The Senate, the Board, the First Amendment, the Video Camera, the Election and the Fate of the Eagle

This piece was written for the EAGLE EXTRA (Number 2, October 1998) but was withheld at the request of the author. We publish it on the web now.

By King Collins
Faculty Advisor to the Mendocino College EAGLE

Sometime last year, the Eagle staff figured out that the Senate is the place where things really happen, or should happen, at the college. For more about our thought and the Senate's discussion on that subject, those with a bent toward social and political science will want to read pages 8-12 of the March issue.

The Eagle still has a good supply of all three of the critical "dialog" issues of the newspaper. They bear rereading because they are the result of careful work by the Eagle staff and reveal precisely what was said and thought on all sides of the situation at the college.

What we published has not been disputed effectively by anyone, and no one has taken us up on our challenge to find something we misrepresented during that time. Of course, what we did was not a superhuman feat: we simply built a case for open discussion and decision-making in the governance of the college. In that goal we are supported by the First Amendment, by the State Senate (AB 1725) and by the Community College Association.

In the next month or so, we will find out whether we are also supported by the Senate and the Board of Trustees, because we plan to put precise resolutions before both of those bodies to force a clear thumbs up or thumbs down on the essential question: Should there be a publication that fosters free and open discussion of any issue of concern to anyone at the college, be that person a student, a member of the faculty, a member of the staff or a member of the administration?

* * *

Back in May, the Senate passed Resolution S97.06 (that's the sixth resolution of the Spring, '97 session) urging the administration to reconnect the Eagle web site. Perhaps you remember that three days after the Eagle published the "Eagle Extra" the administration disconnected the Eagle web site from the College web site.

If you don't know about the Eagle extra and the "letter," you might want to go back to the November issue and read it! [Or you can read the review of the controversy]

Where did Resolution S97.06 come from? Did the Senate come up with it on their own? Not exactly. It was the dogged Eagle staff who brought it forward, along with their trusty video camera. The two part-time members supported the Eagle by voting for the resolution as well as two of the other full-time faculty (Lynda Myers and Sue Blundell).

It was a close vote: 4 to 3 in favor of the Eagle web being reconnected. Since then, no word has filtered down on what has happened the "mutual agreement" process.

Another resolution, S97.09, asked the Board of Trustees to investigate whether improper procedures had been used by the administration in the hiring of the Athletic Director. This was a hot one for awhile as Sue Blundel, then President of the Senate, and other members of the faculty were outspoken in their criticism of the administration. But, like the Eagle web resolution, S97.09 seems to have fallen into a dark hole.

McClelland's proposal: Little substance but well supported

Well, here we are in fall, '97, and the resolutions are flowing again. The first one, F97.01 is about the Eagle. In the previous issue, our editor, Marya Legrand wondered why there is such sudden interest in the Eagle?

By sheer coincidence, the English Department had put forward a proposal to take over the Eagle, and the Administration immediately seized upon the opportunity, over the summer, to ram implementation through as soon as possible.

One would assume, from the administrative urgency, that the proposal was so impressive the usual hoops such curriculum changes normally require could, with impunity, be omitted.

The fact that some journalists outside the college (like the editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal) found the proposal sorely lacking was easily passed over. The proposal from the English Department moved quickly forward, unhindered by any discussion with the current Eagle staff and advisors.

The Eagle goes before the Board to defend itself

Word came down to the Eagle staff that there would be no publication this fall (1997). Surprised, Eagle advisor, Collins, and the student editor, Legrand, went to the August 6 Board meeting to confront the administration directly. Legrand handled the video camera and Collins initiated the discussion.

It turned out that the Board had not heard about any of this. But, though there was a vague sympathy from some members of the Board, they said they could not do anything because the matter was "operational."

Video Camera tells all

The video of the meeting found its way to K.C. Meadows, editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal, who took the administration to task in a sharply worded editorial. Copies of K.C. Meadows' editorial disappeared from bulletin boards at the college, thanks to the diligence of Vice President Vasconcellos and his colleagues.

Lynda Myers, current President of the Senate, wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal in support of the administration's handling of the Eagle and its faculty advisor. That letter contained falsifications about the role of the newspaper staff.

Members of the Eagle staff presented evidence to the Academic Senate which exposed the most unwarranted of the Myers' claims, that the faculty advisors wrote "two thirds of the articles" in the paper. For those want the word count: in the previous edition of the paper (March, 1997) approximately 4% of the words were written or provided by the advisors, while 35% were written or provided by students, 33% by administration, and 18% by full-time faculty. The Eagle staff have agreed for a very long time that the newspaper is a forum and should encourage as many voices as possible.

The simple truth is that the Eagle supported the natural process of discussion and investigation which exposed and is still exposing the chronyism, bureaucratic repression and profound lack of vision among the leadership of the college.

In all the back and forth of the controversy, we have found that one of the most debilitating attitudes is the cynicism that prevails among many of the faculty. As one well known tenured liberal said to me, "King, you might as well forget it. This place will never change."

The Board is on the spot and elections are coming

If top administrators are willing to falsify important matters before the Board of Trustees, and if that falsification is caught on video tape, then the hard question is: will the Board take action to find new leadership, or will it allow the situation to continue to fester to the detriment of the college and the community it serves. The community, however, elects the Board, and this November there just might be three new members who are willing to take action to preserve the integrity of the college. Be sure to vote!

[In the November 1997 election the incumbents were returned to the Board of Trustees by a small margin. Later, the Board found that there was "absolutely nothing" to the any of the charges brought by Susan Bell against the administration. -Ed]



And, that brings us back to the Senate. The "McLelland Proposal" to establish a new journalism department is on the agenda.* Everyone on the Eagle staff supports the idea of a bigger and better journalism department. But before we can agree to change, let us first agree as a community on the fundamental notion of what constitutes good journalism. **

What will happen to the web?

And let us not forget, that the Eagle staff created the college's first web site. McLelland's proposal doesn't even address how the Eagle web site will be managed or if it will exist at all.

Actually, we already know from an earlier draft that the English department does not have any plans for the web site for two years (!), an eon in electronic time. It will be scuttled and forgotten, under their direction.

Why? Partly because the English department has no expertise in electronic communication, but also, no doubt, because the electronic word is even more difficult to suppress and contain than the printed word.

* * *

** The McLelland proposal was passed and quickly implemented by the administration. See the review of the controversy by Glaser and Collins.

*Another resolution in front of the Senate is for a forum to discuss the Eagle. [Unfortunately the Senate, probably gun-shy after the way things went with their first forum on the controversy. See the Eagle article on the Senate in the March, 1997 Eagle]

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