Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Benighted and bewildered

     Last semester, some faculty in my school were compelled to deal with an unstable student. At one point in early November, the student's behavior became very disturbing (he showed up during late hours looking for an instructor, muttering strange and worrisome things about her), and subsequent faculty efforts to draw an adequate response from administration proved to be frustrating—even infuriating. A certain degree of incompetence or confusion seemed to prevail.
     And so the matter was brought to the attention of the Academic Senate.
     At the time, DtB reported as follows:
     Nov. 5: At yesterday's meeting of the Irvine Valley College Academic Senate, a senate officer described an unfortunate circumstance at the college this week. (See Rebel Girl's recent post: Running with scissors.) On Tuesday, she said, a student walked around the faculty office wing of the A200 Bldg., making menacing remarks about instructors. (There’s lots more to the story, but rest assured that the situation was alarming.)
     She offered the view that the college has not handled the situation well (note: Dean Karima Feldhus, who is good with these situations, has been away with family this week), evidenced by the fact that there has been no public communication about the existing situation, and, worse, some of the student’s professors have not even been informed about him and the problem he now presents. She said that administration had a "communication" problem and that a "protocol" should be developed for such cases.
     For now, the senate can do no more than to agendize the matter for a future discussion.
     Ultimately, administrators seemed to get their acts somewhat together (arguably), and there was some effort to keep immediately-involved faculty apprised of the student's location and disposition (he was briefly institutionalized, then released, but continued to make provocative statements).
     At a subsequent senate meeting, as I recall, the Rep Council decided to communicate with administration, asking that it examine the practices and protocols of other colleges—with regard to dealing with disturbed and possibly violent students—toward the establishment of an adequate protocol at our benighted and bewildered college.
     At some point, we learned that the student had communicated with the college, explaining that he would no longer set foot here but that he would soon resume his studies at a certain other local college.
     Naturally, some of us wondered whether that college should or could be warned. It appears that, owing to legal constraints deriving from the student's rights, no such warnings could or would be given. Amazing. Or not.
* * * * *
     During last week's inservice activities at IVC, one session seemed to be inspired by Fall's "disturbed student" episode. Entitled "Balancing Student Privacy and College Safety," it was "advertised" as follows:
What constitutes disruptive behaviors and the teamwork needed to successfully address those inappropriate college behaviors. A review of recommended preventive measures to inform student of your behavior expectation, available campus resources and protocol in documenting will be covered.
     I dunno. I was discouraged. To me, the session, thus entitled and described, was redolent of a failure to acknowledge the seriousness of what had recently occurred. These administrators just weren't getting it. The usual bromides and tips weren't gonna cut it.
     The session was led by the Vice President of Student Services, the Dean of Student Services, and IVC's Chief of Police.
     When I arrived for the session (a bit late), the discussion seemed decent enough, but it struck me as odd that no (or only passing) reference had been made (I asked) to the recent episode, which had upset so many of us, especially with regard to the apparent cluelessness of administration. And so, being me, I asked the panel whether administration regarded the college response to that episode as adequate. I explained that it can be very difficult proceeding with one's classes, knowing that an unstable and possibly violent student is loose, liable to return to class or appear in one's doorway in who-knows-what-state. No, I said, it just won't do. Administration should have some sort of policy or procedure to relieve faculty of this kind of burden, to give them a sense that somebody is covering the waterfront. Surely, there ought to be something, a protocol, that kicks in fast and can be depended on!
     My question elicited a certain amount of mindless dystopian blathertude from some, but, eventually, the VP of SS flatly stated that the response had indeed been inadequate and that steps should and would be taken to develop an adequate protocol.
     I do believe that the VP of SS "gets it," more or less. Good. I have no such confidence, however, in her administrative partner, the dean. (Stories of that woman's questionable competence are legion; nevertheless, she continues to be handed responsibilities—with predictable results.)
     Some of us left the meeting with imperfect confidence that things would be taken care of. It was yet another IVC moment, like so many others. What now, my love. Now that you've left me.
     A committee will be formed, of course, and it will make recommendations, I suppose. But you know how that can go. Committee doings so often are uncommonsensical, onanistic, Orwellian, and flat stupid, especially when people with education degrees are in charge. Good Lord. And then somebody gets a prize, and we all go home and drink.
     And now this Arizona gunman thing happened. And the shooter (allegedly) was a community college student. And folks at his little college recognized that he was a potential threat (good work!) and took steps to remove him. Administrative cluelessness was eventually overcome; he was removed.
     Nevertheless, the larger system failed to detect him as the kind of threat he evidently was. Plus the State of Arizona is flat insane. They hate Mexicans, you know. And Americans can't think about guns. Morons. They don't get it. It seems that they never will.
     And so there you are. 


Anonymous said...

At few times when I felt unsafe on campus did I feel that the Administration "got it" - mostly I felt that Administration just wanted me to go away and shut up.

Anonymous said...

Administration doesn't get it until disturbed students end up in the A100 building. Only then will administrators see the threat.

Oh, the Dean of SS - what a clueless nightmare!

Voice of experience.

Anonymous said...

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Sandro Heckler

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