By Marya Legrand
Editor of the Eagle
A year ago, with the publication of the first Eagle Extra, the Eagle staff committed itself to a course of action which has led through a jungle of unclear motives and tangled consequences. I have been both encouraged and condemned for this position, but I still believe in our purpose.
This Eagle Extra is an update of the sequence of events which have generated so much comment and controversy over the past year and a half.
As I look over this series of situations, I see a pattern in the behavior of the administration which consistently demonstrates an arrogant lack of concern for the agreements, the rules of conduct, the law, and the overall well being of our college community.
As you read it, i hpoe you can see the pattern for yourself. From the ignoring of the faculty concerns about the hiring of the PR person in the summer of 1996, through the sad and on-going saga of one of the college's most valued Deans, Susan Bell, and the abusive working conditions which the administration has created for her over the past year (refusing to supply her with a permanent secretary, appearantly interfering with her computer systems and seemingly, even removing files from her office, are only a few examples of the incidents she has had to deal with) Administration and Board seemed to completely ignorethe outpouring of support from the community for Susan Bell. The Community doesn't matter to an Administration which is not being held accountable for its behaviors.
The Eagle came out last October and said that there should be notice and discussion about these issues. So the administration cut the link from the Eagle web site to the college web site. We continued to comment: they tried to shut us down over the summer, first by telling us we would have no funding to print, then by lying to the Board of Trustees at the August 6th meeting, telling them, repeatedly, that the newly adopted proposal called for the Eagle to be shut down in the fall.
Ed. note: I have been told by several people that I should not be so blunt, that it is not polite to use such terms as "lie" when discussing someone in a business context. However I find the reality of this term to be far more offensive than the word. And the reality occurred in front of me, undeniably. So I name the behavior for what I see: a deliberate lie. This is my choice and responsibility, not that of anyone else on the staff.
College, Lies and Videotape
Don Vasconcellos: "And that proposal has come forth in the last, July 14th. And in that, part of that proposal is the suggestion, recommendation that we not have a fall delivery of the Eagle, that we go through a restructuring process involving more students in the future, and I have just written a memo to Susan. Carl and I have looked over the proposal and it looks reasonable to us...That's where we are "
Collins: "So did the Board understand then that there will be no Eagle to be produced in the Fall?"
Vasconcellos: "That's in the proposal"
Collins: "That's what you intend for the Fall. I'm just asking so we're clear"
Legrand: "Why put a lid on the Eagle for Fall semester just because you have another plan swinging into gear spring semester? Where's the contradiction in having the Eagle running through the fall semester? "
Vasconcellos: "I think that's a part of the proposal. If you read it, there is a proposal not to do it. Not to write, not to have it"
Interestingly enough, the minutes of that meeting (for which Secretary Ehmann is responsible) state: "Vasconcellos answered...that he, Carl Ehmann and Susan Bell had planned on discussing the proposal, however no decision has been made regarding the proposal or discontinuing the Eagle"
The minutes also state that "Bell commented that she had not read yet the proposal" This is not true. She did not say that she had not read the proposal. Don Vasconcellos made this remark abut her.
Accountability and Conduct
At the Board meeting on October 8, 1997, Hans Delyser, a part time math instructor confronted the board with an documented presentation calling into question the intentions and veracity of the President and Vice President after viewing their performances at the August Board meeting.
"I would like to refer to California Education Code chapter 72121.5 which states in part that it is the intent of the Legislature that members of the public be able to place matters directly related to community college district business on the agenda of community college district governing board meetings. Also section 72129, which states in part, special meetings can be held at the call of the president of the board or upon a call issued in writing and signed by the majority of the board."
Delyser submitted to the Board information packets and a video tape illustrating his contention that a series of unsubstantiated, erroneous statements were presented by Carl Ehmann and Don Vasconcellos to the Board.
He sited College policy 405 for classified personnel:
"Classified personnel can be disciplined for ...dishonesty, for falsifying any information supplied to the school district and for conduct unbecoming an employee of the district which brings discredit to the college and/or its staff and students."
He also mentioned Administrative regulation 5331 about student conduct guidelines, where students may be "disciplined for good cause ...Students are expected to avoid any type of dishonesty including but not limited to cheating, forgery, fabrication, furnishing false information to the college and aiding in dishonesty."
He then requested a meeting on October 22 to investigate the statements made by the President and Vice President and to take appropriate disciplinary action if their statements areindeed shown to be deliberately erroneous, and their conduct does not measure up to the standards considered to be the required norm among members of our college community members.
The Board did nothing of the sort. They have not responded to a citizen's legitimate request as defined by the Education code chapter which Delyser mentioned in his beginning remarks. This is State legal code. It is there for citizens to call on when seeking redress of their concerns. THAT IS WHY IT WAS CREATED. Yet the Board feels free to ignore it. Laws are made for all the citizenry to follow. No position or title of office excludes anyone from that responsibility. Yet here are our President and Vice-President, ignoring the standards to which other employees are held. They do not even conduct themselves at the minimum level of responsibility expected of our students.
And the Board, which employes the President, refuses to assess the accountability of these two men because they hold positions and titles which are somehow considered sacrosanct - this,in spite of the demonstrated behaviors of the individuals holding them.
Even the president of the United States may not hide behind his office. Remember Richard Nixon.
And yet after these challenges and demonstrations of questionable behavior, Trustee Bernard Lemke could, with a straight face, express that "I am somewhat concerned about the remarks that have been made here tonight. What has concerned me about the events of the last year is the profound amount of the negative publicity the college has received... What troubles me is that there is a television camera here witnessing comments that I believe are in good part politically motivated and self-seeking, and I'm tired of seeing the college taking a hit for that."
But not anywhere in his remarks are there questions about the Truth. What is the truth behind the past year's events, and the charges of administrative misconduct that were brought before the Board on August 6th.?
Instead his position is uncritical "kudos to the administration". This articulates the attitude that most of the Board has demonstrated as these issues have been brought before them. Diane Pauli characterized herself in a recent forum as a "cheerleader type of person". This is an accurate estimate of her "rah, rah, the Process!" type of non-analytical support of all things administrative. A significant exception has been the consistent level of personal and intellectual integrity demonstrated by Trustee Wade Koeninger.
Ed. note: Trustee Lemke talks about political motivation, yet he was the only political contestant who significantly addressed the board that night, and he certainly shows a politician's awareness of media influences.
Questions - and more questions.
Was there a trip to Sacramento this summer by certain interested parties after which a decision was made by the investigator to go back only two years (when the problems stretched back years before that) to investigate the gone-astray EOPS funding - and then to not talk to the people who could have supplied some serious answers?
Why is the Foundation so quickly selling well over half the land which the college recently received as a bequest? Of the almost 1800 acres, 200 are gone. We've heard from the realtor that another 160 acre parcel is in escrow. And almost 700+acres are on the market.
Why aren't the college and local community being informed about such a major and permanent impact on the future of our college?
What could that land be worth to the community in the future? What about the year 2020, or 2050? We're planning for college to be here for our children's children. What could it be worth to them? Land for expansion, for a greenbelt, for oxygen, a space of physical, psychlogical, spiritual, literal insulation. To breathe, to experience the quiet of wind and trees and nature, in a world that will have undoubtedly have more crowding and noise.
This contains the watershed for Mendocino College, we've heard. Was there a feasibility study made of possible uses that could have been made of this land.? And if there was such a study, why weren't we told about it? Shouldn't we have the right to plan for the world our children will live in?
John Spanbauer had a vision of Mendo being developed as a training center and model for the critical studies of sustainable agriculture. Just from a cold hard cash viewpoint, the land will surely appreciate even in monetary value. What is the justification for putting it on the market right now? Once it's gone, it's gone. As Will Rogers said "Buy land. God isn't making any more of it."
No greed or shorted-sighted gratification should be allowed to win out over our long-range dreams. This land should be held as a sacred trust for our tomorrows.
The college isn't in any big financial crunch just now. In fact as, financial expert Alan Frey told us when he was invited to lecture here last summer, community colleges will be receiving more money in the near future than in the past few years.
So who benefits from this sale right now? It does not look as though it is the people of our county.
Selling it now will add to the Foundation's investment portfolio. Who manages that portfolio? Who is planning to manage it in the future? Is there payment for this service? Is it usual for the President of the college, who is the Board of Trustees sole employee, and the Board of Trustees' secretary, and a permanent member of the Mendocino College Foundation Executive Committee, to also be the secretary and treasurer of the Foundation Executive Committee, which makes the major decisions about the foundation's use of the college's assets?
Some folks sure think we shouldn't be asking these questions. Realtor Steve Jackson, who is handling the sales of these parcels, told our reporter that "If more people minded their own business, the world would be a better place." We just keep feeling like the business of the college is the business of the community. After all, it is our college, it's our children's future. And WE ARE THE PEOPLE. Back to this basic American principle.
I've written about this before in these pages, and it is too important to forget or ignore. You, we, are the people, and we make a difference. We have the chance to make a difference right here at the college with next week's Board of Trustees election. I think that Lynda McClure and John Spanbauer will bring some much needed changes to the way our college is run. They are both committed to improving the problem areas and developing creative, long-range goals.
The guardians of our public trusts work for us. They have the responsibility to do their jobs well. You, each one of you, have the responsibility to inform yourselves about the issues and candidates in this election.
If you are reading this before Nov. 4,
PLEASE - GET OUT AND VOTE THIS TUESDAY!
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