Thursday, July 10, 2014

State of the district? Heads will pop

The "territories" of the two colleges have long been informally defined
by El Toro Rd. That is likely to change.
     Below, I provide a kind of “state of the district” remark. –For what it’s worth.
     Please feel free to disagree or chime in one way or another. Let’s do the “forum” thing.

     Anything good to report?
     Absolutely, though you sure don’t need me to hear about it.
     Not sure about Saddleback (I just haven’t kept track), but here at IVC, we’ve hired some terrific new faculty in recent years. Really good people, good scholars, good educators. I am impressed and reassured.
     And there are some wonderful programs at the colleges. We know what they are.
     It appears that, occasional desperate yelps from college presidents to the contrary notwithstanding, our finances are in relatively good shape. In part that is owing to some of the board’s “conservative” policies. (No doubt the unions see the matter differently.)
     Relative financial health is a very good thing. Only time will tell whether our “basic aid” boondoggle, upon which much of this goodness rests, will continue. I sure hope so. (I do not object to taxpayer money being spent on community colleges. Basic Aid isn't really a boondoggle; it's just convoluted taxation, though our "fiscally conservative" trustees encourage the fiction that it is somehow not tax money. That which we call a turd
 by any other name would reek anew, y'know.)
     The kids that come through our colleges continue to be, in my estimation, very, very likeable—a chirpy crew that, generally, one is more than happy to educate. They’re almost as charming as puppies and kittens.
     Obviously, lots of district/college employees, including some administrators, are good, hard-working people—the kind of people a guy is proud to know. They’re a big reason that going to work in the good ol' SOCCCD, for most of us, is still enjoyable.
     If you want to experience more positivity still, that’s easily accomplished: just attend any board meeting or any one of the many college presidents’ public presentations, where never is heard a discouraging word and the sky is not cloudy all day.
     Me, I prefer realistic accounts.
     So what are the negatives?

     The district community now enjoys the best board of trustees (BOT) that it's ever had. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much. The SOCCCD’s* BOTs have been penny dreadful from the start, often because they’ve been political—consider the original board's loony “John Birch” paranoia and authoritarianism—or dominated by crafty members seeking political careers—e.g., Frogue, Wagner, Fuentes, Williams, Lang, et al.
     The fact is that, despite its legacy of having overcome many serious challenges, our current board routinely reveals profound cluelessness. This is wonderfully illustrated by a recent episode concerning part-time instructors. Fifteen months ago, a polite and articulate representative of the part-time instructor ranks addressed the board, offering a reminder of that group’s continued plight: no benefits, lousy pay, poor student access, poor job security, etc. It is, of course, a fundamental truth about our system that it relies heavily on the exploitation of part-timers. This truth is our great yet ignored failing, our Big Sin. Who would deny it?
     It is a truth that our board evidently does not understand at all.
     The board’s response to the part-timer? –Hostility and dismissal. (See here.) Evidently, they regard complaining part-timers as mere cranks.
     Ridiculous. Absurd. Shameful. (It has always puzzled me that the faculty union, dominated by full-timers, has never really regarded our system's miserable status quo as intolerable. But they don’t run the district.)
     In truth, The Seven wonderfully illustrate life in a perpetual Bubble.

     In the last decade or so, the higher ed “accreditation” system has been beset by loud and persistent complaints and even scandals, including recent developments that bring into question some accred agencies’ competence and fairness. The situation is too big and complex to describe briefly, so I won’t try.
     The SOCCCD's leadership has of course taken the short view, the nearsighted view, on all of this, noisily concentrating on just giving the accreditors what they want. To switch metaphors, district leadership has opted for the low road, ignoring the high road entirely. Maybe they’re just scared shitless of the Accreds (I think Babs Beno owns a knife). Could be. In any case, they seem oblivious to the deeper issues at hand at the colleges—administrative incompetence & abuse, disastrous student realities—and generally fail to actually improve matters.
     Obviously—though not to the BOT, it seems—the accrediting system, especially the ACCJC, has become an unaccountable, secretive, and incompetent bureaucracy, a force for massive wastes of time and money (SLOs, etc.) and, in general, a clearing house for bad educationist “theory” and the wrong-headed directives that such thought has produced. Instead of joining with enlightened groups to combat this enemy of common sense and openness, the SOCCCD and its colleges have become the great appeasers of that ruinous blob. Hence the obsession with “barriers to civility” and SLOs, which has occasionally made us look like a high school system. (Federal and state pressures to improve “student success” has also produced some dubious initiatives, burdened again by politics and the profoundly annoying “leadership” of folks with Ed.D. degrees.)
     You really should attend board meetings. You wouldn’t believe how much of meeting discourse proceeds in the spirit of the gassy politician or the jargon-happy educationist. Everything and everybody is celebrated. Big fricking fundamental facts (e.g., profound student unpreparedness and pervasive disastrous student attitudes toward homework and commitment) go largely unmentioned. Instead, one is treated to an endless series of (often) meretricious dog and pony shows—impressive only to the clueless or the self-deceptive. (There are exceptions, of course. I do not deny that we have some terrific employees among faculty, classified, and administrators/managers. And admirable programs and initiatives, too. Pace.)

     Many of us at Irvine Valley College are dejected and dispirited because district leadership (i.e., the Chancellor and BOT) fails to perceive the painfully obvious: that much is wrong with the college and its top leadership. That leadership is largely incompetent (especially at the tip top) and it has long settled into a culture of bullying. To this, the BOT remain resolutely oblivious. We sure do draw attention to it here at DtB, but to no avail, it seems.

     ATEP continues to be a problem for the district, a money pit and an emblem of continued wrong values. Unfortunately, the early development of that property occurred at the district’s historical nadir: the disastrous era of the “board majority” (c. 1996-200?).
     Despite state law, which grants to faculty (not administrators) primary authority over the development of instructional programs, faculty have always taken a back seat in the development of ATEP and its programs. The latter endeavor has gone so badly that, after more than 15 years of effort and expense, ATEP remains a tiny tin school of who-knows-what. And faculty continue to be largely in the dark about the meaning and future of “ATEP” (the “advanced technology and education park”).
     Further, the presidents of the two colleges have long pursued a pissing contest over control of this dubious facility. This has annoyed the chancellor. But not enough.

     A new 800 pound gorilla has entered the SOCCCD zoo.
     The district has always been dominated by the larger Saddleback College (the district, of course, started with solitary Saddleback College nearly 50 years ago; "north campus" was opened in 1979). To this day, the district has been burdened by typical (and atypical?) large college/small college tensions.
     But now there’s surprising new writing on the wall, and it proclaims a massive change: Saddleback College has stopped growing; meanwhile IVC will grow tremendously. It’s just a matter of time: IVC will become the new “big sister” of the SOCCCD.
     One wonders if this approaching reality will cause certain heads, located 15 miles to the south, to simply pop. That would be my guess.

*Naturally, the district has not always been called the "South Orange County Community College District."

The rapidly growing Irvine area


Anonymous said...

El Toro Road is not an informal guideline for the college service areas. It has been established by the BOT for decades. The college service areas were written in stone to protect the schools especially Saddleback. But due to changes in leadership and declining enrollments at Gaucho land. There are certain individuals who want to take away Laguna Beach from IVC. Saddleback has nothing to trade. I want equal funding per ftes amongst the schools.
El Toro Road also defines voting boundaries for the BOT.
IVC will grow when two new high schools will be built in Irvine. And yet we still will not have a football team.

Roy Bauer said...

1:55, you seem angry. OK, the "guideline" is formal, not informal. Is that the issue here? Please clarify. I was suggesting that, since the old status quo (SC big, IVC small) is changing, so will the boundary.

Anonymous said...

I am not angry at all. I am stating facts. The college service areas have been approved a long, long time ago. I am dissapointed by the "manifest destiny" attitudes of our southern neighbors. I feel like Chief Joseph.

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