Saturday, December 26, 2015

DtB's Year in Review, Part 3: Process Schmocess—and "Mighty Oaks from little flacks grow"

IVC Prez Glenn Roquemore pretty much does as he pleases, process be damned. A case in point: 

¡I am the process!
     MAY 5: DtB readers know that Irvine Valley College has a very mixed record with regard to its invited commencement speakers. Some have been good. Some have been embarrassing in one way or another. (Plagiarism anyone?)
     The chief difficulty here is familiar: the piss-poor leadership of IVC Prez-for-life Glenn Roquemore, that remarkably non- (or anti-) academic fellow (he hangs out a lot at the Chamber of Commerce and gives speeches over at the knuckle-dragging Pacifica Institute), who generally finds ways to get who he wants at commencement, despite student or faculty preferences—and the demands of process!—to the contrary.
     This year is no exception. The college has a process according to which a committee, with wide representation, arrives at a list of carefully winnowed committee-approved candidates. The committee’s suggestions are sent up to the Prez, who makes the final selection. 
     For years, the Reb, among others, has suggested inviting the inimitable Gustavo Arellano (aka "The Mexican" of "Ask a Mexican!"), editor of the OC Weekly, to speechify. No matter the strength or weakness of the alternatives, Roquemore has always nixed the Mexican. Upon repeated Roquemorian rejections at IVC, Gustavo has given commencement addresses at UCLA, among other fine institutions of higher learning.
     This year, Gustavo made it to the IVC committee’s winnowed list of faves. 
     But no. At a recent meeting, the President’s rep on the committee—chair Diane Oaks—essentially declared that the committee may not suggest Mr. Arellano. And so his name was taken off the list. The list was forwarded, sans Mexican.
     So tell me. What’s the point of having a process in which a committee, with wide representation, chooses the candidates and the Prez makes the final selection, if the Prez also determines who can be on the committee’s list?
     This issue will be mentioned (it is too late to agendize it) at this week’s meeting of the IVC Academic Senate.
     Stay tuned.

TWO DAY LATER:

Erwin Chemerinsky
    MAY 7:  “What’s the point of having a process at all?”
     “Why doesn’t he just tell the committee who they can’t recommend before the process starts?”
     “The idea that this action by the committee chair followed the process is dubious at best.”
     Such were the comments* made at today’s meeting of the IVC Academic Senate when folks were informed of Diane Oaks’ curious pronouncement last week that the “commencement speaker” committee, which she (as Prez Roquemore’s rep) chairs, may not include writer and columnist Gustavo Arellano among its recommendations for the 2016 IVC commencement speaker.
     According to the process, the college President is entitled to choose among the recommendations forwarded by the committee, which has campus-wide representation. Nothing in the official language describing the process refers to the chair's authority to censor (or edit) the committee's list on the President's behalf.
     Meanwhile, a half hour into today’s senate meeting, President Glenn Roquemore sent the campus community the following email:
     It is my honor to announce the 2016 Irvine Valley College Commencement Speaker, Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the School of Law, University of California, Irvine. 
     Nice diversion, Glenn.
     “Process” sure don’t count for much here at IVC, what with President-for-life Glenn Roquemore running things his way. But at least we’ve lined up an interesting choice for commencement speaker (for 2016—next year).
     Chemerinsky was atop the list of recommendations forwarded by the committee—the list that did not include Arellano, despite committee members' desire to put him there.
     You'll recall that, when Chemerinsky's hire as Dean of UCI's new law school was announced in 2007, local right-wing pols complained bitterly to UCI's then-Chancellor Michael Drake about the left-leaning legal scholar. That led to an embarrassing flip-flop, followed, ultimately, by yet another flip-flop. (In the end, Chemerinsky was again hired.) It was a low point in Drake's tenure.
     At the time, rumors (at least rumors I heard) had it that then-SOCCCD trustee and Neanderthal Tom Fuentes, for many years the chair of the local GOP, was among the noisy complainers about the selection of the decidedly non-knuckle-dragging Chemerinsky.
     Maybe we can get the C-man to talk about that for commencement?!

*Loose paraphrases of actual remarks, imprecisely remembered

SEE ALSO:
MORE OAKS:
Marketing Director Diane Oaks
The IVC guide to insulting the IVC community 

     JUNE 2: This afternoon, Daniel Gross, the Director of Composition (among other duties) at UCI emailed TAs, lecturers, et al. about an opportunity, a job. “Greetings,” he said. If you “are interested in this job, please get in touch directly with Diane Oaks at Irvine Valley College….”
     Diane Oaks, of course, is the Director of PR and whatnot here at Irvine Valley College.
     What’s the job? Gross explains by providing Diane’s memo to him:
     I am looking to hire a UCI faculty member to edit our IVC style guidelines.
     We have created an IRVINE VALLEY COLLEGE style guide similar to the UCI style guidelines:

Daniel Gross
     We are hoping [you] might recommend a UCI faculty member who would help us EDIT or [sic] IVC STYLE GUIDELINES = we are interested in paying your faculty member a stipend for this project.
     Thanks so much! 
     Diane
     Golly.
     Why on earth didn’t she just contact the English Department here at IVC? Perhaps they are not up to the task, in her estimation.
     Good grief. [And what about her own staff?]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

DtB’s Year in Review, Part 2: the fall of the house of Beno (obscuring the deeper issue)


     In mid-February, 2015, we issued our brief “SOCCCD dismal truisms” series. (See here and here.) We offered two such truisms:
  • SOCCCD dismal truism #1: [SOCCCD has gone] from board micromanagement to board inaction
  • SOCCCD dismal truism #2: to the consternation of thinking people everywhere, the district embraces the illiterate and dunderheaded evaluative architectonic of the Accreditors (and, more generally, of the "education"* crowd), thus busying administrators and faculty with endless committee work that produces mostly nonsense that, ahem, "guides" the district and its planners.
     Truism #1 was explained thus:
     Owing to its history of overreach and loutishness..., the board is particularly concerned that it not be accused of “micromanagement.” Unfortunately, the board has settled into a routine of erring in the other extreme—inveterately refusing to investigate or address complaints and objections about officials' conduct and policies.
     This has been particularly disastrous for Irvine Valley College, which has suffered under Glenn Roquemore’s embarrassing, anti-intellectualist, sub-collegiate leadership—poor hires, poor management, general obliviousness, failure to communicate or to sustain community, tolerance of incompetence and worse—for over a dozen years, allowing the institution to sink ever further into mediocrity and its employees ever deeper into resigned acquiescence.
     I illustrated Truism #2 by taking a gander at SOCCCD’s embarrassing “district-wide goals.” Have you read them? Good grief.

* * *

     But why am I referring to the ACCJC as "dunderheads"?
     At the start of the millennium, our accreditor, the ACCJC, adopted the theoretical assumptions of a movement—the measurable “student learning outcomes” (MSLO) movement—despite an absence of empirical support for the efficacy of the movement's approach.
     Think about that. It’s a serious problem. It should be a show-stopper.
     Well, you'll be pleased to learn that, back then, some noticed the problem and attempted to stop the show. That led, in 2002, to the State Academic Senate’s (ASCCC) challenge to the ACCJC’s embrace of MSLOs:
Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] 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)

     Actually, the State Senate issued a series of related ACCJC-challenging resolutions, including this one:
Whereas, The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) adopted new Standards for accreditation over the objections of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges as well as those of the American Association of University Professors [AAUP] and the Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers among others;
• Whereas, The ACCJC has not responded to repeated requests to provide the Academic Senate the background materials and research upon which it based its decision to restructure the Standards around the continuous monitoring of student learning outcomes; and
• Whereas, The ACCJC has not responded to repeated requests to provide the Academic Senate with evidence or research to support the contention that such an approach in fact leads to improvements in the quality of undergraduate education or enhances student achievement;
• Resolved, That the Academic Senate continue to request the background evidence and supporting research that would justify recent radical restructuring of the Accrediting Standards by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC); and
• Resolved, That the Academic Senate publicize in relevant educational and public venues its concerns regarding the secrecy and lack of substantive evidence provided by ACCJC to support these costly new accreditation requirements.
     Impressive!
     Ever high-handed, the ACCJC simply ignored the ASCCC’s resolutions, and that was that. (See Systematic rational failures and SLOs, part II: the ACCJC gets dogmatic & dictatorial all over Cal community colleges.)
     I did some research, and, as far as I could tell, in the years since the 2002 challenge, evidence for the efficacy of the MSLO approach has not materialized.
     And so the problem remains. And that's absurd.
     Last Spring, I decided to raise the issue anew. I wrote about the problem here on DtB and that led to a sympathetic discussion of the matter on the floor of the IVC Academic Senate. Our senate then approved a resolution that amounted to a new but essentially similar "evidential" challenge to the ACCJC. It was brought to the ASCCC's April Plenary for general adoption:
• Whereas, In the last 15 years, new attempts to track the success of school systems around the world (e.g., Program International Student Assessment) have achieved impressive bodies of data useful in measuring the effectiveness of education approaches;
• Whereas, These data indicate that the more successful countries do not embrace the notion of “measurable student learning outcomes” that are central to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ (ACCJC) existing standards for evaluating and reviewing institutions and the philosophy that emphasizes that tool; and
• Whereas, It continues to be the case that research fails clearly to establish that continuous monitoring of course-level student learning outcomes (SLOs) results in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution but does engender frustration that continues to characterize community colleges’ attempts to implement the SLO approach;
• Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges request no later than July 1, 2015 that ACCJC justify its continued implementation of SLOs and explain why it does not opt for approaches more consistent with the approaches of successful countries in educating their students.
     Well, as you know, the State Senate is largely a vast cluster of gasbags, and so the resolution failed to gain sufficient support. IVC Senate Prez Schmeidler reported that it went down owing, evidently, to minor issues, such as the desirability of explicitly identifying the empirical evidence, such as existing meta-analyses.
     I wrote about all this here:
Systematic rational failures and SLOs, part III: why don’t we do something? See also DISSENT! Contra anti-intellectualism
     In the Fall, our senate made yet another effort to sponsor a new and improved resolution, and, again, the effort failed. (This time, our Senate Prez seemed even more disgusted by the apparent reasons for the resolution’s failure.)
     Gasbags.

* * *


     IN THE MEANTIME, as you know, for years, there's been much Sturm und Drang about the ACCJC's action of pulling City College of San Francisco's ticket and, more generally, about its notoriously high-handed ways: alleged bias, failures to heed process, alleged unprofessionalism, etc. The State Chancellor’s Office eventually created a task force to examine these complaints. That task force ultimately (June) issued harsh recommendations, including abandoning the ACCJC as the state CC’s accrediting body.
     Then, in mid-November (2015), the system's Board of Governors voted to dump the ACCJC (See).
     Wow. According to the San Francisco Chronicle,
...the Board of Governors voted 14-0 to direct state Chancellor Brice Harris to create a plan to replace the commission and come up with a timeline by its March meeting. State officials say any new accreditor would be phased in, a process that could take years because each of the state’s 113 colleges is reviewed for accreditation every six years. A shift to a new accreditor will also require a lengthy approval process by the U.S. Department of Education….

     Then, in December, the DoE spanked the ACCJC:
     The embattled accrediting organization that oversees California’s community colleges should lose some of its existing authority and not be allowed to expand its jurisdiction, the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation unit has recommended.
     In a report published Wednesday, department staff recommended that the department revoke the accreditor’s existing federal authority to approve some four-year degree programs at California’s community colleges.
     The staff also recommended that the accreditor—the WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, known as the ACCJC—have its request for broader authority to approve bachelor’s degree programs denied.... (Inside Higher Ed, Dec 10)
     This is all very nice. But you should be aware that our colleges’ two presidents—Burnett and Roquemore—have expressed unhappiness with the BoG decision to replace the ACCJC, evidently joining other CEOs in preferring to reform the organization.
     That's some leadership, that SOCCCD leadership.

* * *

     So, is our effort to challenge the ACCJC’s embrace of MSLOs now moot?
     Don’t think so. There’s no guarantee that future accred standards will eschew dubious MSLO assumptions, since the aforementioned "City College"-related controversy made no reference to that can o' worms. This whole noisy chapter about ACCJC bias and impropriety has had nothing to do with the evident fact that there is no empirical support for the presumed efficacy of focusing on SLOs as an approach to bringing about learning.
     Amazing.
     (Denizens of B200: I'm sayin' that we're on this ship, see, and everybody's hopping mad about the shitty navigation and crummy maps; meanwhile, there's this huge hole in the hull, and we're bound to sink. An' nobody's yammerin' about that. Got it?)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

DtB's Year in Review, Part 1: the WOMEN'S STUDIES controversy is finally resolved

From the GC handbook
     February of 2015 saw the sudden resolution of the Women’s Studies (WS) controversy here at IVC. (See Resolution of the Women's Studies imbroglio Feb 3.)
     For various reasons, WS has had no real home at this college, in part because the School of Humanities (formerly, the School of Humanities and Languages) wanted to “do” such a program “right,” and none of its faculty was prepared to make that kind of long-term commitment (given their other commitments, etc.). And so WS bounced around a bit but never really rose above half-assery, program-wise. The program—or, better, the bundle of courses—eventually ended up in the School of Guidance of Counseling (GC), where it languished. Indeed, though it had once attained programhood, WS had been allowed to lapse into a non-program on GC’s watch.
     Meanwhile, the School of H hired new instructors, including several faculty with strong backgrounds in Women’s Studies and related fields. In 2013, one of these whippersnappers (very qualified, very gung-ho, very untenured) sought to finally develop a decent, full WS-ish program, and so she made non-threatening overtures to the GC crowd (according to which GC could keep some courses)—who immediately responded with defensiveness, paranoia and worse. In a way, that was odd, since GC had done little with WS, and, as I said, had allowed it to languish. Further, GC was offering courses that, at least on paper, were distinctly outdated. Indeed, the course outlines were an embarrassment. The important point was that WS (and related or associated studies) are precisely the sorts of enterprises that fit in the Humanities, where critical discourse of the WS sort is routine, or perhaps in the social sciences, where of course much the same can be said. For what it's worth, a brief survey of colleges and universities (including community colleges) will reveal that WS and related areas are invariably housed in the Humanities or the Social Sciences and never in something like Guidance and Counseling. (See HERE.)
     And that, of course, is precisely what one would expect.
     Owing to (at least some of) the GC faculty’s curiously unprofessional and hostile conduct, our untenured instructor judged it prudent to hold off on the WS initiative, though, of course, she had received much support from her colleagues in her own school, who had had other curious run-ins with the counselors over the years. (See HERE.)
     Time passed. Eventually, the moment was right to finally pursue the program, starting with a realignment—as per the college’s Program Realignment Policy, which had been created exactly because of the nastiness of past program realignment skirmishes, especially Fine Arts’ notorious grab of Art History about ten years ago.
     So the issue was broached at the Academic Senate.
     Alas, once again, despite our professionalism and carefulness (our maven was advised to sink somewhat into the background), the GC crowd immediately responded with wild hostility and anger. Two full-time GC faculty in particular seemed to make it their business to work the system and push buttons, however preposterous, to preserve GC’s continued “ownership” of WS—including inflaming the passions of the apparently clueless corps of part-timers who have always done the teaching for GC. (“J’accuse!” they said, virtually, at a special discussion session. Somehow, they had been rendered incapable of reason.)
     In truth, all of the arguments were on H’s side, none were on GC's side, and, crucially, the realignment had the support of both the Academic Senate Prez and the college VPI. GC finally backed off, but not before it had pushed faculty* skepticism of GC honesty and competence to new extremes.
     So that was that, I guess.
     A few months later, the two apparent leaders of GC’s dismal realpolitiking popped up in another popular DtB story, a story about faculty salaries over $200k ($201k, $229k).
     Karma, baby.

*Yes, yes, I know. "In our system," counselors are regarded as faculty.



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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