A RESPONSE TO THE OPEN LETTER TO FACULTY
April 9, 1997
The rhetorical competency of those speaking in behalf of the Community of Concern is indeed compelling. To engage in a protracted "memo war" can surely have no long term beneficial impact on the fragile entity we regard as Mendocino College. But one can neither accept nor tolerate inaccuracies, attributed motives, or misdirection when directed so personally and individually at those present and past Presidents of the Academic Senate Council who were signatories to our earlier communication to the Board of Trustees.
The letter signed by Past Presidents was intentionally originated from a limited constituency of those who had previously held the highest elective office representative of the Faculty Senates. Among the present and past Presidents, some had already publicly identified themselves in opposition to the view expressed in the letter. Their opinions having been made public were respected. No one was asked not to sign the document. Other faculty members were not invited to sign, since the point of the letter was to communicate to the Board the concerns of the present and past Presidents of the Academic Senate Council.
The Community of Concern alleges that the letter from the ASC Presidents communicates a contempt for the democratic process, aligning those ASC Presidents with those administrators who are the target of attack by the Community of Concern-those who would "run Mendocino College like a private club, etc."
Although it is tempting to refute each of the straw men skillfully embedded in the letter, the primary focus of this letter will be to respond to the allegation of contempt for the democratic process, an attribution of motive that is completely unfounded and completely misrepresents the convictions of those whose signature appeared on our letter.
The fact is, the ASC Presidents recognize that not all of a community's processes are "public." Not every management decision or board action, especially those pertaining to personnel matters, are available for extensive public review. That's why there are provisions for executive sessions of the Board. The ASC Presidents, at the time of their communication, urged the Board of Trustees to make positive steps to move the destructive, continuing public debate over administrative, fiscal and personnel matters back into the appropriately private realm. Truly, the Administration and Board have no choice, since it would be a breach of public trust for any officer of the College to respond to specific allegations concerning investigative or personnel matters currently open. The Community of Concern is perfectly aware of this restriction, and enjoys the privilege of raising ever broadening issues and concerns to which it knows that neither the Board nor the Administration can legally or appropriately respond in the absence of an investigative review the results of which will be made public some time within the next three months.
It is clear that the Community of Concern is a community of outrage. It is outraged at perceived personnel practices and decisions; it is outraged at alleged fiscal mismanagement improprieties. It is outraged at the decision not to renew the contract of a Dean who is held in the highest regard by many faculty and a significant constituency of support. While in public discourse the Community of Concern has conducted itself with order and propriety, there can be no mistaking the fact that the message of outrage ultimately resolves itself to the question of who governs Mendocino College, and how. The ASC Presidents respectfully decline to yield to the notion that a community of outrage is in fact representative of the democratic process for which we are alleged to have such contempt. The divisive, destructive, and devastating impact of the behavior within and around our Community of Mendocino College will last far beyond the decisions made over the next few months. Those of us who have been part of this institution the longest have seen the consequences of past conflict. We have had "Friends of the College" before. Our very viability as an institution was threatened in our early years by exactly the same kind of turmoil as that in which we now find ourselves.
This response in undoubtedly a whistle in the wind by this time. Positions have already been solidified. The faculty is divided, and if it is not divided enough on its own, it has the sanction of the Community of Concern to discount and demean those colleagues whom they have previously held in sufficient esteem to elect as Presidents of the Academic Senate Council.
Let it be noted that there is a deep sadness in the loss of community so long to gain, so hard to hold together, and so fragile as a hope. No matter what else we are as an academic institution, we are a teaching place. How sad it is, as we anticipate the 25th year of service to this District, that we have not yet learned to make a community of respect and order among ourselves. How sad it is that while we are in the deepest need of a community of concern, we are once again becoming a community of outrage, where the power of a vocal and rhetorically skilled pressure group has succeeded in eroding our reputation as an institution, our effectiveness in internal management, and our example of integrity before our students and the genuine community of concern, all of the citizens of the this District.
Thomas F. MacMillan, Ed. D.
Faculty Member, Philosophy
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1997
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited.