Notes from the Academic Senate Meeting
of November 15, 1999
Testimony of Nancy McLelland
Regarding the 1999 Grand Jury Report
On Freedom Of Speech at Mendocino College
Transcribed by Char Jacobs Secretarial Services.
(See also testimony by former advisors and editors of the Mendocino College Eagle)
Nancy Proto-Robinson, President of the academic senate: So, we'll start with the continuation of our discussion on the Grand Jury Report. We have some guests here for that. At least I think Nancy is here for that. Anyone else here to speak about the Grand Jury Report?
We have a transcript that is notes that King made from the original meeting when we had folks here that were representing various positions. If anyone would like to see that, I have a couple of extra copies here. Anybody on the Senate have a comment about the results? This is one of the things he asked us to read. Go through this thing, make sure our comments are clear... most of the comments are from the public.
Linda Myers: I guess I do have a comment. I'm still concerned because this isn't a transcription at Kings. Yet it says right here that is it transcribed. Actually...
King Collins: I think you've got...I'm sorry, but the last version I put out, which you may not have, was
President: It says "Notes"...it may be a revised one.
Collins: Let me clarify what these are, by the way. What happened is I went through the tape myself and I tried to accurately portray what people had said. And then I sent back either by phone or by E-mail and asked them to make any further comments they chose. So this isn't just a spontaneous output or spontaneous thing. People had a chance to reflect on it, and so that would be true of anybody who speaks today. In other words, you don't have to be held exactly to the words you use. I'm trying to get it so everybody has a chance to clearly say what they want to say.
Lefty Olguin: Can any of us take the notes and transcribe them?
President: Yes, the tape is available.
Unidentified: It's not the job of the secretary. That's...
President: If we had a real secretary or court reporter, then that probably would fall to that person. But since we don't, it falls to whoever has the interest to do it. We have to keep that in mind when we're reading this, I think. It's not a professional job.
Collins: I don't think we would want a verbatim, because there are so many ah's. It's an attempt to represent what people said. I think you'll find that there's nobody who seems to feel there was anything misrepresented. It's just an effort to do the best we could to make it clear. It will be the same today. Whatever is said, for example, if Nancy is going to speak and she wants to change in some respect what she said, she should have the right to do that. In other words, if she says something that's confusing, then she would just correct that, and she'll have the opportunity to do that.
President: OK. Well, that's a kind of lead in, I guess. Other Senate members have an item about this. We're hearing concerns about the Grand Jury Report, and Susan Bell came to speak as well, and we're trying to figure out whether or not there is something we should have thought of and can do to respond to the concerns. We're sort of winding our way through that process. Maybe it would be really good, King, if you could articulate what it is that brought you - you brought a lot of information to the Senate, including testimony or comments from a lot of different people. Could you articulate for us as clearly as possible what you are asking the Senate to do with the information.
Collins: First, there was a response to the Grand Jury Report by the administration. And I think in looking at that questions were raised in my mind that it wasn't accurate in certain ways. Certainly nobody in the faculty that I know of has been contacted regarding the response. So, at the same time some academic issues were raised. One thing that was said was that the course that the Eagle process or the journalism that was going on prior to 1998 was not an instructional program. Beyond that there were aspersions cast on the integrity of the individuals who were doing it which, from the point of view of the Senate, is a matter of concern. In other words, if an academic individual, a person who was on the faculty is negatively reflected on in public, then it's appropriate that the Senate know that and decide whether or not that was an accurate portrayal. Particularly it had to do with the web site and what happened with Dale Glaser and myself.
But beyond that, my main interest is in really looking at the experience that students and faculty have in both of these situations. One of them was prior to 1998 and the other is after that. Actually, find out from the students and from the faculty what their experience was and compare that in an objective way as opposed to having a lot of emotional weight attached to it - something that we should be able to do now - and find out whether or not what actually went on in those two situations are comparable, and if they're different, how they're different. So that it isn't a matter of 'this was bad and that was good' but more like this is what happened in one situation and this is what happened in another. So that's what I'm interested in from the academic point of view. I'm very interested in hearing what people feel about that, whether they felt that what happened during a certain period was appropriate instructional activity. That's one part of it. That's the part I think we can certainly accept as an important aspect of the Senate's activity. Because journalism is an important function in a school - academically and from the point of view of the wider public. What is appropriate journalism for a public school? And should a public forum be part of that journalism process? So, with that, if anyone has any questions, I'll accept them but I've been over this many times with the Senate. It's also in the minutes.
President: Anyone have a comment from the Senate? I think we ought to ask Nancy for comments.
Nancy McLelland: We would like to be able to not have them. You know me, I'm inclined to come in and be prepared, particularly in the service of your time, so that we can use it efficiently. May I sit here? I was invited to - I think from a memo from the Senate President is construed as a request rather than an invitation - but I just want to make it clear that I was invited. It's an order...? I was invited to be here. I'm not exactly sure why, so consequently I will address what I want to address and find out if that fits with what you want. It seemed to me that it was rather, as you said winding your way through this, that what, in fact, was in the view of the Senate still seems to be decided. And I have to say that it takes me back - don't hit me up again to run for the Senate - but I do, like Tony, remember my time on the Senate and there are two accomplishments that I am very proud of that I have accomplished on behalf of Mendocino College that were beyond my particular discipline and have to do with the work that I do with the language arts and literature and journalism. That was as President of the academic Senate, I held my ground and I wouldn't give up until the Senate had a formal position on the board of trustees agenda. Until that time, and this was way before 1725 and it was during the corner office regime. Up until that time the academic Senate report was given during citizens comments. The other accomplishment that I'm very proud of was during the recent difficult time in which I gained a formal institutional commitment to a college newspaper, and an instructional commitment to the necessary and proper curriculum and budget. The academic Senate I will remind you approved the English Dept. proposal 7 to 0. There were unanimously in favor of the proposal - the ideology and the values.
I would like to refresh your mind on exactly what it was that you approved. My proposal at various times by the former dean was accused of being simple. I suppose critics could have said the same thing about the Gettysburg Address - after all, it fit on the back of an envelope. Here are the key elements of the proposal and to remind you of what is or is not within the purview of the Senate. All of the components have to do with instruction, with curriculum. Probably none of them needed to go to the Senate in terms of a proposal except it was all taking place in such an emotionally charged time. So, here is the key, the essence of the proposal.
"Our goal is a college newspaper written, produced and managed solely by students. In order the achieve this goal, these four objectives must be met. The institution must renew its commitment to importance of a newspaper a) as a central medium of information and communication for Mendocino College students, faculty and staff and the district it serves, and b) renew its commitment as a medium for instruction in a variety of disciplines." That was in bold print. In regular print it says: "This will be accomplished through a fiscal commitment for staff and updated equipment and a commitment to protect the journalism and production classes when they suffer dips in enrollment."
The second part of this proposal was to put the journalism courses within the English Dept., within the context of a writing-based commitment. That simply was to give the journalism a place that was appropriate in terms of simply changing the prefix. Now this was absolutely only - it was something that simply went through curriculum committee. It didn't need any kind of a major from anyone. The courses went from communication to journalism. These courses, by the way, have always been in place. They are the courses that students need if they are going to major in journalism for our transfer to institutions. The core of the curriculum was absolutely intact. To change from communication to journalism is very typical, a very ordinary and normal kind of transition. And we were willing to take the discipline responsibility. Speech communications, Bob Altos' field, we're a small college so you know exactly what I'm talking about, he had moved away from theater. Within the large purview of the possibilities of things that could be in speech communication, he clearly felt he could not be all things for all people and so his direction has been more toward speech, more toward interpersonal communication. Journalism, when his wife the instructor 15-20 years ago, was an entirely different matter. So he had no interest whatsoever in taking the academic responsibility. We were really as close, the affinity, the relationship between English departments and journalism departments, particularly in small community colleges is very common. If you look at faculty advisors, particularly in small community colleges you will scratch the surface and find somebody with a master's degree or bachelor's degree in English. So that it was an appropriate and a sound decision.
Number 3, in terms of this proposal was something that everyone with every single program has struggled with here - and if you're going to make a commitment to something, you have to have an adequate budget. It's as simple as that.
And then number 4 was probably the only original part of this proposal - it wouldn't be what any of us in our disciplines wouldn't want a re-awareness and a reaffirmation for. The fourth was to organize the administrative and faculty responsibilities to help reflect the interdisciplinary nature of a college newspaper, and this brought into the configuration the Dean of Students to help emphasize that it was a student-based, the unique nature of this is a student-based activity.
Now, that was the proposal, and it was, as I say, it's really, it was getting an affirmation from the college that promptly in 25 years of its existence had never really been willing to commit to. And that is the central role of a college newspaper and the importance of it -that it is within that texture of the basic makeup of a college is to have a college newspaper. Also, within the texture and the basic makeup of any college is to have, that if this happens within the disciplines, we teach and do. And then if we were going to have the instructional program, which we had always had, then there had to be a recommitment to what it takes to get it to work. And I will never - I took in doing this at the time that I did do it, as you all know, I took a lot of heat for it and it was difficult in terms of misinterpretation of my motives and my values and my beliefs and my independent role in helping, and my professionalism, in solving a problem, and my commitment to journalism at this college.
Now, I'm not sure why you asked me to be here. I was here to tell you those things, to remind you of those things. But after reading Mr. Collins' notes from your October 18 meeting, which you have fully mentioned are edited and not full text, and I think if there is a matter of integrity there that you declare if something is full text, especially if you're using tape recorders for your meetings and when it's edited. And especially considering who's doing the editing. But my understanding is that he wants the Senate to respond to the Board's response to the Grand Jury report. Well, clearly that could go ad infinitum or ad nauseam whichever came first. And I'm not at all sure that the academic senate is part of this formal response. In fact, it went from the Grand Jury to the Board of Trustees, not the District as he says, and the Board of Trustees, in fact, is speaking for the institution. That's what a Board of Trustees is and does. As we know, citizens and individual faculty could respond, perhaps at Schatt's Bakery or by writing a letter to the editor at the local paper just in case nobody has thought of doing those things. However, as I scrutinized Collins' transcript, it seems to be that what he and the Bells want in this case is for the Senate to act as a review board, and he again reiterated that to investigate how the decisions were made, what the motives were of the decision-makers and whether or not the process decision-making was flawed. I'm reminded of a logical fallacy, I can't think of the formal name of it. [Transcriber's note: Tape turned to side 2]
We find a flaw in the part and thus conclude that the whole is flawed. This is a particular, was a good way of false reasoning at arguing in a bureaucracy where everything is about process and the processes are almost always flawed in their execution. But I would say that more than a review board, that perhaps what Collins and the Bells would like the Senate to take on is the persona of a war crimes tribunal, that they are at war with the district I do not think they would deny. After all, in a letter in the local paper Neall Bell recently described Ehmann Vasconcellos as Nazis. I just wonder what about all of this requires the Senate's involvement and the Senate's impratur?
I will close on a sad note. Mr. Collins' participation in the Bells' cause is manifested by his continued antagonism toward and disruption of our little college newspaper. With it's renewed commitment from the college from the District for a college newspaper, with it's new advisor with a journalism degree in her discipline and considerable experience as a college newspaper advisor at a well-respected private university and a working credential as a staff member of a local paper, and with the struggling student enrollment, his continued behavior might be construed as obstruction to instruction. But frankly, I just think they're mean.
Collins: Will you accept questions from the
Unidentified: I need...
President: Hang on a second, King was first. Nancy, do you want to answer questions?
McLelland: Whatever you want me to do. You wanted a response, so that's what I have to say.
Collins: Well, it'd be good. I'd appreciate it.
President: We asked you to come because you were one of the key players in a scenario that we were reviewing, and we haven't heard from you, so I'm glad you came. There's a lot of information that we didn't have. So if you wouldn't mind answering questions. We have 8 minutes left.
Collins: First question is, did you find any problems of fact in reading over the transcript.
McLelland: Yes, absolutely. Many, many. And in terms of this casting. I loved the part where you said that faculty who are - with their reputation out in the public, there are aspersions cast upon it, that it's the Senate's business. I wish I'd known that last year when the public letters from Mr. Bell, Collins were accusing me of, you know, were certainly attacking my professionalism. But this is not, the Senate is not a war-crimes tribunal. It is not your job. I would love to be able to rehash all of that too, and I certainly feel, Mr. Collins, that to a certain extent that you are an unscrupulous person because you only use partial truths. And so I'd like to hash that, but I don't think that's the purview of the Senate.
Collins: Nancy, if you bring that up you should support it. What in heaven's name are you talking about?
McLelland: Well, if we move this into a war-crimes tribunal.
Collins: Just tell me what you're talking about. That's easy.
President: Well, I don't know...
Collins: She says that I've said half-truths. I have no idea what she's talking about.
President: I understand, but I think some of this may be things that the two of you need to talk about.
Collins: Well, I don't know. She's making a public statement to that effect. And if I was making a public statement, I would back it up.
President: Well, then I'll tell you what. I think having heard at least some informal comments from the rest of the Senate about this item, I know that we probably need to come to some closure about whether or not we are going to act as a review board before we go too very much farther with the content of what people want to say. I think it's an issue as well. Skip you had a comment, but I really would like to try - I don't know if we can settle this today if we're going to keep to our time limit, but I think we need to go in that direction before we ...unless I'm very much mistaken. Is there anybody on the Senate who would like to challenge what I just said about going in the direction - or at least getting some closure about whether or not we're going to take this issue any farther. Is there anybody who would like to speak to that?
Unidentified: I agree.
Skip Hunter: My concern is that we went over the issue of tape recording without permission.
President: I understand, but there's a difference between the Brown Act and
Hunter: What I'm asking is if this body is going to tape record meetings, they should tell everyone who appears in the audience...
President: Absolutely, I understand, and Nancy's point was well taken and I apologize to the audience for having made that...
Hunter: Are all meetings tape recorded?
President: No, all meetings are not tape recorded. You are absolutely right. No question about it. There is, for your information, however, a difference between meetings that are under the Brown Act where there is a right to tape - the tapes are public property at that point - and meetings such as we had the other day which are not Brown Act. We don't have a choice about doing this but it's protocol to let people know and that's my fault, and I apologize. My vice president...
Evoynne Sligh: I didn't know we were being tape recorded either.
President: It's not her fault. OK. Let the records show that I
Unidentified: I'd just like to - I have a listening to Nancy try to defend her integrity in what happened and this issue... We don't need to be involved in it and I support you 100% and I'm just sorry you had to be here to do this.
McLelland: Thank you.
President: King. One more comment.
Collins: I think Lefty you will admit that in the report sent to the President who signed the report to the Grand Jury that individuals were accused of doing illegal things and the things were called non-instructional, and this is something that is a serious matter to some of us. If you're involved in it, if you're the individual - if I said to you, for example, if your name was cast about in a public report by the President of the college - this is not
McLelland: But, the Board of Trustees
Collins: By the Board of Trustees, whatever. It was signed by the President and no questions were asked of the faculty that I know. If these things
McLelland: You can't assume that because you weren't asked that faculty weren't asked. That's a false assumption.
Collins: At any rate, if you were to have this happen, I would think you would be concerned about that. There are things of concern about freedom of information, freedom of expression that have been posed and false and not really even answered. There are questions that are relevant to the Senate. These things do not only involve instruction and the professionalism of people who are doing it, and I'm not accusing the current - you, Nancy, or anyone on the current Eagle of being unprofessional. All I'm saying is that let's compare what actually happened and make a reasonable judgment of whether or not instruction was going on. And whether or not it was appropriate to accuse people of doing illegal things. And if they were illegal, why haven't any of us who were involved received some sort of a letter to that effect from somebody. I've never been contacted about anything illegal. Dale has never been contacted about doing anything illegal, and yet these things are put out so, therefore,
McLelland: This is the war crimes tribunal aspect to go back and look at all these decisions, and you would have to give the Senate or some group and certainly you'd have to remove yourself and Mr. Bell as Senate members to get a disinterested, neutral group, but then what you're saying is that you'd have to rehash essentially everything that happened within the past two years with every single department to see if it was all - if it met within this...
Collins: Well, partly there are certain matters of fact, and I have asked many times, Nancy, for anybody to find anything that I ever did which was either half truth, myself personally or anything in the paper or a falsification, and I have never gotten an answer. Therefore, I consider that to be a false statement that you made. If you're not willing to support it, and you always, there's lots of things, but you'll never even give me one example.
McLelland: You'll never either.
President: Wait, okay, let's
Collins: I just want to point out
McLelland: This is not appropriate.
President: It's very difficult to draw legitimate lines here, but I think we need to try to do that. There was a hand over here.
Barbara Leuty (ASMC President): I just want to say that this being brought up in the Senate is destroying the student newspaper as it is today. I can't speak on behalf of the editors...
[Transcribers note: All public comment here is interrupted by phones, papers rustling and it's hard to hear with any continuity.]
Collins: There's another statement. If you just cut off [discussion] on this, you're not going to get a reasonable answer to that.
President: Well, we have a choice at this point whether to continue this debate. We have unbelievable time constraints, and we have other important issues coming up. So, I feel compelled as the chair to manage this so that we get all the business done. This item has been going on for some time.
Collins: Let me make a proposal then to avoid that problem. I have tried very hard not to have this take up lots of time.
President: I understand.
Collins: Isn't that true?
Collins: So, if 10-15 minutes every now and then isn't appropriate, then what is? I'm only asking the Senate to give enough time to bring some closure to this. I'm not expecting any tribunal at all. All I'm expecting is for people to have a chance to speak. That's all that I've asked, and that's all that I've done. I have not taken oodles of time.
Percentage-wise we've had this agenda item on
Collins: But I've always moved it to the back whenever something came in, isn't that true? That's all that I would expect, is to allow this thing to come to decent closure, not be cut off.
President: Well, I propose we cut if off for this meeting.
Collins: That's fine.
President: Then my question would be to the Senate - and this will be my proposal. Please tell me if you have any further comments about this having heard everything that we have heard so far today. And that is to have one further discussion of this item where we decide to bring closure to it once and for all and what basis for to pursue, because I don't want to cut it off. If there are some issues that King has brought up then I would hate to be accused of putting it off, but on the other hand, we do have a lot of other business. So, tell me your pleasure Senate members.
Widler: I guess that I agree with you once more and what I would like to see is a focus on action. I think there's a lot of things that went on here, and like most things I think everybody has some really good points and probably people have made mistakes. We all make mistakes, but as a Senate what can we do, because I don't think that we - anyway, I would like to if it's a resolution or something talk about that and then. . .
President: Specific action... If we would have a future agenda item, what I would request is that everybody carefully review the 11 items that are charged to the Senate in terms of policy - I respect where Tony was speaking from this morning, but I would like you to read carefully the section 9 of your binders, first page under title 5. The charge of the Academic Senate is a policy-making or policy-commenting board on the 11 academic items, and see if you can make this fit somewhere, and come prepared with whatever you need to and if you've spoken to any of the other players, come to some closure about this issue. Whether it's appropriate for the Senate to act and, if so, in what capacity. I will put it on the agenda for not the next meeting but the one after because we're sort of jumping here... Does anybody have a problem with doing it that way and closing the discussion today? Okay.
Myers: Well, I thought we were going to finish today, and I guess I'm disappointed about that. I think we talked about it and talked about it and so I would agree to talk one more time, but reluctantly, but I think it should it be ...
Roger Hock: I have two ideas assuming that the Senate has a role in this. One is that there seems to be - and I'm lost because it was before my time here, so I'm kind of catching up all along, but there seems to be two sides to this issue. It's become clear that there are two sides. One thing that we can do is to ask for position papers from each side to be entered into the Senate record. Another thing we can do is to have a subcommittee which hears everything and submits a report that we attach to the record.
President: I think we could do that out of our discussion at the next meeting if we decide if we are going to do anything. Those might be essential actions if we were to go further with it. Okay, so position paper or subcommittee. I'm going to close the discussion.
McLelland: Wait, what are the two sides?
Collins: I would love to have (the tape) transcribed by somebody else.
Unidentified: What do you do with it, what's the point?
President: Well, what's happened so far is that King has made notes from the tape and provided them to the Senate.
Unidentified: They are edited notes.
President: That's right.
Collins: May I point out ...
Unidentified: [There is a] special Senate member who personally edits the notes and puts them out as - I think we need to talk about that.
President: Well, we will.
Collins: We will and let me just respond briefly. Nancy, as you know, I have asked for everybody to present their views. And I have given this transcript to everybody that was involved in the discussion, so if they wanted to change it in any way - in other words, I tried to represent.
President: Okay, we're going to get on with the next item. All these are very good questions, and we will take them under our consideration the next time we discuss this. That is another thing to think about - how we treat this sort - it has not come up in the Senate before at least since I've been President of the Senate, so if we want to change the way we behave about this kind of thing we need to talk about that. Let me just tell you that in the process of this, I'll make one statement and go on. The next possible Senate meeting that we can, we are going to put on the agenda what the academic Senate is all about. We're going to talk about this issue that has been brought up today. Who we are, what we do, what our charge is, because seems to have a different opinion.