Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sans surge

[Please see UPDATE at end.]

Yesterday, the OC Register threw Orange Coast College (OCC) a big fluffy softball in the form of the article "Orange Coast College tops in 4-year transfers”.

Indeed, OCC is tops when it comes to CSU transfers. Check out the rest of the top 25 “transfer” (to CSU) community colleges. They're listed in the article.

Alas, SOCCCD’s two colleges are nowhere to be found on that list. How come? (See update below. IVC is too small. Saddleback is not.)

Today, the Reg throws a somewhat harder ball at the same college: "Community college students stuck in rut”. OCC may be No. 1 in CSU transfers—and No. 3 in combined UC/CSU transfers—but that doesn’t mean that many students are transferring or that many students are getting degrees:
Students at California's community colleges are unlikely to earn associate's degrees or transfer to four-year universities, even if they enroll with those goals in mind, according to a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Researchers studied student data over seven years and described "pervasive attrition" throughout the system, particularly among older, black and Hispanic students….

"Providing associate's degrees is a major function of community colleges, yet less than one-tenth of students … earned an associate's degree," according to the [report’s authors]…. "In addition, only about a quarter of students who were focused on transfer courses in their first year eventually transferred to a four-year institution."

…"This is not a report that says that community colleges are doing a bad job. They may just have students who are ill-prepared to achieve," said Hans Johnson, the research fellow who edited the report. "But there is an educational mismatch between what employers demand and what our system can supply. Employers are going to demand more college graduates than the state is able to produce."

…The statewide chancellor for the community colleges, Marshall Drummond, said many of the system's students arrive ill-prepared for college work and need to take remedial training, slowing the process.

University of California and California State University officials also blame poor preparation by K-12 schools for their student attrition

…OCC student Josh Aden remembers going to an academic counselor when he arrived on campus in fall 2004 and asking for help setting up a plan to see what he needed to transfer.

According to Aden, the counselor misdirected him into four classes that turned out to be nontransferable – a fact he didn't learn until he went to another counselor the following year.

"He said, 'Why are you taking these classes?' I said, 'Well, the other guy told me to take them.' He said: 'Don't take them. They are nontransferable. You don't need to be taking these classes.' "….
Hmmm. That doesn't sound so good. (To be fair: Aden is just one case. Proves nothing.)

I'm so glad that I teach at the far superior South Orange County Community College District, a district so phenomenally kick-ass that the Chancellor--Raghu P. Mathur--has been rewarded with a salary well over a quarter million dollars a year! Imagine that!

On Monday, the Board of Trustees gave him more fabulous cash prizes!

--No, wait. The Reg article includes a list of the “top 25” community colleges re transferring to California's four-year institutions (i.e., CSU & UC combined).

OCC is No. 3. Good for them. Fullerton College is No. 8. Not bad.

Our own Saddleback College is way down there at No. 21. Hmmm.

IVC isn’t even on the list. [Well, its size takes it out of the competition. See below.]

--OK, OK. We're still kick-ass! I mean, consider the surge in enrollments we've been experiencing!

Well, no. I checked. There's no surge. We're definintely sans surge.

Increases in productivity? Nope. Sterling accreditation evaluations? Not. Um.......

I'm thinking, I'm thinking!

UPDATE (midnight):

Some who left comments (see) made valid points that require a more careful examination of the data. For instance, is it fair to expect IVC to make the top 25 in number of students who transfer when it is a relatively small college? Etc.

Below, is the ranked list of California community colleges that transfer the most students to the University of California and California State University systems, 2005-06—according to the Register’s article, Community college students stuck in rut.

I wanted to find enrollment data for these colleges, and so I went to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office website and found a page called Chancellor’s Office Data Mart. I could find no data concerning headcount (i.e., the number of students enrolled per college), but I did find data, per college, for “Full Time Equivalent Students." (FTES takes all courses taken and divides by a full-time student’s load of classes.)

I selected “annual 2005-6” and got data for all California community colleges. I focused only on “credit” FTES.

The upshot: below is the Register’s ranked list—plus FTES in each case. (I do hope I made no clerical errors. I rounded to the nearest 100.)

1. Santa Monica College (23,900)
2. De Anza College (23,100)
3. Orange Coast College (17,800)
4. Diablo Valley College (16,500)
5. Pasadena City College (21,500)
6. Mt. San Antonio College (22,000)
7. City Coll. of San Francisco (30,000)
8. Fullerton College (16,500)
9. El Camino College (15,300)
10. Riverside Comm. College (21,800)
11. San Diego Mesa College (14,000)
12. American River College (21,200)
13. Fresno City College (15,600)
14. Grossmont College (11,600)
15. Sierra College (13,200)
16. Palomar College (18,700)
17. Moorpark College (12,200)
18. Santa Rosa Jr. College (16,900)
19. Santa Barbara City Coll. (13,100)
20. Pierce College (12,400)
21. Saddleback College (13,800)
22. Glendale Community Coll. (11,900)
23. Sacramento City College (16,100)
24. Cerritos College (18,600)
25. East Los Angeles College (17,400)

Irvine Valley College has 7,000 FTES, and so, indeed, it is unreasonable to expect IVC to make this list—a list that comprises no colleges with fewer than 11,600 FTES.

Of course, the real issue is: how well does IVC do re transfers compared to other community colleges with similar FTES/enrollments? I have the transfer numbers for IVC (see Student right to know—rates), but I do not have comparison numbers.

How well does Saddleback College do re transfers compared to other colleges with equal or fewer FTES? I’ve taken the above list and ranked it by number of FTES:

1. City Coll. of San Francisco (30,000)
2. Santa Monica College (23,900)
3. De Anza College (23,100)
4. Mt. San Antonio College (22,000)
5. Riverside Comm. College (21,800)
6. Pasadena City College (21,500)
7. American River College (21,200)
8. Palomar College (18,700)
9. Cerritos College (18,600)
10. Orange Coast College (17,800)
11. East Los Angeles College (17,400)
12. Santa Rosa Jr. College (16,900)
13. Diablo Valley College (16,500)
14. Fullerton College (16,500)
15. Sacramento City College (16,100)
16. Fresno City College (15,600)
17. El Camino College (15,300)
18. San Diego Mesa College (14,000)
19. Saddleback College (13,800)
20. Sierra College (13,200)
21. Santa Barbara City Coll. (13,100)
22. Pierce College (12,400)
23. Moorpark College (12,200)
24. Glendale Community Coll. (11,900)
25. Grossmont College (11,600)

Again, the real issue is, how well does Saddleback College do re transfers compared to colleges with comparable FTES? Check this out:

Fresno City College (15,600) #13
El Camino College (15,300) #9
San Diego Mesa College (14,000) #11
Saddleback College (13,800) #21
Sierra College (13,200) #15
Santa Barbara City Coll. (13,100) #19
Pierce College (12,400) #20
Moorpark College (12,200) #17
Glendale Community Coll. (11,900) #22
Grossmont College (11,600) #14

I selected these ten colleges on the Register's list, with FTES from 11,600 to 15,600—roughly comparable to Saddleback College’s 13,800.

Within this group, only one college is ranked lower in transfers than Saddleback College. (Remember, too, that Saddleback College doesn't appear at all on the list of top 25 CSU transfer institutions.)

Of course, it is possible that there are other community colleges (with comparable FTES) that didn’t make the top 25. (See all California community colleges.) But it’s late, I’m tired, and I’m goin’ to bed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

So Cal tsunamis?

When the ocean swallows Capistrano
That's the day you promised to float back to me
When you whispered, "Farewell", in Capistrano
Twas the day your Chevy floated out to sea

All the mission bells will ring
The chapel choir will sing
Your Naugahyde box spring
Will live in my memory

When the ocean swallows Capistrano
That's the day I pray that you'll float back to me

When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano, sort of
EVER SINCE that Indian Ocean disaster two years ago, we’ve been hearing about tsunamis. So I’m sure you’re aware that we on the West Coast are vulnerable to such events. That’s cuz
Shake 'n' Bake + Ocean = Tsunami.

Tsunami Central in California is Crescent City, about 20 miles south of the Oregon border. According to Wikipedia,
…the city experienced tsunami conditions 17 times between the years 1943 and 1994. …[T]he city was extensively damaged by a tsunami [bringing over 20-foot waves] in 1964…. There were 12 fatalities…. The city is deemed to be tsunami-ready today. Its preparedness was tested on June 14, 2005 when an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale hit 90 miles offshore. Reportedly, much of the city was evacuated in a matter of 20 minutes when a tsunami warning was issued, but no waves were reported.
Sounds good. But Wiki goes on to report an event that occurred a little more than a week ago:
On November 15, 2006, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck off Kuril Island in the eastern Pacific. A tsunami warning was issued but rescinded hours later. However, a surge from that quake did hit the harbor at Crescent City causing damage to three docks and several boats.
This morning, I found an article in Inside the Bay Area/Oakland Tribune that describes a report on recent California tsunami warnings by a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury. According to the article, the grand jury found that San Mateo County’s coastal cities are unprepared for a “tsunami strike.” In the case of the 2005 tsunami alert, “Many coastal residents didn't learn of the warning until it was canceled, and many of those that did hear the warning found out through the National Weather Service on television. Moreover, no broadcast was made either at the coast's beaches or on the streets.”

Why am I not surprised?


I came across a recent (12/05) study by the State of California Seismic Safety Commission entitled The Tsunami Threat to California (a 15-page pdf file). (Among the dozen or so members of the CSSC is seismologist Lucy Jones. You remember her!)

I recommend that you read this highly-readable report. Among its findings:
● Tsunamis, generated either locally or from events elsewhere in the Pacific Basin, pose a significant threat to life and property in California.

● Californians are not adequately educated about tsunamis and the risk they pose….

● The existing tsunami warning system has not achieved all of its objectives for several reasons including problems with communications, agency coordination and protocols.

● Present building codes and guidelines do not adequately address the impacts of tsunamis on structures….

● …[M]ore effort and a better understanding of the risk is required to bring the treatment of tsunamis to a level comparable to other State hazards such as earthquakes.


I happened upon a 4-year-old study, funded by FEMA, entitled Evaluation of Tsunami Risk to Southern California Coastal Cities. (It’s a 32 page pdf file.)

This study focuses on the risk caused by very local earthquakes (Catalina Island), though it does briefly note the potential for landslides and “distant” earthquakes.

The article is pretty technical. In its “conclusions” section, it states:
Significant run-up was measured along the southern California coast from Point Mugu to Solana Beach at the ends of the bathymetry grid. Maximum run-up exceeded one meter along most of the coast between Santa Monica and Dana Point, with peaks of 1.5-2.2 m at Marina del Rey, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, and the Orange County coast from Seal Beach to Newport Beach.
I think they’re saying that much of the OC coastline is at risk:
These areas most severely affected also correspond to the major harbor areas where marine terminals and boating facilities are located in harm’s way. Experience from historical distant…show these harbor areas to be vulnerable to strong currents that scour pilings and smash boats…. [A]ctual coastal run-up values from large earthquakes on the Santa Catalina Island restraining bend may exceed 2-4 m. Travel time between the earthquake occurrence and arrival of the first waves at the adjacent coast varies from 10-20 minutes for the areas most severely affected, much shorter for locations on the island, so that no official warnings could be broadcast in sufficient time for evacuation. [The earthquake itself]…may provide the only warning to affected coastal residents, and concurrent quake-related damage, including potential widespread liquefaction and failures of oversteepened coastal bluffs, may exacerbate evacuation or rescue efforts. Fortunately, large earthquakes on this major offshore fault system appear to be infrequent, with estimated recurrence intervals measured in several hundred to thousands of years….
If I read the report correctly, it goes on to say that the chance of a major tsunami caused by local earthquakes is not high (because they are historically infrequent), but that the death and destruction caused by such an event would be so great that the only reasonable view is to regard the threat as real and important:
Consequently, the hazard posed by locally generated tsunami attack is very serious and should be appropriately mitigated. Lastly, this study only examined the tectonic deformation from large earthquakes as potential tsunami source. Large-scale submarine landslides represent a serious threat, and the large earthquakes we have modeled would very likely trigger widespread slope failures, both subaerially along the coasts and submarine landslides along the steep borderland slopes….
(My emphases in above quotations.)

(See also: Tsunami Research Center (USC))

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Horror for Horowitz

It’s a cabal!!!

Wednesday’s Inside Higher Ed reported some bad news for right-wing writer David Horowitz: From Bad to Worse for David Horowitz:
A week ago, it looked like David Horowitz had a few things to be thankful for in the emerging report of the Pennsylvania legislative panel that was looking for examples of violations of students’ rights because of their political views.

Sure, the committee had reported that it didn’t really find examples of the alleged oppression that he maintains is widespread. But Horowitz pointed to the committee’s recommendation that colleges adopt policies to protect student rights. And he liked the many pages included in the draft report that summarized testimony by Horowitz and some of his allies. Those are all gone in the final version of the report the committee approved Tuesday, which is being hailed by academic groups as completely vindicating their views.

Horowitz said that he was furious about the “breathtaking audacity of this theft of the report by the Democrats and the unions,” and that a “cabal” of faculty leaders had convinced “weak-spined Republicans” (who controlled the committee) to go along with the “theft.”….

…By removing all the pages summarizing testimony (a summary that many college officials believed was one-sided in favor of Horowitz), the committee removed a permanent record that seemed unfavorable and many thought unfair to academe. And because the final vote on the report was unanimous — on a committee controlled by Republicans — the committee made it more difficult for Horowitz to blame his problems on liberals.

…Asked how he could claim victory [as he had, recently] when the legislative panel had worked so hard to identify student victims, and failed, Horowitz offered more stories of students who were being hurt. He said that he had spoken to a dance student who was upset about her paper’s grade and that he had encouraged her to file a grievance. She didn’t want to. Horowitz acknowledged that there was no political issue in the paper, but said her reluctance to go through the grievance machinery showed the problems that students face.

Then Horowitz said that he had heard that a political science professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Diana Zoelle, had given a test in which students were forced to explain why the war in Iraq is wrong, with the implication that their grade would be lower if they did not back that position. Horowitz acknowledged that he had not checked out the report, although Zoelle reported that she has been hearing from others that Horowitz has been speaking about the alleged exam.

Reached while en route to her Thanksgiving vacation, Zoelle said that Horowitz was “absolutely incorrect.” She said that Horowitz and his staff never called to ask her about the exam, although she asked around when she heard that he was telling people about some complaint about her. She said that she has never used a test question about the Iraq war.…

…Horowitz, asked why he couldn’t document more of the cases of students being hurt — the basis of his movement — said: “Why do I have to run around the country finding these kids?”
SOCCCD Trustee Tom Fuentes is a “director” of Eagle Publishing, and Eagle Publishing is the parent company of Regnery Publishing, which publishes various titles, including those hostile to Darwin—and, of course, to liberals. Prime example: Horowtiz's The Professors.

See “Kill it & Grill it” and other Fuenteian titles.

Relevant DtB posts:
Horowitz nearly creamed
Tasering guys in the butt
Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Elephant's Foot

Have you followed the “Piecemakers” saga? The Piecemakers are a 26-member commune—led by the 85-year-old Marie Kolasinski—that operates a daffy “quilts & sandwiches” tearoom in Costa Mesa.

These Piecemakers seem to be wacked-out fundamentalist Christians. But they're a little different. They view themselves as oppressed Libertarians, fighting a ruthless and meddling government.

I’m not sure whether to root for them or not.

I read about them on Tuesday, in the LA Times: Defiant Orange County sect leader says county is 'wrestling with God':
The group, made up of mostly elderly women, runs a homey store on Adams Avenue that features handmade quilts, craft supplies and a small tearoom that serves sandwiches, soups and sweets.

For some years, the group has barred county health inspectors from its facility, citing freedom of religion as justification.

After a final failed attempt to inspect the store in October 2005, [a] county investigator … obtained a warrant and entered the site with … Costa Mesa police….

[In court,] Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Steiner played several videotapes of the incident, which showed defiant Piecemakers spewing profanities and Kolasinski demanding, "Give me liberty or give me death."

… She said she and her religious followers would make every effort to keep their store clean of "the devil" — the government — which tries to lord it over them "with a big hatchet."

"They've got so many laws, I'm afraid to put my foot out the door," she said.

…It wasn't the first time the group had run into trouble with the government. In 1997, Piecemakers were prosecuted for putting on the musical "Big River" in their parking lot without a city permit.
Prosecuted for an unauthorized musical? That tears it. I’m rootin’ for ‘em!

Evidently, the county has been circling the Troublemakers for years. The DA's office even ran an "underground" investigation on them, sending in spies, testing cookies, bugging soup.

As the Register’s Frank Mickadeit explained yesterday (Guilty as sin), the Piecemakers’ trial went badly for them, and so, once again, Meddlesome Big Government is about to grind its big stupid toe into our heroes' backs. Mickadeit wasn’t terribly sympathetic:
I think I know the moment I went from thinking of … Marie Kolasinski and her band as an affable group of quilt-making, pie-baking, health permit-faking Jesus people to viewing them as foul-mouthed, one-good-bender-away-from-a-Kool-Aid-party sectarians who wrap their hatred of government in the cloak of their Savior.

It was the moment I saw a video at the Piecemakers' trial this week in which Kolasinski cursed health inspectors who had done nothing more than ask to inspect her Costa Mesa café. She dropped F-bombs on them like they'd asked to crucify our Lord. At least three other followers continued the F-bomb barrage, with the occasional taking in vain of His name. Not exactly the way Jesus reacted when they came for him at Gethsemane – an allusion Kolasinski later made on the stand.

"You've got quite a mouth on you," I told her during a break.

"You'd have quite a mouth on you too if you had a pistol shoved up your ***," she replied.
Mickadeit notes that there is no evidence of police pistol-shovage. On the other hand, no doubt the cops had pistols, and, as we all know (unless we’re not paying attention), in Orange County, people sometimes get shot and killed by police just for being weird, and these people qualify.

Orange County is a special place in so many ways. It’s pretty conservative, but there’s an undeniable element of Libertarianism to be found here.

Occasionally, our own trustee Don Wagner outs himself as a Libertarian. In the OC, it's not hard to find people who talk the Libertarian talk.

Though I don’t agree with the Libertarian vision, I think I understand it, and I understand its allure. It does not surprise me that some find it utterly compelling and worth fighting for--and even worth defiantly living by. This Kolasinski person may well be sincere about her Libertarianism. And now the government is stomping its Elephant’s Foot upon her.

It’s so easy to view Kolasinski as ridiculous. But it doesn’t take much thought or imagination to view her otherwise.

I sympathize, and I’m not even a Libertarian. Where are the Libertarians? Where’s the outcry?

Orange County, you disappoint me.

(For a mildly sympathetic editorial, see last year’s Piecemakers know no peace.)

P.S.: I went to the website for the Prometheus Institute, OC's Libertarian think tank, and searched under both "Piecemakers" and "Kolasinksi." Nothing came up.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chunk's board meeting report

“I think that the drug war was a mistake.”
From The Drug War as a Socialist Enterprise by Milton Friedman
CONSIDERABLE TIME was devoted to exultation regarding Saddleback’s Gaucho football team, which is undefeated and headed for the state championship. Good for them. See Traci's highlights.

Norma Yanni came up to receive an honor (along with Lise Telson and Bob Cosgrove) re Best Practices in Student Equity, and this inspired Dave Lang to murmur insipidly that “we are certainly a board who believes in diversity as well.”

All seven of the trustees are Republicans. Some diversity.

During trustee reports, Bill Jay noted that there had been a groundbreaking for a “Business Sciences” building at IVC that very day. He took the opportunity to suggest that Saddleback College needs a stadium. This has become his hobbyhorse, though he shares this particular nag with John Williams. Bill mentioned Curt McLendon’s name, too. Something about a letter from Oregon. The Twilight Zone theme could be heard.

In his report, Don Wagner referred to the earlier announcement of the Gauchos’ success, noting, with customary peevishness, that the PE dean wasn't present. As you know, at the last board meeting, Wagner slapped the dean around a bit.

Tom Fuentes indicated that, later, he would have something important to say about “veterans.”

Nancy Padberg noted the passing of Milton Friedman, a champion, she said, of free enterprise and freedom. She requested that, when the meeting adjourns, it adjourn “in honor” of the F-man. I don’t see how that’s an honor. Besides, Milt would surely take a dim view of the board’s history of thwarting competition in favor of cronyism.

“One can only hope we can avoid being dubbed the Tammany Hall community college district.”
—Dave Lang, quoted in “College District Trustee alleges cronyism in college district.” Irvine World News, 6/22/00
Dave Lang wanted to pay tribute, too, to Donna Martin, who will retire at the end of the year. That generated applause. Everybody likes Donna.

John Williams joined Bill in expressing the desirability of a stadium at Saddleback College. He said something about a recent event attended by a former Saddleback student and “Bond girl." —"Holly" something. "Gee whiz," he seemed to say.

When the time came for trustees to request reports, Tom Fuentes solemnly requested a look at “returning veterans.” I have no idea what he wants to do with them.


Item 29 concerned “effectiveness of board agendas and meetings.” I’m not sure what this is about, but my guess is that Mathur’s “effectiveness” project was motivated by the following:
1. John Williams' need for beauty sleep. For some time, the fellow has been clamoring for shorter meetings.

2. Chancellors are supposed to steer the board away from trouble and needless controversy. Chancellor Mathur eschews board steerage, although his innovations have occasionally sent the board over a cliff. I think the board wants Mathur to step up and take charge.
Evidently, Raghu had prepared some sort of report or list of ideas regarding agendas, and that document was the focus of the discussion.

Nancy Padberg opined that some of the report’s ideas have not yet been “fleshed out by the board.” She seemed to favor fleshing before anything is adopted.

Nancy noted, too, that trustees still get the agenda too late (late Wednesday) to permit adequate study. Further, she seemed to imply that most or all of the innovations listed on the report came from one trustee whom she did not name. (Williams?)

Board Prez Dave Lang seemed miffed by that suggestion.

Williams, looking staunch, once again carped that the meetings go on too long.

Fuentes objected to the report’s suggestion to reorder the meetings, placing board reports last. That, he said, would diminish the role of the board, the taxpayer's representatives. He also opposed the notion of ceasing broadcast of the board meetings. It is “good and wholesome,” he said, to offer these broadcasts to the community.

Padberg agreed that the TV broadcasts are important. She seemed to say that one of the report’s suggestions—I think it was a rule prohibiting a sole trustee from pulling items from the consent calendar—“seems to be directed at me.” As you know, in the past, some trustees have complained that Nancy comes to meetings unprepared and that she wastes the board’s time with needless concerns. It’s hard to say what that’s really about with this crowd. Petty snipery, I think.

Wagner supported continuing the broadcasts and opposed the notion, evidently included in the report, that public comments should be strictly limited to two minutes.

Williams bloviated about the board’s occasional lengthy discussion of small expenditures. His concerns seemed somehow directed at Nancy Padberg, who retorted effectively with facial expressions: "You, sir, are an assh*le."

“Wild” Bill Jay announced that he never watches the TV broadcasts of board meetings, adding that “It’s tough enough living through it once!”

Padberg chimed in to say that “I don’t know what [the public] sees in [the broadcasts], but they do enjoy them.”

Eventually, trustee Fuentes reminisced about the beginning of his career. Back in 1970, he was some sort of assistant to the OC Board of Supervisors. (I believe that Fuentes worked closely with Supervisor Ronald Caspers, who ultimately disappeared mysteriously off the deck of a boat off the coast of Mexico.)


Item 35 was “academic personnel actions,” including “cost-of-living adjustment [COLA], Chancellor.”

You’ll recall that, at the last meeting, Mathur attempted to sneak this item through using various ploys, including his failure to mention it during the “docket” meeting, when the Chancellor is supposed to preview the agenda. Oddly, the COLA item suddenly appeared on the agenda (with language that utterly obscured its nature) on the day of the board meeting. But his machinations were detected, and VC Bob King was instructed to properly agendize the item.

So, here it was again. Unsurprisingly, trustees Milchicker, Padberg, and Jay were opposed to granting Mathur a COLA—on the grounds that he is already extremely well paid—and trustees Williams, Wagner, Fuentes, and Lang supported the COLA on the grounds that, since other employees received a COLA, “fairness” demands that the Chancellor receive one, too.

Immediately, Padberg and Milchiker acted to “divide” the item, isolating the COLA as a separate item.

VC Gary Poertner made the “fairness” argument in favor of the COLA. But some trustees questioned that argument, noting that the chancellor has already received special treatment in other ways, as when the board granted him a huge chunk of money for his unused vacation days.

Williams held high an issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which, he said, contained an article about CEO salaries. (Evidently, Williams is not aware that the CHE is geared mostly to four-year institutions.) On the basis of the salaries indicated there, said Williams, Chancellor Mathur, who makes about $274K, is underpaid.

Poertner and the trustees engaged in a discussion concerning the actual size of Mathur’s salary and whether it is indeed the highest for a community college chancellor in the state. Evidently, to make that determination, many factors need to be taken into account (e.g., that some CEOs receive annuities), and so the question quickly seemed to become complex—and unsettled.

Williams expressed the worry that, if the board is not careful, the district will acquire an anti-CEO reputation!

Milchiker noted that advocates of the COLA were comparing Mathur with the Chancellor of the LA district, but that district comprises nine campuses, not two. Further, Mathur presides over far fewer faculty than do the other high-salaried Chancellors who had been brought into the comparison.

Wagner opined that it is “irrational” to treat one employee differently than others. He called the question. That passed. The board then voted. Mathur got his COLA.


Item 36 concerned “classified personnel actions.” In the course of the discussion, it was revealed that IVC Prez Glenn Roquemore’s father-in-law was among the classified employees affected by the action. (He works at IVC.) The item was approved.

Item 39 was a report, by VC Andreea Serban, on “Research and planning functions.” Her presentation was well received. Lang asked her if the district is doing all of the things that it should be doing with regard to research, etc. Serban explained that we need to be more “proactive.” But she seemed to say that we are now on the right track. She's very tactful.

Mathur went out of his way to heap praise upon Wagner and Lang’s questions to Serban. It was a classic instance of Brown Nosery. Deep brown.


Item 40 was the “study abroad program” [sic]. In his introductory remarks, Mathur alluded to the “shrinkage” of the Study Abroad program owing to a “misunderstanding.” As it turns out, SOCCCD used to have 14 Study Abroad programs. Now it has two. The “misunderstanding” to which Mathur referred may have been the board’s unfortunate decision (or administrators' perception that such a decision had been made) to require unusually extensive insurance for these trips. That greatly increased trip costs and also narrowed the field of vendors. It has been disastrous.

(You’ll recall that, after the controversy caused by Fuentes’ rejection of the Santander, Spain trip partly on the basis of Spain’s pull-out from Iraq, Fuentes quickly distanced himself from that rationale and focused instead on issues regarding security and cost. The board then acted to increase the insurance. Or Mathur and Co. misunderstood the board's intent re changes in insurance, and the insurance was increased. Disastrously.)

Andreea Serban made a thorough presentation. She explained that SA programs are increasingly popular. She pointed out that most colleges carry $1-3 million in insurance, though $5-10 million is “appropriate.” As thing stand, the board requires $50 million. She offered some recommendations.

Wagner liked the report but noted that Serban seemed to be selling the idea of SA to the board. In fact, he said, the board supports SA. It’s just that these programs and trips should be “accessible," he said.

Fuentes again expressed his usual creepy concerns about minors going on these trips—16-year-olds who will end up sleeping in rooms with 18-year-olds. Plus these minors could get ahold of alcohol!

The notion was expressed that it was "unrealistic" to try to monitor students 24/7. Plus we can't stop 'em from boozing it up here at home either.

At the end of the meeting, the governance groups offered reports.

IVC student government Prez Rockwell Bower expressed concerns about security at the college. He noted that, recently, a student was found dead in his car (by his father, at 11 in the morning). Evidently, the student had been in the car, in the parking lot, through the night (he died at about 1:30 a.m.), and yet security had failed to investigate.

You might want to read the Lariat's November 21 issue. it includes an informative article entitled "Student dies on campus":
A 21-year-old IVC student was found dead in his car approximately 10 hours after his time of death Nov. 14, according to the OC Coroner's Office.

...The slow reaction time of the campus police has raised questions from student leaders as well as police.

...Saddleback chief of police Harry Parmer was...curious about the response time..."That's a little unusual that no one noticed the car there," said...Parmer..."Ten hours is a long time for the police officer to not patrol the parking lot."

...The time of death was approximately 1:30 a.m. Nov. 14....
In the same issue, in an article entitled "Chancellor receives COLA raise," Mathur is quoted as saying:
"I think [my receiving the COLA] was only fair...You can't single out one employee when all other employees have been given COLA. This is common courtesy and practice."
IVC's Bower is also quoted:
"I don't see the validity of giving a pay raise to the highest paid chancellor in the state in the third safest city in the nation with only two schools to manage."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tonight's board meeting in pics

I'll have a full report on the meeting tomorrow. Right now, I've got to feed the cat, and so I'll just mention some big obvious stuff.

Tonight's meeting wasn't the Big Ugly, not like last month's outing, but it had its moments. Like the point, near the end, when Dave Lang, starin' at the clock, pretty much strong-armed the panel of Presidents, governance group leaders, et al., to skip their reports, and then Nancy said something like, "Hold on, Bean Boy, where's the fire? Let 'em speak", and Dave got all pissy about how he hadn't stopped anybody from squawking, but he had.

Once again, Chancellor Mathur recommended giving himself a big fat raise (in the form of a COLA), and Nancy, Marcia, and Bill just weren't having it. The discussion was kinda fun. It reached its nadir when John Williams pulled out a copy of the Chronicle--I'm sure he's never seen one before--held it grandly in the air, and then read from it statistics about the average pay for presidents or CEOs. Naturally, their pay was way up there.

For once, though, Bill Jay was on the ball, and he said something like, "Um, John, the standards are different for four-year institutions." Well duh.

John made an ugly face, I think. It's hard to tell. He yammered about how we've got to be competitive, salary-wise. He compared Goo's salary with the salaries of others around the state.

Marcia noted that, FTEF-wise (i.e., relative to the number of faculty), compared to all those other CEOs, Mathur was at the very bottom of the barrel. Bottomer, even.

Raghu's nose twitched.

The other "highlight" came when Andreea Serban gave a fine and well-received report on our Study Abroad programs. Turns out these SA programs are very much on the rise nation-wide, and even the government is pushin' 'em. Serban spelled out various relevant facts, told a joke about Romania, and even managed to make Kevin O look good.

She's a star.

The truth is that Fuentes (and later Fuentes/Wagner) have pretty much set back the cause of Study Abroad programs several decades, or several months anyway. We used to have 14 such programs--14!--but after Tom got done offing the Santander trip (owing to his hatred for Carmenmara & Spaniards & himself), we're now down to two trips.

I was surprised. Man!

Part of the problem was the board's idiotic decision, two years ago, to insist on $500 billion in insurance for the students--OK, it was just $50 million. I guess they wanted to make sure the kids would be insured in case of nuclear wars or gypsy attacks. But this insurance requirement pretty much thinned out the vendors to nothing, leaving just a couple of used car salesmen.

The upshot: Study Abroad-wise, in the good ol' SOCCCD, everything is now utterly FUBAR, and--wouldn't you know it?--the one thing you never heard tonight was the Troublemint Twins fessin' up to their FUBARitude. Oh no, never that.

Mostly, though, it was a good meeting, and Saddleback got some kind of prize for its football (?) team creamin' the competition. Everybody was pretty smiley about that, as you can see.

Rebel Girl's Poetry Corner: Dark Sacred Night

Years ago, - Rebel Girl is now at an age that when she says years it does indeed mean years, - so over two decades, nearly a quarter-century ago, Red Emma, who even then was a man who knew what he wanted, gave her the following poem. (Yes, they go waaay back folks, those two.) Yes, he typed the poem out as was done then.

Rebel Girl had never heard of the poet before, the great Peter Everwine who lived then and lives still (someone say yes!) in the great Central Valley of California. The poem was from Everwine's book Keeping the Night. She taped the poem to the wall of her small kitchen, above the round table where they first began to eat regularly together. Rebel Girl cooked Red his first artichoke, made him drink coffee, red wine, ouzo. He kept giving her poems. She is, all these years later, still thankful.

- Peter Everwine

In the lamplight falling
On the white tablecloth
My plate,
My shining loaf of quietness.

I sit down.
Through the open door
All the absent I love enter
And we eat.


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Democracy by the Numbers

WELL, DISSENT READERS, it’s been quite a while now, and the editors of the Register have failed to respond to my short, once-topical, middle-brow, politically tame, and at least mildly amusing commentary (see below). Maybe they think their regular commentator, Larry Elder, is funnier than Red Emma. Larry sure says some funny things on his radio show—about the war and tazering kids and locking up Arabs.

The nice folks at the LA Times thanked me, offering that the essay was indeed clever but didn’t quite work for them. I’d send it along to the OC Weekly now, but those folks are all more clever than I am, and besides, the people who I imagined needed to read my wacky brand of broad satire or sophomoric humor don’t read the OC Weekly, though I certainly hope they at least check out the ads in the back. Cheri is new in town. Tanya is waiting for your call.

In addition to posting it below, I am now also sending my commentary along to the new Al Jezeera English network, Women’s Wear Monthly, and High Times.

Happy Thanksgiving. —Red Emma

Democracy by the Numbers

It’s been a week now. Post-election analysis of the vote by television, radio and internet pundits suggests that Democrats won big because of perceived GOP corruption, Bush’s war, Congressional scandal, and hypocrisy.

I beg to differ.

That nearly 15,000 voters in Area 2 of the Rancho Santiago Community College District voted for candidate Steve Rocco may not mean anything to you. You don’t reside in eastern Orange County, don’t live with these folks—whoever they are. You don’t run into them at the market or while walking the dog—again, whoever they are.

Of course, you probably don’t accept the proven fact that aliens occupy Area 51 of the Southern Nevada desert. It probably doesn’t impress you that, four hundred years ago, Nostradamus actually predicted the birth and subsequent election of Mr. Rocco to the Board of the Orange Unified School District (true!) or that there is no interchange connecting the southbound 55 to the southbound 5.

But riddle me this: Remember that scandal over letters mailed anonymously by Republican candidate Tan Nguyen to potential “Latino” voters in a local congressional race? It turns out that the number of Tan letters was almost exactly the number of voters giving the notorious Mr. Rocco their “aye”!

Accident? Coincidence? I think not. And no more inexplicable than the fact that the former head of OC’s Republican Party received a $15,000 (that’s right, 15,000) consulting fee from Nguyen. Or that, two years ago, Orange voters elected Mr. Rocco, a man nobody had ever seen, to a seat on their city school board because he wasn’t the candidate endorsed by the dreaded liberal teacher’s union, a Mexican-American county ranger. Or that the OC Register’s chief editorial writer boasted that he’d voted for Rocco to challenge the status quo. Or that a neighbor of ours voted for Rocco “to shake things up.”

Mr. Nguyen was onto something, and it’s all about the numbers. Just to review: Roccoistas voted for a guy who wears a longshoreman’s cap, a beard with no moustache, and sunglasses. —A recluse who some have suggested is Andy Kauffman playing his best prank, whose vanity press autobiography reveals “secret chronicles and public-record accounts of corruption, murder and scandal of corporate and political California, written by America’s premier legal technician.” —A man who has alleged that Albertson’s (yes, Albertson’s) has tried to murder him.

The Rancho Santiago college district board election offers an hypothesis about democracy. It is this. At any given moment, an admittedly fluid rubric about the voting demographic may be applied, indeed must be applied:
Some percentage of the voterate is certifiably insane.
And in Orange County this number is a little higher than elsewhere, perhaps as high as one in four.

Indeed, the League of Women Voters confirms that 26% of those casting votes in the college district did so for Rocco, who, it notes, “did not respond to our request for information.” And why would he? Organizing the insane, endorsing the insane, hitting up the insane for political endorsements, voting the Insane Candidate to “shake things up,” happens here without spending a minute at a candidate’s forum, a dime on advertising, or a calorie walking a precinct or printing a handbill.

Steve Rocco’s loss is a gain. His performance in a local community college district race should be a heads up for party bosses, editorial writers, and voters, at least in Orange County. This constituency can be relied upon, and should not be overlooked. It took a nutty anti-immigrant candidate and an experiment in direct, if insane democracy to prove the undeniable political power of an often-overlooked constituency. Insane people.

Out here in eastern Orange County, we should expect—as Nostradamus also predicted—a campaign that will make history:

Rocco for Assembly.

What Ever happened to faculty?

Two interesting articles in this morning’s Inside Higher Ed:

‘What Ever Happened to the Faculty?’

“Mary Burgan, former general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, is not happy about the trends she sees with regard to faculty rights.” She talks about “distance ed” as well.

Back to the Basics on Science Education
The best approach to teaching science is to understand not education, but the scientific method, according to Carl Wieman…He is a Nobel Prize laureate and garnered the highest teaching award at the University of Colorado at Boulder…During the talk on Friday, Wieman said that traditional science instruction involves lectures, textbooks, homework and exams. Wieman said that this process simply doesn’t work. He cited a number of studies to make his point. At the University of Maryland, an instructor found that students interviewed immediately after a science lecture had only a vague understanding of what the lecture had been about. Other researchers found that students only retained a small amount of the information after watching a video on science.

Another problem with the current structure of science education is that teachers try to get students to learn “key concepts” from physics. “We think that physics has a few ideas that can be widely applied,” he said. “So people test for those few ideas.” Wieman says that students really only retain about 30 percent of those key concepts, so this approach simply does not work….
● Board meeting tonight! See Board meeting preview

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rebel Girl's Poetry Corner: Even Though

Even Though is a title of a fine novel written by Michelle Latiolais, a novel about family and loss and guilt and with a protagonist named Lisa – well, Rebel Girl may just take it off her shelf and carry up into the mountains where she'll spend most of this week with family and loss and guilt – and yes, occasional moments of love, redemption and black olives.

Even though Rebel Girl doesn't care for John Updike nearly as much as everyone else, she offers him and his poem "Relatives" as part of her Thanksgiving week offering. Recent events (!) have left her pretty much wordless so she will renew herself this week by giving loyal Dissent readers other people's words to read and thus uphold the stereotype of mild-mannered professor of English in the process.

Relatives – John Updike

Just the thought of them makes your jawbone ache:
those turkey dinners, those holidays with
the air around the woodstove baked to a stupor,
and Aunt Lil's tablecloth stained by her girlhood's gravy.
A doggy wordless wisdom whimpers from
your uncles' collected eyes; their very jokes
creak with genetic sorrow, a strain
of common heritage that hurts the gut.

Sheer boredom and fascination! A spidering
of chromosomes webs even the infants in
and holds us fast around the spread
of rotting food, of too-sweet pie.
The cousins buzz, the nephews crawl;
to love one's self is to love them all.


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Chunk’s philosophy corner: could we please stop being such BOOBS?

LOTS OF PEOPLE I know complain about the right wing’s irrationality and hostility to science, and no wonder! Think intelligent design, global warming, Terri Schiavo, etc.

But is the left much better? Like their conservative counterparts, leftists (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. comes to mind) tend to embrace silly conspiracy theories—about the usual suspects—that depend for their plausibility on cherry picking and other fallacies. And among many leftists I know, any prima facie valid evidence that challenges an enlightened “truth” is rejected out of hand. For them, science is an ally, until it isn’t. Then it’s just tossed aside as just more right-wing crappola.

I’m here to suggest that that is an asshole thing to do.

Obviously, my complaint doesn’t apply to all liberals or all conservatives. Still, in general, leftists and rightists—most of us—tends to reveal stunning scientific boobery, and that ain’t good, because much is at stake, especially for future generations, and so we’d better get our facts straight.

The issue concerning SILICONE BREAST IMPLANTS isn’t earth-shatteringly important, but it’s in the news again, and it will illustrate my "boobery" thesis.

Friday’s OC Register ran a story about the FDA’s recent reversal concerning silicone breast implants. According to the article,
The FDA on Friday reversed more than a decade-long ban on silicone implants, clearing the way for Allergan of Irvine to begin selling the product that many doctors and women prefer…Silicone implants were banned because of leaks that sickened thousands of women. Today's version [of silicone breast implants] is different and safe, doctors say…. (Silicone OK)
Yesterday, the LA Times reported that
…After rigorous review, the FDA can offer a "reasonable assurance" that silicone implants are "safe and effective," said Donna-Bea Tillman, director of the FDA Office of Device Evaluation…But she emphasized that the implants are subject to breakdown within the body…..

…Concern about the health consequences of leaking implants prompted the FDA in 1992 to ban their use in cosmetic procedures….

Studies have found no association between silicone implants and cancer or other life-threatening diseases, although the FDA said Friday that it will continue to monitor for any such risk.

...On Capitol Hill, several prominent female lawmakers expressed doubts about the decision. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), said she may hold hearings into the decision next year. "This appears to be yet another example of the FDA dismissing scientific evidence in order to appease corporate interests," said DeLauro, who is in line to chair the panel that controls the FDA's purse strings…. (FDA ends ban)
I believe that, if you ask the average person about silicone breast implants, they’ll likely tell you that the things are unsafe and that they caused serious diseases. That’s why they were taken off the market years ago.

But, in fact, there has never been any evidence that silicone breast implants cause life-threatening diseases. Granted, they leak. And when they leak or rupture, that needs to be fixed. But the “rupture” problem is not life-threatening.

Don't get me wrong: I'm as suspicious of big nasty companies like Dow Corning as the next guy. But watchdogs lose ground when they tag corporations (et al.) for stuff they didn't do. Ultimately, that kind of tagging becomes serious self-taggery.

Dow Corning, the manufacturer of silicone breast implants in the 90s, is probably a shitty and nasty corporation, but, in this instance, it got a raw deal, and it's still getting a raw deal. Consider the above Register article. The Reg says that silicone implants “were banned because of leaks that sickened thousands of women.”

Well, they leaked all right. But did they sicken all those women?

The Times article does a little better. According to the Times, “Studies have found no association between silicone implants and cancer or other life-threatening diseases, although the FDA said Friday that it will continue to monitor for any such risk.”

OK, HERE'S THE THING. Back in the 90s, women—thousands of them—sued Dow Corning for subjecting them to “dangerous” silicone breast implants. They got a big fat settlement, a record-breaker. They got that settlement despite the absence of any evidence that the leaking silicone was causing anything. As Robert Todd Carroll wrote at the time:
The two experts who testified for the [women]…were seemingly reputable scientists. They testified to the causal connection between breast implants and such things as connective tissue disease. Dow paid off millions and filed for bankruptcy. Jenny Jones and Oprah had programs featuring women who'd had breast implants and were suffering from painful disorders. The general public would reasonably conclude from such behavior that there must be strong evidence that breast implants caused these disorders.
OK, here’s the clincher, logic fans:
Yet, the rest of the medical scientific community maintains that given the more than one million women who have had breast implants, it would be expected by chance, if there were no causal connection between the implants and disease, that about 1% or 10,000 women would be ill, because that is the percent of women in the general population who suffer from these problems. That is what the studies have found.
Think about that. It ain’t rocket science. Just put two and two together:
If there were a causal connection [between having silicone breast implants and getting these diseases], the percentage of women who'd had breast implants suffering from diseases such as connective tissue disease should be significantly higher than that for women who do not have breast implants.

It isn't.
Nearly seven years later, Carroll updated the story:
Boston Globe Columnist Alex Beam has an interesting article today in praise of Marcia Angel, former executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. Angel brought the wrath of feminist hell upon herself in 1992 when she wrote an editorial challenging the Food and Drug Administration's decision to ban the manufacture of silicone breast implants. She dared to challenge the FDA, even though nobody had done any medical studies on the issue. It didn't matter. The lawyers extorted a $4.25 billion settlement against the implant manufacturers without needing any scientific evidence that the implants were harming women….

"The whole sequence was upside-down," Angel says. "First we had the lawsuits, then the FDA ban, and then the announcement of the largest class-action settlement in history. Only two months later did we get the first scientific study of the issue in question. What causes this is the use of expert witnesses. The expert gives an opinion, and that becomes the evidence. Since they are hired by the adversaries, they get the most extreme people they can find. In science it's the opposite. It doesn't matter who you are; what matters are what your data say."

The data didn't support the lawyers or the feminists.
We are fortunate to live in a society in which people can debate issues more or less freely. But our debates would be tons more valuable if people—both on the right and the left and anywhere else—would finally get a CLUE about the scientist’s concept of evidence and the logician’s concept of a sound argument.

(Note: I added all the italics to quoted passages.)


NOW contra FDA - 11/17/06
Mass media bunk, Robert Todd Carroll
Junk science 1999
Wall Street Journal editorial, 1999
Wikipedia on breast implants
Frontline's chronology

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

✅ Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory on Kamala Harris’s Eligibility to Be Vice President NYT ✅ Orange County Sees Overall Coronavirus...

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