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Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Board President Don Wagner harassed by bumble bee
If you’ve been following our reports of board meetings throughout the summer, you know that the administration/trustees of the SOCCCD are in a weird place right now. There’s open hostility between Board Prez Don Wagner and his camp (Padberg, Milchiker, Jay, Roquemore, et al.) and Tom Fuentes and his gang (Lang, Williams, bees, roaches).
That’s the bad news, I suppose. The good news is that today’s “Chancellor’s opening session” was the best such session to be seen in many years.
It really helped that Fuentes and Williams were absent. No sulfur stink. No milk mustache.
Lang, pretending not to be the kind of guy who will sell out his friends for career opportunities, gave an "invocation" that seemed to be entirely unreligious. So it really wasn't an invocation, if you ask me. Is that good? Not sure.
Wagner was on hand, of course, looking pretty strong for a guy who’s been through hell. He even managed to be funny (albeit still a bit dark; he provided the only rays of darkness during the 90-minute event; he can't help being just a tad menacing).
Marcia Milchiker, Dave Lang, and Wagner were the only trustees to show, which is a first. It’s been a while since Williams has missed one of these things. He’s seriously into milk and cookies, I guess.
Here’s a quick rundown of what happened today. I missed the first minute or so. Don’t know what happened then. Like I said, Lang gave an invocation that didn’t seem to invoke anybody, but it was nice, if bland. (To the extent that it was an invocation, it was non-nice.)
Mr. Bob Bramucci did his usual whizbangery in what he called a “Tech Check.” We’ve been upgraded to Blackboard 9.1, he said, and it is packed with fabulous prizes. If you’ve got an iPad, you can connect to all sorts of things of importance, district/college-wise, said Bob.
He showed us some “IVC aps” for the iPhone that seemed pretty cool. You can look up anybody and get their contact info. You can search the schedule of courses; you can get directions—complete with GPS that tracks you like some kinda perp.
There’s something called PUSH BI, which seemed pretty good, if you’re into WSCH and that sort of thing. Evidently, our district, along with the usual suspects (Ivy League colleges, UCI) were honored for being really good at something. Tech stuff I guess. Not sure. Big applause.
Bramucci did his usual thing with funny pics from off the web: cats, dogs, drunk people. It was all in good fun. No Elvis sightings.
Then he strapped on his eeelectric guitar and did his schtick, which is pretty schticky, if you ask me, but still pretty dang entertaining. He managed to find excuses to play riffs from “Seven Nation Army,” “Day Tripper,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Walk This Way,” “Purple Haze,” “More Than a Feeling,” and so on. He was like one of those old K-Tell commercials. A cavalcade of super-hot riffulosity!
He must be a seriously hammy guy. The audience gobbled it up. The jokes were corny and the audience loved that too.
Prez Burnett and Prez Roquemore took turns introducing new faculty. All in all, about twenty-five of ‘em got up there to take their bows and get their grin 'n' grips. They didn't drag it out, which is good. Nice pacing.
Next came Vice Chancellor of Business-Whatever David Bugay—seems like a great guy—and another one of his eccentric-yet-homespun but highly entertaining showlettes. He called it, “Going to the top: a living mosaic.” That didn’t sound good.
But I think it was good. In his odd way, he is a bold fellow.
He started with images concerning the issues of our day, our worry and uncertainty, etc. He moved on to issues in the district: What’s with ATEP? Facilities funding. The Chancellor search.
But then he offered a series of “encounters” with clusters of students, faculty, classified, administrators, et al., as a janitor swept in the background and the screen displayed big letters and goofy images.
Bugay is good at this sort of thing. He puts on a good show.
The running gag was his asking students, as they walked away, “Where you goin’?”, and the kid always says, “Why, I’m going to the top!” Then said kid walked over to some stairs to nowhere on the right side of the stage.
“It’s about students going to the top," chirped the Vice Chancellor, repeatedly. That sounded uncomfortably close to one of Mathur’s mantras. But the series of charmingly fake encounters (including one with his own son, who asked for twenty bucks) seemed to work very well anyway.
Wagner then came up to speak, and he was a little menacing (it’s a subtle thing), as he always is, but he was funny, too. (You don't need to be menacing, Don.) He started off with a dig at Raghu Mathur: “Remember when the Chancellor’s opening session was all about Elvis? What do you think of this?”
Don and Co. pulled it off, I think. It was indeed a new kind of opening session. A friendly one. A “great step up from Elvis,” as Wagner put it. And it was.
Wagner was keenly aware that this was his last opening session (what with his big Assembly race and likely victory in November). He made a point of thanking everybody. He said it was an “honor and a priviledge” to be involved in a “small way” in what the district does. I think he meant it.
That’s when David Bugay kept gesturing at Wagner, annoying him (you know Don). I almost ran over to do a body block, but, finally, it became clear that the Wag-Man was being investigated by a persistent bumble bee, who had lit on his shoulder. The bee soon took flight, but then commenced buzzing around Don’s head. He/she seemed especially interested in Don’s hair. The dang thing seemed intent on buzzing the fellow--just like those old planes surrounding the Empire State Building in "King Kong." It was way cool.
But Don rolled with the punches. “It didn’t happen in rehearsal!” he joked, good naturedly. The bee finally went off to bug somebody else.
Next, we were entertained by a fake live conversation with Acting Chancellor Dixie Bullock, vacationing in St. Petersburg, Russia. She filled the screen, standing on the banks of a river. It looked like Russia all right. Pretty dreary. We could hear traffic noise. Dead Russians floated by.
Naturally, the whole thing was taped, but Wagner (and Bullock) did a pretty good job seeming to have a live conversation, just like on CNN. “Yes,” said Dixie to Don’s first question, “I started as a faculty member.” But he hadn’t asked a yes/no question. Pretty funny.
What are your plans?, asked Don.
Stability and civility in the district, said Dixie.
There was a big technical snafu. Don ad libbed: “No, Dixie, go on, really!”
Fortuitously, the signal was then restored, more or less. She talked a bit about the value of civility, a theme touched on earlier by Bugay. She said we oughta so hello when we pass people on campus. “A pleasant verbal greeting will make our day going right!” she chirped. (She sounded exactly like Sue-Ann Nivens.)
Just then, the technical glitch returned, and, for a brief second or two, she sounded just like a freakin' chipmunk. She’s already a very popular gal, but, owing to this chipmunk episode, her popularity will no doubt reach new heights.
Don smiled a winning smile.
We can be Number 1. We’re not far from it now!, said Dixie.
Well, then came the “issuing of pins,” an absurd ritual the premise of which is: the longer you maintain your job in the district, the more impressive you are. I don't get it. Some people seem actually to enjoy this exercise, including the recipients, who often beamed with pride.
And that was it.
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Goals and Values and Twaddle
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….
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.—The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
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