Academic Senate Testimony on
The Administration's Response to the 1999 Grand Jury Report
On Free Expression and Free Communication at Mendocino College
Notes from the Academic Senate Meeting
of October 18, 1999
Academic senate members present: Neill Bell (part-time faculty representative), Roger Hock (psychology), King Collins, (part-time faculty representative) Nancy Proto-Robinson (senate president), Evoynne Sligh (librarian), Lynda Myers (past president of the senate and director of the learning center), Lefty Olguin (athletic director).
Others present: Dylan Humphrey, Deborah Wallace (current editor of the Eagle), Susan Bell (former administrator overseeing the Eagle), Russ Emal (former editor of the Eagle), Michael Mishler (reporter for the Eagle), Ross Beck (public relations officer for the college), Al Krauss (Ukiah resident, former contributor to the Eagle), Kyle Throop (Eagle reporter)
The following notes were transcribed from a tape recording of the October 18, 1999 meeting of the senate. The following text is being passed around to everyone who spoke at the meeting, and to others who were involved in the events discussed here. Each discussant has been asked to make corrections or additions to his or her testimony. (See also Nancy McLelland's testimony of November 15, and Deborah Wallace, current Eagle editor)
Susan Bell: I want to speak in regard to the president's response to the grand jury on behalf of the board of trustees. I feel that the 'Response' is very inaccurate and misleading with regard to the senate and its role in respect to the Eagle. If you have any findings I would hope that you would pass them on to the grand jury and . . . ask for an apology to the students and staff of Mendocino College.
I know this is an issue that makes people think "Oh no, here it goes again," but here is a report that has recently come out about the Eagle and it is not factual and I want to make some comments:
Number One: It sounded like it was totally a volunteer effort. In fact it has always involved a combination of classes, either in computer science, communications or in Business Office Technology, and it kept changing in order to try to attract students and keep it afloat. So the idea that all of the sudden it was volunteer [and] the rationale that "Well, we had to make it real." is not true.
Myers: Where is that in the 'Response'?
S. Bell: Well I don't have it here in front of me at the moment but it talked about the Eagle being volunteer and how it had to be changed to make it a real learning experience and that students weren't receiving credit.
[The portion of the text Bell referred to follows: "Beginning in approximately 1995 the College no longer offered a "newspaper class" and instead the publication was put together by volunteers including students, faculty and community members." ]
The idea that it was suddenly a volunteer effort, and that the change was to receive credit and the fact is that it was receiving credit.
The other point I'm concerned with is the statement that the McLelland's proposal was strongly endorsed by the academic senate. In 1997, some of you , Lynda and Nancy, were on the senate. The fact is there was no proposal coming forth at that time. [On the other hand] In March 1997 operating guidelines were adopted that were to remain in effect until a proposal came forward. This document was signed by Don Vasconcellos, Sue Blundel, who was the president of the senate at the time, Dale Glaser and King Collins, the Eagle faculty advisors, and myself.
On May 12, 1997, Nancy McLelland presented Don Vasconcellos and myself with an informal sketch of her proposed two-year plan and that was presumably the first written document [on this subject], unless you all received one when she first came to the senate.I didn't see any kind of written proposal until mid-June of 1997. At the August, 1997 Board meeting, Don Vasconcellos and Carl Ehmann stated that the senate had strongly endorsed the proposal; but as you know the senate was off on summer vacation during that time. This [her proposal of June] is presumably the one that the 'Response' from the president was alluding to. And that memo did not even speak to how the Eagle would be produced. It was a lot of pages but very little content and certainly didn't describe how a paper was going to get put together.
As far as the governance structure that he refers to, I think that's a bit misleading because it sounds like it went through committees and so forth, but this [the setting up of the new journalism department] was strictly an administrative action. It also says that Journalism 100 was reinstated. Well, I believe it was changed over to Journalism from an old Communications 100 class. Again it was made to seem like there was nothing in place and all of the sudden we had to have something.
The last comment I want to make is about the web site link. And I think this is probably the most egregious of the comments in that particular document (the 'Response'). It states that the link was cut because anonymous people "lacked authorization" and "violated the law" and it was still continuing. The truth is that Dale Glaser, (who started the site) was never an anonymous person. He was then a part time instructo and the Eagle advisor. The [president's] comment is very misleading.
Currently Ross Beck is the web master and if they put the Eagle on the college's site, it is important to know that, according to my information, everything goes through him [Beck] before it is even put on the site, so it goes through another funnel.
I am very concerned about this 'Response'. I think it was as much written for the Board of Trustees as for anyone else. And regardless of whether you think the Eagle was good, bad or ugly, the fact is [in dealing with it as they did] there was no [appropriate] process that was followed: it was administrative fiat. The advisors didn't even know in the fall of 1997 whether they were going to get the stipend they had previously received.
But as far as the senate, I know that you said a couple of years ago that you would track resolutions and how they would come out. Well, when things are stalled so long, it's hard to get real enthused unless you were intimately involved in that particular issue. But I do think you can check your records and [see that] as far as strong endorsement, I think that is very overstated.
And on the issue about faculty, since you are interested in other faculty issues, [the way in which] faculty have been portrayed in the 'Response' is unconscionable to me. And I hope that you will take some action after you've had a chance to read the reports. . .
Chair: Susan, would you clarify the other faculty issues you referred to:
S. Bell: Right: the web site link, whether the faculty involved were anonymous and violated the law and so forth, and didn't have permission.
The last thing I want to say is that here is a time when we are dealing with staffing issues, and work load issues have been put on hold. Yet in the meantime, one of the fixes for the Eagle was to change it from $2000 per year to $5000 per year. It looks to me like a kind of buyoff, in a sense.
And what I'm concerned about regarding the administration is the pattern that seems to occur of getting faculty to fight with each other, to get exasperated with each other, when it is administrative goings on [that are the cause]. I would hope you would have something to say about Carl's response, specifically with regard to you and other faculty that you represent.
Ross Beck: (Responding to S. Bell) It is true that everything goes through me that is put on the web site, but so far I think my record on that score has been good.
S. Bell: We were told originally that we would be able to update our portions of the web ourselves, as faculty, and I just believe that this is an example of [administive] control.
Beck: As it was originally set up, each individual department was going to monitor its materials. . .(inaudible). . .I don't think that is an issue with the Eagle. If it came forward it would be posted.
Collins: Does that mean that the archives [back issues including the controversial issues] would be posted?
Beck: I don't see why there would be a problem with that. . .(inaudible). The problem with the older stuff is we don't have enough staff to handle text and photos. . . At this point we are interested in getting current stuff on there, and if we have the time we can go back. But as far as I'm concerned, if it was published, it is a document of record and so it would be posted.
Lefty Olguin: I was going to say something about the administration getting faculty into conflicts and fighting with each other. I think that is just differences of opinion and that happens everywhere. I don't think our faculty fights any more than any other faculty.
Chair: OK, those comments (above) were contained within the public comment section of our agenda. Does anyone else have comment on another issue?
Deborah Wallace [Current editor of the Eagle]: The Eagle staff makes assignment of stories to their reporters and as the editor of the Eagle I want to make a statement that Michael is not here assigned to that story.
Michael Mishler [Eagle reporter]: I had been covering the grand jury report ... (inaudible).
Chair: Well, I think the two of you [Mishler and Wallace] can work this out.
END OF PUBLIC COMMENT PORTION
OF THE MEETINGt
Chair: We have a request to move the Grand Jury Report and the college response to the front of the agenda, because there are so many people here to speak to it, so we will commence with the discussion of that item. Since King has put this item on the agenda, he is going to give us some background.
King Collins [representative for the part-time faculty and former advisor to the Mendocino College Eagle]: The grand jury did publish a report and the college responded. Those two documents and another document written by Dale Glaser and myself [A Review of the Eagle and the controversy of 1996-97] were distributed to senate members and to members of the Eagle staff before this meeting.
Since the focus of this is the grand jury report (which is about the Eagle) I brought some material here as historical data to look at. I have duplicates of some of these so you can take them with you. [Displayed on table were copies of the Eagle dating from March 1996 to the latest issue of the Eagle, October 14, 1999.] There are a few that I only have one copy of, including the Eagle which caused the greatest furor in my history, the issue in which we covered the controversy. [Holds up a copy of the November 1996 Eagle with the headline "CONTROVERSY AT MENDO."] I'll show you what was inside it. [Holds up the 8-page Eagle Extra.] This is the part which contains what Dean Bell had said, the "confidential" memo.
The Eagle Extra contained other things that were controversial, for example, [referring to the Eagle Extra, page 4 - 7] we published documents from the underground, so to speak, around campus.
And that brings me to one of my main points: Whatever I did while I was at the Eagle, I tried to see to it that the material was covered as evenly and fairly as I could, honestly. That is to say, we didn't write things that we thought were false. We would publish things and credit where they came from.
So for example, we published an article by Zack Darling, who is here today, a long interview with President Ehmann, and that was the single largest article in the paper. Something I mention mainly because some people have said that we did not let people speak from all angles. We tried to let everyone speak. I don't think there was a letter we received that we didn't publish---except for one letter from Gerald Debane which got lost, which was the wrong person to do that to. He raised an issue about that later. But as far as I know, everything [else]that we got, we published. That's another important point.
Also on this table, we have newspapers from the very first moment I was there. [Holds up a copy of the March 1996 Eagle.] It has an article by Russ Emal who was then the editor ("2% OF STUDENTS VOTE") and also an article I wrote about multimedia at the college ("MULTIMEDIA UPDATE"). There was also a controversy about how many articles the advisors wrote.
The grand jury report came about because an individual---not myself---went to the grand jury and raised the question of whether free expression and free communication had been suppressed at the college. Then Dale and I were called to testify, and we presented a document not unlike this one ["Report on the Eagle and the Controversy of 1996-1997"] to the grand jury where we tried to review everything that happened. I know they [the grand jury] interviewed a few other people, they don't reveal who those people were. Then they wrote their report and it is published here in the Ukiah Daily Journal, along with all the other reports. The college report is on page 59 and 60.
The report makes a couple of points. One which is very germane to the senate is that there is no web site currently on line for the Eagle, and that the link to the web site which does still exist [under the auspices of Dale Glaser and King Collins at www.greenmac.com/eagle] was cut right after the controversy came out. Three days after the Eagle Extra came out, to be exact. That fact is probably the most obvious evidence of content-related action by the administration. And if you don't mind me bringing in some jurisprudence. The fact is that anything which is done to a public forum that is going on in a college paper, or any other paper, in which content is used as grounds for deleting, removing or limiting access to a publication, is against the present interpretation of the first amendment. So it is basically illegal to do that, and that is one of the reasons we brought these things forward. We felt that we had been discriminated against in that sense.
So to get back to where we are right now, what we want to do is to give everybody an opportunity to speak who has had anything to do with the Eagle and still has an interest in it, and is concerned about the grand jury report.
So how shall we proceed?
Lefty Oguin: I just wanted to make a comment to say how much I appreciated your unbiased writing in the Eagle. When that came out I did read the articles and you did cover both sides of the issue, and lots of times that doesn't happen.
Collins: I appreciate that. Quite frankly, if I can make a personal comment, during that time I got a lot of heat and so did Zack and other people who were on the editorial staff. And one of the criticisms we heard was that we were not fair in our coverage, and I feel that was unfounded.
Now let's throw it out for everyone to comment, and I definitely want to hear from Zack Darling, who was editor at the time of the controversy, from Dale Glaser, who was coadvisor to the Eagle, and from Russ Emal, who was also an editor just before that time. I want to do this partly because I'd like to attach real faces to the process that we went through. So I'll just throw it out now if that's OK.
Chair: Let me make one comment before we start this, and that is that the academic senate has a very prescribed role in these kinds of things. I know this is currently one of the few forums that you would have to relate to this issue, but please try to make your comments relate to what you are requesting from the senate, how this is appropriate to the senate and how this fits into our purview of things.
Collins: I would like to add one comment to reinforce what you just said. I'm glad you reminded me of this. My primary focus in bringing this forward is that those of us who were involved in the Eagle felt that we were involved in an instructional program and that we were doing work that was very appropriate to the college. In the same sense that the academic senate is interested in instructional matters, we feel that we were doing an instructional job and that we were doing an effective instructional job. And part of the reason I asked the former editors to come here is for them to testify as to their experience working on the staff as an educational experience, to contradict, I hope, the impression given that a bunch of volunteers, a ragtag bunch of people, got together and did semi-legal things.
Chair: So your preference is to hear from the ex-editors and advisor. I also saw a hand from Ross [Beck]. That will take us awhile. Does anyone else want to speak. [Acknowledges Al Krauss, who said he had a brief comment]. Ok, let's start with Russ Emal
Russ Emal [Former editor of the Eagle from January 1996 - June, 1996]: I was maybe the original editor of what was called the good, the bad and the ugly. Zack really dealt with the ugly. The thing I really want to comment on is a good segue from what King said.
I was a full time student at the college at the time taking a beginning class by Jon DeGallier in ReadySetGo! (a page layout program) and SuperPaint (a graphics program). Good programs for their time but not worth much in the commercial world. I later found out that you could not take advanced course in either of these programs. I took a course in PageMaker, by Bob Laugton. Bob was teaching PageMaker using simulated text, text without content. At the same time I became the editor of the Eagle and it just seemed to me that it was strange that Bob Laughton's class was not using the Eagle as the forum for his classes. Because at the Eagle we were producing the real newspaper and in the PageMaker you really weren't producing anything at all. It seemed like a natural thing to have that class be doing the newspaper. Also at that time the writing for the media was discontinued. We wanted to know why the students in the writing for media class weren't writing for the newspaper.
I found that my experience at the Eagle was what really taught me how to use PageMaker. It was not the Bob Laughton class, although he is a very nice guy and a good teacher. It was really the instruction from Dale and King working on the Eagle that taught me all about that.
The original paper was rather sophomoric looking and by the time we got to the end of our work, we felt we had a newspaper that was competitive with any here in the county as far as looks and as far as content.
The content was created, not just by Dale and King, but by students or faculty from throughout the college.
We had a lot of controversy that we put in the newspaper. None of those controversies ever made [the administation decide that] the link [should] be broken to the newspaper. One of the stories was called "Masonite, the home of Ukiah." Very controversial, really, here in this town. That certainly didn't break any links. Tons of things we put in there that were distasteful to some people, possibly, but it was only when we spoke about the college itself, that it became so controversial that the link was broken.
So I think that it has to be said that you might call it good, bad or ugly but it was good journalism. At least we tried to make it good journalism.
Zack Darling [Editor of the Eagle from September, 1996 - December, 1996]: I want to make a brief testimony as to what the Eagle has done for me and how it played a really strong role in my education as a college student and how that has blossomed into something really important to me.
I do have a problem with what it says here that the Eagle was being run by a bunch of volunteer instructors and on an unorganized level.
There are a number of things in the Eagle program that I don't think have been addressed or known about.
We spent a considerable amount of time in the Eagle office, time that was not in class. I was always in there working if I was not studying for a class. We would often end up at King's home office because there was so much work to be done for the Eagle office. The office [campus] would close at 11:00 PM.
We figured out the Eagle editor was making about 15 cent an hour. It was a lot of time and this was not time I was alone without direction. That included a lot of time and dedication and instruction from King Collins and Dale Glaser. Sometimes we stayed up until 5:00 in the morning, working at King's office, just because we couldn't stay that late at the college.
King also had a good relationship with Willits Printing and would take the students through the entire printing process. Later on in my career I found this knowledge to be valuable. The skills that I learned and the special tutoring. Anybody who wanted to learn and was willing to learn could [do so], over and above what I received from any other instructor. I have never had any other teacher take me through the process and explain it all.
Because we raised so much political tension in the college, the political pressure on me became really intense. I won't say who they were, but I had faculty bursting into the Eagle office, screaming at me that they were going to shut down the newspaper and they were going to expell me and do everything they could to get me out of this school. This is a little bit hard when you are trying to get an education. No matter what you are printing, no matter what the controversy was, I was there for an education and I was getting respected professionals really dropping their values of what should be done. Eventually I ended up leaving Mendocino College to go to Santa Rosa Junior College, because I was no longer able to pursue my education [at MC].
When I went to Santa Rosa Junior College, I signed up for their multimedia, journalism and desktop publishing classes. Those classes were good but I did not get the kind of hands-on personal experience that I got and Mendocino College.
Later I started my own business, Greenfield Graphics and Printing. [Holds up some of the full-color work he has done.] Based on the skills I learned at the Eagle, I have been able to apply them to a career. Instead of making 16 cents per hour, I am billing my time out now at $65.00/hour, and I have more work than I can handle. And this would not be the case if it were not for the time, dedication and the enormous amount of energy that was put forth by King and Dale.
It really upsets me to see all that work and time that they put in to making my education be forgotten. I would just like it noted that that this wrong. I have hours and hours of hands on personal tutoring from these guys.
And as far as the current Eagle is concerned, [this is]what I heard from a number of involved students. When the Eagle was taken over by the English Department, it sounded like the English Department, and the people who were running the Eagle at that point, were sycophants for the administration. It was a big attempt to put out the spark in the students and keep the activism from happening. And from what I've seen and heard the newspaper really lacks a lot of the political activism that made it so powerful and so wonderful in our community. It was good and bad and ugly, but it was good.
It was ugly sometimes, but it was because ugly things were happening. The ugly things were no longer private, under the table, under the covers. They were public.
Dale Glaser [former advisor to the Eagle]: My name is Dale Glaser. I was faculty advisor to the Eagle from 1992 through 1997. I asked King to come on as co-advisor somewhere around 1995. Listening to Zack and Russ trying to explain various aspects of their experience on the Eagle, as well as their response to the Grand Jury report, makes me think that there is obviously a lot to discuss on this whole issue, and there really hasn't been a forum to do that. And so here we have a lot of people's feelings getting funneled down into a kind of last attempt to raise issues that haven't had a chance to get addressed very well up till now.
I don't know to what extent the academic senate can do anything about the administrative response to the grand jury but I would like to say that I see their response as a disservice to the college, and perhaps to the faculty, myself, and the Eagle, as regards the history of King's and my involvement with the Eagle, and certainly around the way the Eagle web site we created has been treated.
Susan has already brought up the two issues in the administrative response that are of concern to me. One is the administration considering the period of the Eagle during which King and I were advisors as merely a "volunteer effort," writing that off as of little importance. I take issue with this, but because of time I want to focus in on the Eagle web site.
Additional Comments: The Eagle was never "put together by volunteers". When a newspaper class was no longer given because of lack of attendance or a faculty member to teach it, the Eagle continued at the college in a number of different forms, single-handedly nutured by Susan Bell, who had to argue every year for a minimal budget. For several years there was a Communications class that students could take and get credit for working on the Eagle. At another time students were given credit under a work/study program. There was always a faculty advisor and a structure in which students could get credit for being involved. The Eagle was never a "volunteer" operation.
Noteworthy during this period was the complete lack of interest and support by the administration, in spite of repeated requests for articles and ongoing lobbying in print for a journalism program. The only truth regarding the expression that the publication was "put together by volunteers" is that the faculty advisors and student staff worked many many more hours than they were ever compensated to keep a newspaper going at the college.
I created the web site in a very professional manner, and I thought I was doing a service for the community and the college and students and staff, and contributing to the public forum at the college. While the administration in their response says they dealt with the web site as soon as they found out about it, the web site had existed for quite a while before that, more than a year. Tonia immediately linked it up to the college web site she developed, because it was the only web site at the college at the time, and it was linked for a while before being unlinked. In fact, it wasn't until the "controversy" happened that the adminstration responded by removing the Eagle link.
Additional Comments: The administration response says: "Individuals, who did not identify themselves, established their own web site...". There was never anything covert or hidden going on around the Eagle web site. I, a faculty member at the college, created the site and made it known from the beginning, and had his name prominantly placed on it. It was never "their own website", it was the product of many hours of volunteer time spent to produce a learning opportunity for students at the leading edge of technology at the time. And it was created to provide another information medium at the college which has no ongoing channel of campus wide communication. And it was created to be a tool for promoting the Eagle newspaper at a college which put no effort into soliciting student interest in journalism or making students aware of the existance of a student newspaper.
The main point I want to make is that I offered something that was leading edge, the first opportunity for any student to have access to the internet on campus. I also developed some tools to make it easy to maintain a web site. These would still be valuable to the college if the Eagle started picking up on a web site again. And the administration paid no attention to any of this.
King and I went to the academic senate with a resolution (which passed) giving many reasons why and requesting the administration to relink the Eagle site from the the college site. What happened was that it just got tabled. We never got any kind of response back from that resolution. And I would like to say that I think that was a disservice to the academic senate, let alone myself as a faculty member. It was just tabled, in other words ignored. An interesting way to handle an important academic senate resolution from faculty members.
I would like the academic senate to look into what happened to that resolution. And I don't mean really the resolution itself because there will probably be some reasonable answer to what happened to it. I mean what is going on when a resolution which some faculty members spent a lot of work on, and was passed by the academic senate, can just be ignored in this way by the administration, without even a response back to the senate, let alone the people who initiated the resolution.
I'll stop now because of time, but I want to say that I feel the academic senate needs to respond to the administration 'Response', because at the least the administration is inaccurate, and, at most, they are blatantly attempting a revision of history. Thank you.
[Tape 1 ends here]
Ross Beck: [Tape 2 starts with Ross Beck speaking, but it is barely audible due to a problem with the tape and the fact that Ross was siting in the back of the room far from the microphone.
Submitted later by senate secretary Sligh: Mr. Beck, College webmaster, stated his opinion as to why the College home page-Eagle website link was cut. He informed the audience that the removal of the link to the off-campus Eagle publication occurred before he became an employee or the webmaster for Mendocino College, however, he does know the history of the matter. One possible reason for severing the link to the off-campus Eagle is that it does not have permission to officially represent "Mendocino College" of the "Mendocino College Eagle" newspaper. He understood that the college website existed at the time the link was severed to the off-campus Eagle.
Mr. Beck stated that he does not believe that the removal of the link infringes upon freedom of speech as the "link" to the off-campus Eagle is considered to be like a book distributor instead of a book publisher; that the Eagle continued to be published. That is his general understanding and not a legal opinion.
Al Krauss [Ukiah resident and contributor to the Eagle newspaper]:
I was here using the facilities and taking a course in writing for publication from Nancy Ellis during the period of the controversy. I also wrote some articles for the Eagle. . .
It was always amazing to me how thoroughly collective or democratic their process was, producing the paper. I didn't see anything hierarchical there. I saw King and I saw Dale working with students. Sometimes it got pretty heated or contentious, but I never got the feeling that it was hierarchical. That's as far as I will go here in terms of bearing witness.
My only last comment will be this. I have also observed from afar as a member of the community, how all the various controversies have embroiled the members of this community and the college. And I must say that you as an academic senate have a role to play. I believe there is a state law, AB 1725 or something like that, which asserts the right of faculty to be involved in governance. I understand it is not clearly spelled out, but it is still a mandate to you. You have got to assert your own conscience and your own academic personae.
I can't tell you how strongly I feel about this. The administration at this college is such a low order of operation, it's so far down in what it says and does. I graduated from Dartmouth College and I get all kinds of stuff from them, alumni news and letters, and I am impressed with the quality of that material, and I admire the constant high quality of interaction between the academic community and the administrative community there.
This place, Mendocino College, has such a long way to go before your administration can match the potential here. As faculty members you have got to take the initiative, you've got to be the leaders here and not the followers.
That's all I've got to say.
Deborah Wallace[Editor of the Eagle from September, 1998 - present]:
[The tape is inaudible, and Deborah was very hoarse. Her comments were to the effect that she had not had any problems of any kind with the administration.
Collins: [Responding to Wallace's comments about the growth of the Eagle] I would like to sumit this letter from Eagle journalism students, written in October, 1998, for the record. It is a letter of resignation and explains why the Eagle staff went from about a dozen students to only one at that time. [The letter, signed by ten students was submitted to the President of the senate to be distributed to senate members.]
The final 10 minutes of the meeting tape is badly damaged and may not be salvageable.
Copies of this draft are being sent to each of the individuals who spoke at the above meeting. Any corrections or additions will be included in the final draft.
Draft 1 of this document was put on line on October 25, 1999.