Saturday, March 24, 2007

Potatoes that glow in the dark

● THE "O.C.": F*CKED UP FROM DAY ONE. Anyone who’s interested in local history knows the name Jim Sleeper. Sleeper has been Orange County’s unofficial “official historian” since the 50s. I’ve run into him once or twice, and he’s a nice guy.

On Thursday, the OC Reg did a little story on the 79-year-old Sleepster: O.C. historian receives lifetime achievement award. In an interview, Sleeper is asked whether there’s anything that people don’t know about the county:

It didn't take its name from oranges, that's for sure, because there wasn't a producing orange tree at the time the name was acquired. The name "Orange County" was kind of a hand-me-down chosen for the specific purposes of tourism and because it has a Mediterranean flavor….”

Tourism? Mediterranean flavor? Sheesh, OC has been f*cked up by the Money Men from nearly the beginning, I guess. Well, at least we did actually have oranges for a while. I remember ‘em. They’re round and they smell good. I recommend them highly.

● GOOD VIBRATIONS. Many denizens of Irvine Valley College are familiar with Jeffrey Road, and, in particular, with the railroad crossing between IVC and the 5. It’s kinda charming having to stop there for the train once in a while.

Well, according to the Irvine World News, owing to complaints about noisy train horns, the city will be routing Jeffrey under the tracks: Jeffrey under the tracks:

Residents in the Meadows Mobile Home Park on Jeffrey Road … have repeatedly asked the city to explain what is being done to quiet the horns of passing trains…The city is working to lower Jeffrey Road below the train tracks … $24 million in state funding has come through for the project…Seven contractors submitted bids for the project and SEMA Construction Inc. was the apparent low bidder with a bid of $27,564,698.

…[C]onstruction is expected to begin in June. The project is scheduled to be completed in December 2009…To minimize potential delays for motorists during construction, a lighted, four-lane detour road will be placed along Jeffrey Road throughout the construction phase…The project includes lowering Jeffrey Road under the railroad tracks, building a bicycle and pedestrian bridge adjacent to the new railroad bridge, widening Jeffrey Road to six lanes (three in each direction) and landscaping the median islands on Jeffrey between Irvine Center Drive and Walnut Avenue.

Sounds great, I guess, but I will miss the funky old railroad track and the retro feel of waiting for a train to go by. Plus, this kind of renovation is yet another typically Irvinean blinder to the reality that most folks don’t drive Mercedes and Lexuses. That’s kinda creepy, if you ask me.

There’s one peculiarity to this story. It ends with: “During construction, the tracks will be moved even closer to the mobile homes. The city will adjust any mobile homes that shift because of vibrations from passing trains.”

OK, so, thanks to 24 million state dollars, these mobile home people will gain horn-elimination at the price of vibrations strong enough to move their trailers.

Something ain’t right.

● GLOWING POTATOES. Yesterday, in my morning “Intro to Philosophy” course, a student assured me that genetic modification of foods is a genuine threat, that, in fact, the nefarious GM people have developed a potato that glows in the dark.

I expressed polite skepticism. Still, I urged the young man to bring the potato to class.

I’ll let you know what he comes up with.

(I’m rootin’ for the kid and his special spud.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Eat pizza, then squawk

● THE FACULTY UNION wants faculty's presence felt at next Monday’s board meeting. The Faculty Association website informs us that

The [union] is delivering its initial contract proposal to the Board on Monday, March 26th, to begin the negotiations process. To encourage faculty participation, the FA is hosting a pre-board meeting pizza party at Boosters on Marguerite Parkway … at 5 p.m. After the pizza, attend the public comments portion of the Board Meeting at 6:30 p.m. We need to send a message to the Board that the faculty [are] united, and supports ou[r] negotiating team in securing a new contract.

I’ve been to some of these union pizza parties, and they’re pretty good. I’m not a member—I quit when the FA endorsed John “Junket” Williams for Public Administrator—but I do like to see faculty from the two colleges get together, laugh, eat pizza, drink beer, and then march boisterously up the hill with torches to set fire to an enormous Tom Fuentes effigy out in front of BGS.

You don’t wanna miss that.

● Recently, Chancellor Raghu P. Mathur and his board enablers adopted changes to the monthly board meetings—supposedly, for the sake of “streamlining.” These innovations don’t seem to be working thus far: the last meeting went on for days.

But you can still make comments at the head of the meeting, and they end up on local cable TV, too. Now, I know that you don’t care about that audience, but the trustees do.

If you speak, do try to sound like a Republican. Wear one of those little flags. Mention that you love freedom and you hate people who aren't willing to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people just for a chance to thrust it on their society.

● I checked out the meeting’s agenda (available here), and there isn’t much there’ ceptin’ for one or two things.

Trustee TOM FUENTES will do the invocation. You never want to miss that. It’s like time travel to listen to the fellow invoke the Lord. Or maybe it’s like gagging on a maggot. One time, the Reb heard him thank the Deity for "the taxpayers." He never thanks God for faculty. He hates ‘em. I think he wants 'em all to burn in hell. He's very pious.

She's a kind hearted woman,
she studies evil all the time.
She's a kind hearted woman,
she studies evil all the time.
You're best to quit me baby
as just to have it on your mind.
—Rob't Johnson

● Near as I can tell, the only interesting agenda item is “discussion item” 6.2:

Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College: Outcome of November 2006 Accreditation Progress Visits and Implications for October 2007 Accreditation Midterm Reports
Recommendation that Board of Trustees discuss and identify strategies to conduct a Special Board meeting on April 5 2007 with focus on addressing the accreditation recommendations.

OK, it’s like this. The “outcome” of the visits was that, according to the Accreds, there’s still a plague of “despair” at the colleges, and the trustees are still micromanaging. (So is the Chancellor.)

Naturally, trustee Don Wagner, a notoriously prickly and peevish fellow, recently proclaimed that the notion that HE micromanages (as the Accreds had in fact charged) is absurd. He even seemed to say that, whatever he was doing that counted as micromanaging to the Accreds—well, gosh darn it, he’ll do it again, if he feels moved to.

At least in the past, his pal Tom Fuentes, too, has made it pretty clear that, in his fevered mind, the whole Accreditation process is rigged by, or at the behest of, faculty. The fellow seems to embrace conspiracy theories—you know, as did Steve "What Holocaust?" Frogue, whom Fuentes replaced nearly seven years ago. I think nutty people shouldn't be entrusted with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, don't you?

Plus, according to Tom, the Accreds won't pull our ticket, and only a fool would think they might. So he explained to the student trustee last year.

That sort of talk makes Chancellor Mathur nervous. Mathur obviously wants the trustees to just give the Accreds what they want. You know, just jump through those goddam hoops, make this thing go away.

Hence this agenda item. At least there's a paper trail. "See, we fretted about it in March, then again in April!" he'll tell 'em.

So it will be interesting to see what comes out of these people's mouths. I think. They're not all on the same page, and they're mostly mean and plug-ugly. Maybe somebody's head will pop.

See you all Monday afternoon.

What's with these community college trustees?

Not so long ago, Chancellor Raghu Mathur of the SOCCCD was caught trying to sneak a raise into an oddly labeled board agenda item. (See Raghu's stealth agenda item.) Luckily, faculty were on the ball that time.

It was almost a classic Mathurian moment.

I figured only Raghu would try something like that. And I figured only our benighted board would let it pass.

I figured wrong.

Yesterday’s San Diego Union-Tribune reported that

Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Chancellor OMERO SUAREZ will not be disciplined for changing his contract without board approval. The district's Governing Board made that clear Tuesday night when it voted 4-1 in closed session against a proposal by trustee Timothy Caruthers to discipline Suarez.

The board was criticized last month for not revealing whether it was considering any action against Suarez. Board President Rick Alexander, who announced the vote in open session, said the board wanted the public to know the issue had been discussed.

Suarez admitted deleting the buyout clause from his contract without board approval last year, but he denied doing it so he could negotiate a more lucrative deal, as Caruthers has contended. Suarez said he did it to bring his contract in line with those of other high-ranking administrators who don't have buyout clauses.

Mathur survived his sneaky prehensile episode too. What’s with these boards?

In the past, when a raise for the Chancellor has been openly contemplated, Mathur has argued that a raise would bring his salary "in line" with salaries of other chancellors in the state.

Mathur makes about $300,000 a year! Some community college chancellors make that kind of money, but their districts comprise many colleges. SOCCCD comprises only two.

If you have any queries about Mathur's salary, you might contact trustees Tom Fuentes, Dave Lang, John Williams, and Don Wagner. They love the guy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Simplistic and unfair?

HERE IN CALIFORNIA, there’s been lots of talk of late about the low “transfer rates” at community colleges. Community college insiders complain that the criticism is fallacious and simplistic.

But what about the rest of the country? Same squabble, evidently. But a new study might throw some light on the subject. Or not. This morning’s Inside Higher Ed reports on a study that addresses, in particular, the inadequacies of the Feds’ transfer measures as applied to community colleges across the nation.

The study focuses on schools in Florida:

…The issue of graduation rates is one that is increasingly important in higher education, as politicians and others seek more ways to gauge colleges’ performance and hold them accountable. But as the study notes, community colleges have complained for years that the rates that the federal government uses aren’t appropriate for their institutions and lead to simplistic and unfair criticisms. The study was done by scholars at the Community College Research Center of Teachers College, Columbia University.

The study examines the validity of the “Student Right to Know” graduation rates, which all colleges must report under federal law. These rates measure graduation within 150 percent of the standard time for a degree — six years for a four-year institution and three years for a community college offering associate degrees. The study focused on Florida’s 28 community colleges….

The first part of the report walks through the major criticisms made of the federal rate: that it doesn’t take into account the transfer mission of community colleges, that its time period is too short to fairly track non-traditional age students, that it doesn’t include part-time students, that definitions are inconsistent, and so forth. By and large, the study finds the criticisms valid and points to ways that the federal definition shortchanges community colleges and implies that they have very low graduation rates, which in some cases isn’t true and in other cases (where students are transferring) may not be relevant.

“Simply saying that the graduation rate for a particular community college is 25 percent provides very little useful information to anyone,” the report says. And the report concludes that reporting these rates can be dangerous to community colleges in terms of public perceptions, since so many people unfamiliar with community colleges assume all colleges are educating traditional undergraduates who have the ability and means to finish a bachelor’s degree in four years.

But the scholars also used Florida’s data to construct alternative graduation rates — avoiding some of the flaws identified in the federal system. … Then the researchers compared the rates using the federal system with the more sophisticated approach. And they found that the rankings don’t change significantly.

As a result, the researchers conclude that however flawed the federal data are for community colleges, they may still represent “a reasonable first approximation of relative college performance.”

The report ends by endorsing the creation of a national “student unit record” system — which would track students from institution to institution and across state lines. With such a system, analysis like that done in Florida could be done elsewhere. While many community colleges — not to mention key members of the Bush administration — favor that concept, it has been opposed by many student groups and private colleges, who fear that it would result in a huge loss of privacy rights.
(See Community Colleges and Graduation Rates.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In a possible world, more hellish than our own

A question re the Chief of Police search

● We at DISSENT the BLOG get all sorts of information, some of it offered anonymously. Most of the anonymous stuff we simply ignore, since, often, we are in no position to verify it.

And some of it is not anonymous. We ignore lots of that, too.

Someone recently visited me and told me something disturbing that I cannot easily verify, but the person has been reliable in the past, and their claim, if correct, is important. So let me just report it to you as such. They are making a claim. Is it true? Dunno.

This person, person X, asserted that the search committee for the new IVC Chief of Police is packed with cronies of the old Chief of Police, Owen Kreza, who left us not long ago amid an investigation and a cloud of controversy. There had long been stories and charges circulating regarding Kreza’s alleged unprofessionalism, cronyism, and abuse of power. Most of us at IVC were happy to see Kreza go.

The worry here is that, if the hiring process yields a Kreza crony, at least some of the same old problems with our security/police department will persist.

Now, again, I have no reason to believe that X’s charge is accurate, other than the fact that X makes it. So those of you who have something relevant to offer, please weigh in on this. Is the committee overly friendly to Kreza? Is it liable to focus on a pool of candidates that will give us more of the same?

UPDATE: a member of the committee told an associate, who told me this afternoon, that the search committee is strictly on the up and up. In fact, said the member, the committee is proud to have among its members Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard, Jr., a respected law enforcement figure. I do believe that the idea here is this: Maggard represents a high standard of police professionalism, no funny business.

FLY CATCHER? OK, I admit it, this isn't really fair. In truth, there have been one or two good administrative hires in the district in recent memory. But I found these old fly catchers in a drawer—my dad handed 'em to me a few years ago as though they were the greatest thing since sliced bread—and I couldn't resist whipping something up. Let's hope the big new searches/hires—the IVC VPI, comes to mind—will yield some good & competent people.

● Lots of people on campus (here at IVC) seem very happy about Wayne Ward's exit—that'll happen next week Friday. I'm surprised they haven't broken out the blue and white balloons.

● An article in this morning’s OC Register (Irvine expects growth spurt) discusses the debate concerning managing the growth of the city of Irvine:

The county's fourth-largest city will add at least 70,000 people by 2025, according to the latest city population estimates.

The city's growth is spurred by 6,781 acres that have yet to be developed into villages such as Portola Springs, Orchard Hills and Stonegate. Additionally, the city has two redevelopment areas–the old El Toro base and the industrial area near John Wayne Airport–where thousands of residences are being built.

And the population estimate–made by city planners using birth, death, development and other figures–could rise….

…The city's last and largest development decisions are now being made by the City Council. And council members have two different visions for Irvine in the year 2025.

Councilman Larry Agran once was touted as a "slow-growth" advocate–or as he now says, a promoter of "controlled or carefully managed growth." … Today Agran sees the city's future differently. He said two things have changed his vision: more market demand for housing and the closure of El Toro and defeat of efforts to build an airport there.

…The city can manage to add at least 70,000 people – in part by focusing on mass transit, he said. Creating a system of pedestrian and bicycle trails, bus routes, light rail and heavy rail, Agran said, will help residents depend less on vehicles.

Councilwoman Christina Shea disagrees. Shea supports mass transit, but said it should add to, not substitute for, regular traffic planning. The city is adding too many residences without properly planning for quality of life areas such as traffic and city services, she said. "I believe our development is leading the city on a downhill spiral," she said….

Monday, March 19, 2007

Waning Waynitude

CAMPUS WAS ABUZZ this afternoon with the news that Wayne Ward, Irvine Valley College's unpopular Director of Facilities and Maintenance, has announced his departure later this month from the college. He did so earlier today at a staff meeting.

Evidently, Wayne has secured a new and similar position at UC Irvine. He begins there next month.

People seemed generally pleased about this development, though they also expressed amazement that UCI would choose to hire the fellow. Said one colleague, "I hate to say it, but the bigger the institution—"

She didn't finish the sentence. She didn't have to. Everyone nodded.

There's talk of a Wayne Ward "Hit the Road Jack" party. It will feature a water-filled condom "toss off," a series of faux public humiliations, and a brief seminar on "free gasoline."

Many speculate that Wayne's exit is related to the controversies that marked his tenure as Director. Several grievances have been filed against him, and many who serve under him tell tales of persistent & defiant Wayne Wardian unprofessionalism & high-handedness, as when he refused to fix equipment that posed a hazard to employees or apparently retaliated against grieving employees. Further, students and employees have long complained about the very poor condition of restrooms and other facilities over which Wayne is responsible, and the pattern of repeated SNAFUs, as when the CEC temporaries were not ready for use at the start of Fall Semester, leaving many classes without rooms.

(We'd love to give credit where credit is due. We'll try to find out just why this has occurred.)

Let us know what you think about Wayne's exit and what will or should come next.

I, for one, will miss seeing Wayne's Camaro parked—well, wherever the hell Wayne wants to park it.

I should mention that, according to reliable sources, recently, the CSEA (classified union) dropped a grievance against Wayne. No word yet on whether that decision was related in any way to Wayne's decision to leave.

See also:
Abject finger pointage

Tales of SNAFUery

”It’s a condom,” he said

Wayne’s retaliation?

The “flesh-eating cart from hell,” and other tales
New CECs: not ready for prime time

Sunny horns in on production of Dissent, Tuesday morning.

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