Friday, February 3, 2012

IVC's "civility initiative": what on Earth goes on at this college?!

Dec. 16: Working Group on Civility
     This is the first in a series of posts about what I shall call the “civility initiative,” an effort, no doubt inspired in part by accreditor observations but also by complaints from various groups and individuals among the IVC community, to address “incivility” at the college. (See REPORT.)
     –Or, anyway, something like that.
     Unfortunately, despite our institution’s nature—or partial nature—as a “college,” one cannot count on IVC denizens, especially administrators, to use words precisely or even more or less correctly. Remember the decades in which Building A300 was labeled “Humanites”? We’d point at the letters on that wall. “So, what’s the problem?” administrators would ask.
     My Mac’s dictionary offers this definition of “civility”:
formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech
     Gosh, surely our college community isn’t concerned about so superficial a part of life as manners! OK, certain people really could do with a few lessons in when and when not to, um, snort. And, gosh, why can’t certain people (especially in Fine Arts*) learn how to eat and talk in a manner that avoids spewage?
     —Nope, the problem at IVC isn’t a mere lack of manners or courtesy. “Incivility” is code here for a range of phenomena ranging from mere rudeness to, I think, ruthlessness and meanness, which takes us beyond the realm of civility into the zone of moral ugliness--even violence.
     That IVC's "(in)civility" issue is really about a darker range of behaviors than that word implies becomes clear when one reads the recent “report” sent around yesterday by VPI Justice. Justice introduces it thus:
Please share this report from John Spevak regarding Civility. We would like all faculty and staff in your area to have a copy for their review. Please forward it as appropriate. Thank you.
     How very civil! I'll do what I can to share it!
     Here's some background. Evidently (this is in the report), in November, President Roquemore hired a Sacramento consulting firm—College Brain Trust (I kid you not)—to help address this so-called civility issue. CBT chose consultant John Spevak, a former administrator at Merced College, as our facilitator. Soon, Spevak and Roquemore consulted with Dennis Gordon (classified), Jeff Kaufmann (faculty), and Keith Shackleford (administration) to plan some sort of workshop or retreat, which occurred on Dec. 16 at the Irvine Ranch Water District Duck Club building.
     Before that date, the 20-or-so participants (including 4 faculty, 5 classified, 6 “managers” [including administrators], two “guests,” et al.) were told to think about these questions:
· What have been some of the issues and challenges at IVC related to civility in the recent past?
· What are the core values related to civility that the IVC community shares?
· What are examples of model behaviors related to these values?
· What are the (minimal) behavioral expectations related to civility as a result of these core values?
· Related to civility, what behaviors are considered unacceptable?
· What are some proactive things IVC can do to foster civility?
· What are some ways to deal with incivility when it occurs on campus?
     The “guests” were Dean Jay Heffron from Soka University and Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California Irvine School of Law. Impressive.
     On the big day, Spevak broke this mob into several smaller groups: “gender-balanced groups with representatives of faculty, classified staff, and managers.”
     Participants at the Duck Club were told to adopt a "Donald Duck voice"** and then to discuss the above questions. Eventually, they ranked "items" for "significance" with red, green, and yellow dots (somebody urged the use of “hearts” next time; really). This led to a document (attachment 1 of the “report”) that presents issues ranked as “priority 1,” “priority 2,” and “priority 3”—based on participants’ wielding of those silly "significance" dots.


     OK, so here’s the deal. With respect to the question

What are recent issues and challenges related to civility (and mutual respect) at IVC?

the group, according to Spevak’s accounting, identified these three issues/challenges as Priority 1:
1) Insufficient transparency in college processes
2) Fears of retaliation
3) Not moving on from an earlier culture when everyone was united against one person (the chancellor)
     Wow. Correct me if I’m wrong, but two of the three items on this list reflect unhappiness with top administration. It is often said—certainly often by me—that nobody seems to know what’s going on at this college, how decisions are made, etc. They just get made somehow. The recent administrative actions concerning the MRC are perhaps a good example. Suddenly, by August, the MRC was banished from that cool space in BSTIC. And, somehow, it was decided that the faculty CAFÉ would go there instead. But then the space remained empty for an entire semester! How come? Then, at the start of Spring semester, we learned that the CAFÉ (which persisted through the Fall only as an abstraction) would not be in BSTIC; it would instead replace the Learning Center in the library. Meanwhile, something called the “Student Success Center” sprouted in that old MRC space.
     Fear of retaliation? I’ve heard those words often in recent years, and they usually come up in connection with the VPI. (Am I wrong?)
     The “priority 2” list is less interesting: a hodgepodge of concerns, few of which seem connected to “civility.” The first of 9 items is “A need to improve customer service and communication with students.” (“Anonymous commentary through ‘the blog’” appears as #5. Damned trolls!)
     “Transparency” and “communication” come up in each of the three “priorities.” Hmmm.
     With regard to the question,

What are core values related to civility shared by the IVC community?

the “priority 1” list is the following:
1) Communication, including the communication of significant information
2) Mutual respect
3) Transparency
4) A climate of caring and kindness, recognizing that each person has intrinsic worth
5) A commitment to excellence
6) A sense of collective stewardship
—Ah, “transparency” and “communication” again. Isn’t that about administration?

Here are some results for the remaining questions:

QUESTION: As a result of the core values, what are (minimal) behavioral expectations at IVC related to civility and mutual respect?

The “priority 1” list is the following:
1) Treating others as you would like to be treated, with respect
2) Making the effort to be prepared for and engaged in what you agreed to
3) Taking responsibility for one’s own actions
4) Loyalty to the campus community
QUESTION: Related to civility and mutual respect, what are unacceptable behaviors at IVC?

The “priority 1” list is:
1) Yelling, shouting or obnoxious behavior; threats, profane or vulgar language
2) Retaliation or retribution
3) Passive-aggressive behaviors, including failure to respond and delaying tactics
4) Bullying, either in person or from afar
     Yesterday, Rebel Girl and I noted these concerns. We looked at each other.
     “Gosh,” we said, “what on Earth goes on at this college?!”

QUESTION: What are some pro-active things IVC can do to encourage and foster civility?

Priority 1
1) Creating a campus statement of norms and expectations, related to mission and vision, and including it in handbooks, in the college catalog, and within a mentor program
2) Creating for IVC a new era of civility: acknowledging the past, describing who we are now, identifying where we want to go
3) Sponsoring more projects that unite the IVC community (such as Operation Christmas Child); scheduling more informal social “fun” events for the entire campus
QUESTION: What are some ways to deal with incivility when it occurs at IVC?

Priority 1
1) Identifying root causes of incivility
2) Challenging inappropriate behavior; requesting appropriate responses and expectations
3) Creating campus climate mediators, volunteers who facilitate “safe harbor discussions” before issues reach the grievance stage
4) Creating a college mediator or ombudsman
     Let us know what you make of all this.

*Yeah, this is utterly gratuitous. False even.
**OK, I just made that up.


Anonymous said...

I didn't see this - where'd you get it?

B. von Traven said...

In the School of Humanities & Languages, faculty were sent the report in an email from the school secretary. I think there was a reference to "my report" in the email description. Evidently, VPI Justice intends to distribute the report to all denizens of the IVC community.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully, I think you are wrong and attempting to downplay the role of this blog in contributing to the problems remaining at IVC. Your posts about faculty and administrators are ill-informed and rude. Note the number of times you have posted a "story" and then had to correct it because you were wrong. Your erroneous posts create a culture of distrust. This blog is the primary reason the college is not moving on. You are stuck in 1997, replaying old tapes, and retaliating against faculty and administrators by smearing them all over the internet. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of watching you smear good folks because you are still mired in the '97 Big Sloppy. See a therapist. Get on meds. Move on. Retire! You obviously hate teaching and you hate the college. RETIRE!

B. von Traven said...

Thanks for your input, brave, brave ANONYMOUS.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Wendy

Anonymous said...

When I read the civility report, I thought the same thing. We all know who is vengeful and retaliates. We all know why there is fear and a lack of trust. We are all frustrated because top management won't acknowledge nor work on this problem. We've all seen the seemingly schizophrenic changes on campus without meaningful participation in the "open and transparent" decision making system we claim to have.

A civility committee sends me the message that we should shut up and be polite. Looks like your last anonymous poster agrees. At least with the blog, we have a place to post our opinions without fear of retribution. You retire, 8:22!

Anonymous said...

My, my, 8:22 needs to read the civility report for guidelines. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Ahem. Most of the people I know understand the spirit of the blog and appreciate its wide coverage of issues - even, really - if they don't agree with all of it. How is this possible? How can they value something with which on occasion they disagree? Well, they work at a college and recognize discourse.

However the colleges they work at do have a long history and one that continues today (really it does - not as bad as it was but there it is) where knowledge isn't shared and processes are not transparent - that's why the blog is read and valued - even yes, when people disagree with it.

Of course one reason the blog thrives is because there continues to be a lack of consistent communication and an absence of true exchange of ideas about programs and processes that impact the workplace and learning conditions of our students.

For example, the coverage a year or so ago about the situation at the Lutheran High School was eye-opening - as is the continuing discussion about the Early College Program. As well as the planning processes about the new buildings on campus.

Anonymous said...

PS - people who don't like the blog shouldn't steal Roy's photos from it and use them to promote the college.

Everyone knows he takes great pics and makes the college look cool.

I find it odd, dispiriting even, that some people equate criticism with hatred.

Anonymous said...

I cringe sometimes at the comments I read in this blog, but I appreciate the forum.

As for the civility report, consider the source. The idiot probably can't begin to see he is the problem.

Never thought I'd be defending you, bvt. You are spot on on this one.

Anonymous said...

This topic will blow up the blog. Lack of transparency, retaliation, fear, MRC, Cafe . . . that about sums it up. Catch a clue, Rocky!

Anonymous said...

8:22, respectfully, the college can't move on in an atmosphere of distrust and fear. The blog didn't create the problem, it just reports on the problems.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that this blog is so powerful that it has led to the current problems at the college. Nope! Lack of action on the part of the Prez, lack of integrity on the part of the VPrez, lack of manners and management skills by another ahole, and lack of loyalty (to faculty) on the part of the SenPrez. Nobody has the backs of the classified. Those are the problems. Tell me I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Much ado about nothing excerpt people got to go to the Duck Club and have a nice lunch and some guy or guys were paid a lot of money to utter platitudes.

This is already covered in other policies.

Perhaps though this is supposed to gild Glen's lily so he can begin to position himself for Chancellor. He will knight himself as the one who restored civility to the colleges. Of course, it easy for him to be civil because he doesn't say much or have much to say.

Anonymous said...

I do think the issues this new Initiative is trying to cover are already covered in policies that have been on the books for awhile. Some of this stuff usually gets struck down in court.

Anonymous said...

I LIKE how issues are discussed on the blog, though I know some take issue with some language. At least on the blog issues are taken seriously, with robust debate. I think there is a healthy skepticism here that isn't present elsewhere (meetings and forums). If it was we wouldn't have had to deal with so many problem in recent (yes recent) years - which comes from the leadership incompetence that others have spoken about and a knee-jerk response to protect people at the expense of the college and students.

Transparency might be asking too mush - I'd start with some openness, some acknowlegement.

Anonymous said...

The Blog does make me cringe and there is a tendency to scrape up old issues when its clearly time to leave them in the past. But when people do not believe that transparency and civility and respectful behavior is going on and there is yet another discussion at the Duck Club to discuss and enable and emote and engage in group hugs and whatever else IT IS telling when you rely on the blog for some straight talk--not all straight talk--but something real. While I cringe and look away at times I actually prefer to smiles and kudos because in those cases, I simply wait for the other shoe to drop. PLUNK.

Anonymous said...

1:29, I’m glad that you appreciate the blog to the degree that you do, but I am somewhat mystified by this perception by some readers that we “scrape up old issues.” Is this a reference to posts about Don Wagner? Tom Fuentes? John Williams? If you read the blog regularly, you will know that we view district politics (at the trustee level) and Orange County politics as very connected. And they are. One cannot understand what has gone on in our own BOT for the last fifteen years without understanding OC GOP politics and the internal struggle (at the county central committee) between the old guard (Fuentes) group, the moderates, and now the Tea Partiers. Now, in the case of John Williams, we followed and reported his misdeeds for many years when he was on the board. And we had a hand in drawing attention to his character and to his misdeeds—which led both to his serious County troubles and his resignation from the Board. Perhaps you don’t know that. Fuentes, of course, is still on the board and continues to have an ally there: Dave Lang. Lang has been allied with various other trustees in the past, but, these days, those alliances are over and only his fidelity to Fuentes remains. Don Wagner illustrates the sort of character who too often pursues membership on a board: someone who is interested in a career in politics and who performs as a board member always in terms of that ambition. That certainly was true for Wagner, who made sure that many hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on the “prayer” suit (which was inspired by a set of actions prominently including his own). Even now, Wagner occasionally returns to the district, as he did a couple of months ago. In my view, in pursuing an understanding of our BOT, we must pay attention to the broader picture. So just how is it that we scrape up old issues? --BvT

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