had authored an amendment, just then provided, which, in Marcia’s mind, expressed Dot’s unreasoned animus. It would be a “courtesy,” said Marcia, taking a swipe at Dot, to be provided such documents in a more timely fashion. “I think that the intent of this is to inhibit the Study Abroad Program,” she added. Frick and Frack immediately came to Dot’s defense.
Soon, there was a discussion about the length of time permitted for trustee reports. About four years ago, in an attempt to rein in Mr. Frogue (who then devoted much board time to rants against the Anti-Defamation League, the boogeyman of choice among American anti-Semites), trustee reports were limited to 5 minutes. A year ago, they were limited further, to three minutes, an action the Froguester, who loves nothing more than to hear himself speak, opposed. This night, Dot, who was ready for her closeup, sought to limit reports to one minute. We need to “button our lip a bit,” said Dot. Well, she does, anyway. No one supported her. In the end, a more moderate “two minute” proposal passed.
The organizational stuff seemed to go on forever. When it finished, we returned to the regular meeting, and president Padberg asked whether there were any requests for public comments. There were none. Later, there were no reports from the Academic senates, or the student government officers, or the unions. Yeah. What would be the point?
Next, a resolution praising Mr. Armando R. Ruiz for his “outstanding leadership since 1989” was read aloud. I have found no one who has worked with Ruiz who has much good to say about him. On the other hand, he’s willing to play ball with Mathur and his BM patrons. Hence, the prize. They’re grooming him for something.
Raghu P. Mathur offered a few feeble words of praise for Armando: “reliable,” “trustworthy.” Armando smiled so hard, it looked like his face might split. He spent about a half hour shaking every hand in the room.
A very special Christmas party
Eventually, the trustees gave their reports. Padberg said she attended a “Graucho Banquet,” I think. Must be where everybody dresses up as one of the Marx Brothers. She wished everyone a happy holiday. The student trustee had no report. “Finals,” she said.
Williams, looking staunch while humming a Disney tune, reported that he went to the “Feast of Lights” concert and raised money for football by playing golf. He said something about getting a “hole in his head,” I think. Good honesty. But why does he persist in dying his hair a nasty shade of “Hitler” brown?
In her report, Dot referred to a Christmas party, which occurred on the previous Friday at Don Wagner’s place. I later learned that the faculty’s representatives—the academic senate presidents—were not invited. The party, said Dot, was an attempt to bring together board members and district administrators. Faculty didn’t figure in.
But, in fact, some faculty were invited—people like Sharon MacMillan and Lee Walker. Those two, or course, are members of the union’s Old Guard—the faculty group that, despite howls of protest from the rank and file, used tens of thousands of union dollars to help get Fortune, Williams, Frogue, Padberg, and Wagner elected.
Wagner, looking sheepish, had nothing much to report.
Frogue thanked Dot for a “fine and productive year.” He reported that he had attended an IVC ASG meeting plus a Christian Club Bible Study meeting, the “highlight of my week.” He also attended the Global Humanitarian Club’s showing of a “heart-rending film” on child soldiers. He explained that an application to join the “Sons of the Revolution” has been sitting on his desk for 28 years, and, soon, garshdarnit, he will submit it. Frogue will fit right in. Maybe his pal Piper can come along and play a Hessian.
Marcia reported attending a performance of the IVC Wind Ensemble. Perhaps for Frogue’s benefit, she mentioned the ADL “man of the year,” who, because his children attend Saddleback College, called her and expressed concerns about our colleges’ accrediting status. Just as her two minutes ran out, Marcia, amid efforts by Padberg to shut her up, closed by saying: “I’m appalled and astounded and furious at the letter that was sent out to the U.S. Department of Education—that I never got.”
Dave Lang, alluding to the party, thanked the Wagners for their hospitality and wished everyone a happy holiday.
As usual, Sampson, Bullock, and Mathur had nothing to say. Mathur, who, for once, refrained from referring to his “goose pimples,” yammered about a $20K challenge grant to help open a multicultural center for which matching funds have been found. “Multiculturalism” at IVC: that’s when you arrange screenings of “The King and I.” Really.
Cedric’s Big Adventure
Eventually, we got to the Chancellor’s items on the agenda. Item 26 concerned a proposal, by the Chancellor, to revise board policy 2100.1—“delegation of authority to the academic senate.”
On Nov. 27, a Times article reported the following:
The faculty senates at Irvine Valley and Saddleback colleges vow to fight—in court, if necessary—a suggested policy change aimed at reducing their power and giving the Board of Trustees more say over academic matters...Sampson’s recommendation would change the senates’ role from “authority over” academic and professional matters to “responsibility for advising the board” on those matters...“The board felt it delegated too much authority to the faculties and it needs to clarify and correct some of the policies,” Sampson said...According to Sampson, the wording change would bring the board policy more in line with state regulations...Peter Morrison, senate president at Irvine Valley, disputes Sampson’s reasoning: “The board policy is exactly in compliance with [state] regulations.”
(The article cites the “soccer” issue at Saddleback as an example of the board’s failure to accept senate recommendations. I’m told that one dean took the faculty’s side in this particular dispute [Robinson]. Guess what? A few weeks ago, his administrative contract was not renewed.)
If you’ve been reading your Dissent, you know that Peter is right. Dissent 38 reprinted the language of board policy 2100.1 and Title V, section 53203. These documents make clear that Sampson’s (reported) assertion—that 2100.1 is in some sense out of compliance with Title V—is erroneous. Title V states that “the governing board” may elect “to rely primarily upon the advice and judgment of the academic senate.” Our board policy says that the “governing board...will rely primarily upon the advice and judgment of the academic senates.” As usual, Sampson doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Incidentally, the board has engaged in persistent and defiant violations of Title V, section 53203. The latter says that, when the board elects to rely primarily on the senate, “the recommendations of the senate will normally be accepted...If a recommendation is not accepted, the governing board or its designee, upon request of the academic senate, shall promptly communicate its reasons in writing to the academic senate.” Accordingly, our board policy states, “If a recommendation of the senate is not accepted, the governing board or its designee will promptly communicate its reasons in writing.” But, as I understand it, on several occasions, the board has failed to accept the senate’s recommendations (on matters over which it is given authority by BP2100.1). Then the board has failed to provide the required reasons in writing.
On the 13th, Sampson announced that he will soon recommend this change to lessen the Senates’ authority. He also said that he will seek the consent or agreement of the faculty senates. If, however, the senates don’t agree to the change, said Sampson, the board can make the change unilaterally.
In fact, however, the board has no such authority. This is made clear by the existing board policy, which states: “This policy is a mutual agreement between the governing board and the academic senates and may be modified upon mutual consent of the parties.” It mentions no exception to this requirement.
During the meeting, Sampson ignored our own board policy and drew the board’s attention instead to an “exception clause” in Title V, which gives to the board the right, under special circumstances, to make a unilateral decision. According to Title V, the board can indeed make a unilateral decision--when the status quo “exposes the district to legal liability or causes substantial fiscal hardship”--but only after it has made a “good faith” effort to “reach agreement” with the senate. Sampson, winking and purring through his nose, argued that it is the board’s prerogative to judge whether these exigent conditions obtain; thus, if it so judges, it can make a change unilaterally.
There are three flaws in this reasoning. First, no such exigent conditions obtain. Second, the Title V exception clause refers, not to board/senate disagreement over the policy itself, but disagreement over “policies and procedures on academic and professional matters”—such as whether to have a soccer program. Third, and most importantly, Sampson is ignoring our existing board policy, which expressly prohibits a unilateral change of 21001.1 by the board, and which, as a definition of senate rights agreed to by the board itself, is not voided by the language in Title V, with which it is not in conflict.
Here’s what was actually said during the discussion of item 26:
SAMPSON: This item is before you today simply for notice that I will be making future recommendations in regard to this board policy. What occurred is that I brought this up for discussion in the chancellor’s cabinet, and it became something of notice to the press, and there were several articles about it in the press, and I had not brought it to the board for your attention until it was my plan to have had it discussed in the cabinet. However, because it is an item of public notice now, I’d like you to take this under advisement...[He discusses the content of the packet he has given to trustees.]
In dealing with the Accreditation process and the many comments about shared governance in our district—that it is not understood and there is confusion about faculty roles—I’ve identified this policy as the center of the problem and something that the board needs to devote some time and attention to possible modification. My expectation [is] that I will bring this back to you for action in January. However, that action will be simply to request that I take this to the Academic Senates to ask them to change what is a mutual agreement and to solicit their response to that proposal....
LANG: My first question is that—assuming that this does go back to the Academic Senate, and they do not agree, mutually consent, to change the existing policy, then what would you be recommending to our board?
SAMPSON: Well, I think we’ll go with an effort to solicit their support of a change. However, if they do not wish to change it, there are provisions in the code for a district to act—(LANG interjects: “unilaterally?”)—after a certain process is followed. And we will fully comply with the law.
FROGUE: ...I would like to report—I won’t do it now—but just to report on certain problems that have existed in the past with the Academic Senates regarding to [inaudible] delegate to them the right to operate under the constitution. This is before—Dr. Sampson—before you came here. I think it is important that this be part of the record in understanding why there might be a lack of confidence—uh—I never meant this to be, you know, sniping—but I could never get answers to certain questions about certain operations, certain reports that were being made, replete with false information that was being passed off as fact—one or two board members trying to pass it off as fact also, and that leads to disinformation, confusion, and I think it leads to a lack of trust, an erosion of trust, over the years. I think that that brings us pretty much to the point we are at now. And I think the process resulting—we need to review the history of it and I would be happy to do that. [Frogue looks hopefully at Padberg, who says nothing.]
[The Academic Senate presidents—Peter Morrison of IVC and Anne Cox of Saddleback College—are asked to comment on item 26:]
MORRISON: [He distributes a packet to help trustees prepare for the January meeting.] ...I’d like to read into the record a letter on behalf of the senate this evening. It reads as follows:
“Because we’ve found neither the current format nor the conduct of board meetings conducive to dialogue or fruitful exchange of views between the Academic Senates and the governing board, the officers of the IVC Academic Senate request a meeting with the officers of the board to discuss the roles and responsibilities of the senate as understood by the trustees and by us. Events of the past year have persuaded us that we indeed have a fundamental difference of opinion on this matter. If this is indeed the case, we believe the specific forms and content of that difference must be defined before the parties can agree how best to resolve it. If not, then we need to understand how best to avoid [inaudible] conflicts or potential conflicts between us. Our previous efforts to identify and work [out?] these differences have unfortunately not proved effective. And we hope that direct, frank, and informal meetings between the senate and elected board officers might reverse the situation.” [End of letter.]
You have a copy of that letter as part of your packet...I have included a correspondence between our senate and the chancellor on this matter over the last year...Let me restate that, should you take action, [inaudible] proposal here, we will of course agendize that and give it all due consideration. Thanks.
COX: Thank you. Of course, as Chancellor Sampson has said, he put this on the chancellor’s cabinet agenda—I believe it was November 9 and again December 2. He asked the presidents of the Academic Senates to go back to their respective constituencies...[Cox goes on to explain that “the discussion that ensued” among the Saddleback senators “was overwhelmingly opposed to these changes.” She then reads a unanimous senate resolution which rejects Sampson’s proposal in no uncertain terms. Finally, she reports two unanimous petitions from two divisions that also oppose the proposed changes.]
SAMPSON: [Smiling unctuously:] Well, I would just like to respond that, happily, the board and the board item before you complies fully with the request here from the Academic Senate in that no change will be made—uh—the board has not yet had an opportunity to study or discuss this. The board has not yet given any direction, and I have not yet requested a change from the Academic Senates. However, when I do, then we will be in consultation on this item. We are recognizing this as a mutual agreement. We’ll deal with it as such.
[Naturally, at this point, some trustees are confused. “We,” says Sampson, are recognizing this as a “mutual agreement”; and yet “we” can--and apparently should--unilaterally change the policy?]
WAGNER: ...In the event one or both Academic Senates absolutely refuse to change the existing mutual agreement, is there a process by which this board can then implement changes in the policy or not?
SAMPSON: Yes, there is.
FORTUNE: [She asks for the specific language in the “state law” that would permit the board to change the policy unilaterally. Sampson spends a few seconds looking for it. Then he reads:]
SAMPSON: “in instances were the governing board elects to provide for mutual agreement with the academic senate, and agreement has not been reached, existing policy shall remain in effect unless continuing with such policy exposes the district to legal liability or causes substantial fiscal hardship. In cases where there is no existing policy, or in cases where the exposure to legal liability or substantial fiscal hardship requires existing policy to be changed, the governing board may act, after a good faith effort to reach agreement, only for compelling legal, fiscal, or organizational reasons.” [Sampson fails to read the crucial section of Board Policy 2100.1 that expressly forbids a unilateral change of 2100.1 by the board.]
What this says to me is that, if the district has compelling legal, fiscal, or organizational reasons, it may change this policy—and of course in the conversation and the discussion of this, the board would be the group who would determine whether you had those compelling reasons.
PADBERG: O.K. [End of transcript.]
“They made us do it”
Item 32 concerned the Saddleback soccer program. President Bullock expressed her support for soccer. Uncle Steve explained that he was once a soccer coach. John, looking especially staunch, pressed the chancellor for resolution of the “soccer” issue. Sampson agreed that resolution is necessary, but offered none. Bullock, despite her support of soccer, expressed the faculty worry that, by pursuing soccer, other sports, which are often underfunded, will be hurt. John blathered about the “huge demand” for soccer among women. Dot silently tore away at some jerky treats, occasionally spitting a fragment into the camera.
Items 33 and 34 concerned faculty stipends. Trustee Fortune seemed to suggest that faculty are getting paid for work they are not doing.
Item 35 was “reports” from constituency groups. There were none.
After the meeting, out in the parking lot, Trustee Frogue approached me, saying, “When are we gonna get together at my place?”—or something to that effect. It wasn’t the first time. I shook his hand, but I affected reserve. I said: “I was surprised by your vote to appeal the judge’s ruling in my First Amendment suit. I thought you believed in the First Amendment. You always say you do.”
Frogue seemed flustered. I said something like, “I’m not violent or threatening, and you know it.” He said, “Of course not! But these lawyers. They made us do it. We could get sued if we don’t pursue this.”
Williams walked up. “Good evening, Roy,” he said. I said “good evening,” and walked away, into the night and into a new goddam millennium. --CW