FCCCC President’s Address
CCC Board of Trustee’s Meeting
Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
Chairman Cabrera, Chancellor Hyman, members of the Board, Officers of the District, faculty, staff and all others present, good morning.
For this board report, I had prepared a nuanced and thoughtful discussion of remediation, of the City College’s various attempts to address remediation and of a comparison with Mayor Bloomberg ’s Start program in New York City, but that will be another time. Instead, I want to discuss the corrosive campaign initiated by the Inspector General’s Office and, in particular, the new posters that are displayed around the colleges.
This poster has in large red letters the word
Report and then lists the words Waste, Fraud, and Misconduct. It then lists all the ways an individual can submit this report to the Inspector General’s Office and reminds the audience that this report can be confidential and anonymous. Moreover, the webpage associated with the office says nothing about specifics of waste, fraud, or misconduct, just more verbiage about reporting incidents.
Please note a couple of things. The language is vague and legalistic; it doesn’t tell the reader what constitutes waste, fraud or misconduct. Note, too, that the linguistic vagary allows anything to be reported, particularly under the cloak of anonymity: any rumor, any salacious story, any anger-driven narrative. Moreover, the language seems to be purposefully accusatory and assumes an adversarial position; it seemingly targets behavior that the accuser can claim as wasteful or fraudulent, but who can assess that? Only the Inspector General’s Office and only in secret: the Office can interrogate anyone it deems appropriate without revealing who made the report or about what activity is being investigated. It’ s intentionally secret, because, as the head of the department said to us in his presentation, “you wouldn’t tell the truth if you knew the reason why.“ This is a slippery slope, and one we’ve seen before.
The House Un-American Activities Committee and its Senate counterpart began just this way, by asking for information about activities, initially in a special committee on pro-German influence on the liquor distribution, and it bloomed into the fiasco of the 1950s in which fear and uncertainty ruled. It’s the same language and the same techniques, and it’s divisive, destructive and detrimental to what, I believe, we’re trying to build at the City Colleges: colleges that encourage and support our students in their academic journey. And reporting on each other is not the way to do this.
In contrast, for example, the University of Illinois on its webpage for the University’s Ethics Office, says,“The University ’s Code of Conduct establishes guidelines for professional conduct and indicates those acting on behalf of the University have a general duty to conduct themselves in a manner that will maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the University and take no actions incompatible with their obligations to the University.“
Moreover, the University makes it clear what that process is:
“Management employees [and it lists exactly who those individuals are later in the text] are responsible for detecting fraudulent activities or misconduct in their areas of responsibility. Each manager should be familiar with the types of improprieties that might occur in his/her area and be alert for any indication that improper or dishonest activity is or was in existence in his/her area. When dishonest or improper activity is detected or suspected, management should determine whether an error or misunderstanding has occurred or whether possible fraud exists. Management is responsible for taking appropriate corrective actions to ensure adequate controls exist to prevent the recurrence of fraud.“ It then goes on to list the rules and authority of the Inspector General’s Office, and it lists definitions and examples of fraud, which, and again I’m quoting, “Fraud generally involves intentional misuse or conversion of University property or resources for personal non-University uses.“
This site assumes that there are areas of possible misconduct associated with particular positions, which one’s supervisor can detect and correct, and that part of the supervision is the recognition of the difference between intentional and unintentional activity. Finally, the assumption is that the apparent fraud may have been perpetrated through error or misunderstanding, not that misconduct is rampant at the University. It is also noteworthy that there is nothing on this page about waste. (See
for the full report. Accessed November 2, 2011)
When we look at the Federal Government’s Office of the Inspector General under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Resources, it deals primarily with health care fraud, such as improper billing for closed or nonexistent health care or nursing home facilities, and it is clear about what does not fal l under its purview. It does not investigate, for instance, discrimination (race, sexual orientation, disability and so on) at the workplace; that is handled by the EEO officer. This webpage, similarly to the University of Illinois webpage, is a very explicit and detailed site that includes various compliance training resources and lists of examples of fraud and misconduct. Moreover, similar to the University of Illinois site, it assumes that no one wants to commit fraud or mishandle resources. The Office trusts its employees and assumes compliance. (See
for the full page. Accessed November 2, 2011)
Let me be clear. No one supports waste, fraud and misconduct. No one wants a whistle blower to be punished.
But this poster is different: This encourages an atmosphere of distrust among us all; it divides departments and colleges; and it focuses on absolutely the wrong thing, not on what we’re doing, how we should act to strengthen our mission and uphold the integrity of our institution, but on reporting what someone else is doing.
This is make-work, and it’s particularly pernicious make-work. Indeed, if the Inspector General’s Office needs to advertise for work, then we have too many individuals in that office.
We are unequivocal about this. This kind of campaign is absolutely reprehensible
– and wasteful and smacks of overweening arrogance and misconduct. The posters need to be removed NOW.
President of FC4
36 thoughts on “FC4 President’s Address to the Board”
Wow, could have talked about remediation, an issue that deeply impacts students and where faculty input is desperately needed, but chose to talk about some posters that most people ignore.
Totally agree–I was baffled when I read it.
I’ve not seen the poster at our college. I can understand how it can create an “atmosphere of distrust” to go along with the low morale.
As Anonymous has stated, perhaps if we do ignore the poster, it will have little to no effect.
BTW, How does our FC4 President determine what needs to be stated at the Board Meeting? Does our local FC provide input?
And to whomever down-rated this comment, what in the world deserves a thumbs down about it? It’s about as innocuous as can be. A subjective observation, followed by a statement that is seemingly sympathetic to the position of the person giving all of the thumbs down, followed by a mild and qualified (note ‘perhaps’) assertion and two questions. How does that get a thumb down?
Typically on blogs, down ratings are reserved for comments that are offensive, mean-spirited, personal or otherwise contrary in tone to the ethos of the site.
Disagreement rates a response, not a thumb down.
(Just a suggestion/comment, not a rule…)
I haven’t seen the signs but if I do, I’ll be sure to report the waste, fraud and misconduct apparent at district level. Since few will take such signs seriously and everyone has a stake in how remediation is being neglected by district- let’s here about remediation.
Great idea. It’ll be tomorrow’s Think, Know, Prove.
Umm…make that next week’s. Sorry. Can’t seem to get those Saturday posts to happen lately. But soccer season is over, so maybe henceforth…
I would not be so quick in dismissing Hoover’s concerns. Anonymous and PhiloDave seem to be unaware of how the inspector general’s office has been operating for the past one and a half years. This structure’s purpose is not to stamp out corrupt and unethical practices in the CCC. For that, you have to go to the top, to the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor cabal, and to the Board of Trustees. But these are they same people who created the inspector general in its current incarnation. The real purpose is more disturbing. The IG’s main purpose is to maintain an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and suspicion. Its expected outcome is to atomize us, to demoralize us, to disarm us.
Don’t you think that should be a profound concern for every ordinary person working for the CCC?
I presume you will report your observations of waste, fraud and misconduct then…?
Rules is rules. If we are required to live in the city and pay our city fees, then that’s what we should be doing. If we are doing that, then IG can shadow me all they want ’cause I gots nothin’ to hide. If IG is going after folks that are already abiding by the rules, then that’s a different story.
Perhaps, the way IG goes about it’s business can foster the atmosphere you state. I’ve not gone through that experience personally.
IMHO, I believe we disarm ourselves by not collectively fighting against this ‘live in the city’ requirement.
Plan of attack is as follows:
Abide by rules and regulations.
Then argue (in the most polite and respectful way) for change. Bring the fight to CCC’s front door.
Wanna live outside the city? Then expect the argument to be brought to your front door.
Like the last commenter said (and to address some of the comments posted here), we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Hoover’s concerns. What I think is valuable about her comments and her use of the board report to address this issue is that – big picture – our interest is in maintaining the “community” in our community college system. Maintaining this supports shared governance, supports the valuing of faculty input in all things including remediation, hiring and credentialing, and all other issues that have developed and, in fact, are being addressed by fc4 and faculty in general as of late. We do need to ensure that we identify and resist unreasonable efforts to insert mistrust and suspicion into our community. The posters, to me, seem likely to do just that.
To address some of the other comments. . .
Where are the posters?
The posters – at last check – are on every single landing going up and down the escalators. I wouldn’t say that I’m the most observant person, but it’s hard not to see the same poster on every single escalator landing. . . unless you happen to take the elevator or the stairwell all the time. And, while we may choose to ignore them, it does seem a bit strange to have them around in the first place.
Access and Input
All of the local fcs have input both within the FC4 executive meetings and within the general meetings.. Each college also has fc4 representatives who are charged with representing the college at the FC4 level and sharing what our concerns are. Further, all faculty have input. Some of you may recall an open invitation to email Hoover directly with concerns you have. I would strongly encourage – and I have strongly encouraged – each person to take advantage of these opportunities to provide input.
Thank you Writingisthinking.
What I gather then is:
1. I need to stop and look at my surroundings. I’ll be an eagle-eye next week.
2. Get with the program and get active and… get to know my local FC4 rep.
3. Next time our District-wide FC4 rep asks questions, we should provide input.
Knuckles to you.
Thanks Willie Wonka and Writingisthinking. I was thinking the same thing. I was actually pleased with Polly had to say and I thought it was pertinent. We can talk about remediation forever. There are projects in motion attempting to address remediation. They need to be given room to succeed before we continue that conversation district-wide. Local conversation about remediation is a different story. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a faculty member from one of the other 6 about the inspector generals citing faculty members for missed office hours. There is a bit of fear in the air. Does scaring faculty into keeping their office hours a good thing? Does the end justify the means?
Did that faculty member know of anyone who had actually been cited?
Maybe the next six month report will say differently, but my reading of the two previous reports (which, I would say to WillieWonka, provide my sense of “how the Inspector General’s office has been operating for the past one and half years”)–here and here, if anyone is interested in finding out what they’ve actually investigated–suggests that the posters are not quite as nefarious as they’re being presented. The CTA has similar posters on their trains and has for years. I’ve never felt mistrustful of those employees because of them.
I’ve seen those posters for weeks now and never felt mistrustful of my colleagues in light of them. I sincerely doubt that that would be the reaction of any of our students who were shown the posters, too.
Molehill, you shall henceforth be known as “Mountain.”
I would have much rather heard/read the “nuanced and thoughtful discussion of remediation” or maybe a pre-emptive addressing of the discussion/proposal of an “Honors College” that I keep hearing about from Reinvention related people, or purchasing problems, or the security consults/concerns/commitments of faculty, or the faculty work on Key Performance Indicators, or about the progress on working with the Provost on last year’s Shared Governance proposal/resolution, or a recapitulation of the Child Development situation/revision and statement of the lessons learned there, or maybe something about whatever madness is happening at Daley regarding text books and whatever else, or an expression of support for 1708 or about a hundred other things that seem (to me) to be significantly more important.
Maybe I’m dense but 8.5 x 11″ pieces of paper don’t intimidate me at all, nor cause me fear, nor provoke suspicion about the people around me. It’s just noise.
I’m not scared that the building will burn down just because I see fire alarms on every floor.
Interestingly enough, I haven’t actually noticed the signs at HW. You make some good points.
“Molehill, you shall henceforth be known as “Mountain.” ”
For some, perhaps this molehill is a mountain. For me personally, it is just flat land. The 2nd part of my conversion with the faculty member referenced above had to do with accountability, “big sibling” and having nothing to fear if you take your work seriously. I’m not scared that the building will burn down until I see some smoke. Is this issue smoke or just an idle alarm waiting to ring?
In re-reading my own response, I noted that I could have been clearer about saying that I am speaking solely for myself and understand (and respect) the opinions that differ from my own on the topic.
I definitely don’t mean to say that there is nothing of value in any of the thoughts offered on the topic. I just mean to say that I don’t see the topic as a priority or even as a major concern.
(and if they really are all part of some evil plot, then I suspect we’re dealing with Doctor Mildly Annoying rather than “Doctor Evil.”, intemperate mutated sea bass with lasers on their heads…)
So, as I read the OIG’s report from the last part of 2010, there were quite a few instances of waste, fraud, and misconduct that seemed worthy of discipline. As I was reading, I came across an interesting tidbit that seems pertinent to our discussion here:
“The OIG investigation further revealed that a supervisor was inattentive to the supervisor’s duty and failed to report misconduct of other CCC employees to the proper person since on more than one occasion the supervisor observed the engineer and / or the janitor drinking in a tavern during their working hours but failed to notify anyone. This misconduct violated the CCC District-Wide Employee Manual, Section IV, Paragraphs 38 and 46.”
Section IV, Paragraph 46: “Failure to report misconduct of other CCC employees to the proper person.”
The supervisor received an oral reprimand. . . .
While I would certainly expect supervisors to do their job (Paragraph 38) and report misconduct, the language of paragraph 46 seems to include everyone. What seems to be the case is that any employee can be penalized for actually committing waste, misconduct, and fraud as well as for failure to tatt- . . . umm. . report misconduct. . .
On to the next report. . .
After a month away I’ll sit out on this limb right here and say the following: all things being equal, the response to these posters squares the circle re: “Going Meta” (10-26-11).
[I really don’t think it’s just me since I’m not any of you.]
How are Inspector Generals like gossips?
1) Both are employed in “make-work.” (That is, both are time-wasters. Poster solicitations are the equivalent of gossips’ loud self-disclosure at the moment of dish.)
2) Both can be influenced by an “anger-driven narrative.”
3) Both are “a corrosive” creating a “climate of suspicion” in the workplace. (Polly’s letter refers to the witch-hunts of the McCarthy era. Among our gossips we have the sad phenomena of cliques and bullies, Queen Bees and Wannabes.)
4) Both don’t like to be denied.
5) Both undermine the management. (“Best practices” in management state that gossip should not be allowed to flourish as it leads to mistrust, a drop in teamwork, a drop in company morale, and a drop in productivity. Managers must address the problem.)
6) In the mouths of both, a cherished principle (such as freedom of speech or community safety) is merely a rhetorical move that enables both to beat others over the head with said principle while undermining that principle. In such cases, the rhetorical use of that principle needs to be pointed out, and those who champion that principle need to restart the argument rather than get caught arguing in the abstract about it. Champions must argue from the historical and social contexts that make the principle meaningful and give rise to it in the first place. Otherwise those who wish to undermine the principle will demand and obtain shelter under that same principle. (For example, Matt U. made a similar point while conversing with “the Realist,” who immediately moved the principle into the abstract realm, but not before PhiloDave noticed a “clarifying effect” as “the Realist” knew Matt U. so used literary references. PhiloDave went on to wonder what further clarification could be achieved given further disclosure/concretion, albeit not in “discriminatory environments.” Indeed. I do not mean to steal Matt U.’s or “The Realist’s” thunder, nor do I wish to harm any animals, use anything that isn’t biodegradable, call out or name anyone who is perfectly capable of providing his or her own clues as to his or her identity. Their example simply illustrates how principle-as-rhetorical-move works. Thanks again, Mr. Fish! My legal name isn’t “Avramakis.” That’s not my complete pseudonym, either.)
Ah, but “Going Meta”/”FC4 President’s Address to the Board” were not about gossips, you say, but about how the blog and the college should reflect the ethos of its members? I saw a lot of soul-searching (and, perhaps, a search for souls). It’s my experience that the blog provides quite a few limbs to sit on, and gossips turn out to be just one part of the family tree here. There’s even a limb for Polly Hoover’s letter. Nor am I saying that anyone who wants to do away with anonymity is a gossip. I simply see no more mystery in anonymity or pseudonym on the blog than I see in the people I see at work daily (especially in the ones who see mystery everywhere).
Still squaring the circle?
If none of this was ever about gossip then I would love to switch gears and discuss instead “intemperate mutated sea bass with lasers on their heads.”
So then the question is whether Sharks with Lasers would be scarier (or just redundant)?
I’ve been unable to decide.
Also, if I ever start another blog, I think these words would be my guide: “There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.”
Thanks for the pointer back to Poe. Haven’t read that one in awhile.
It’s redundant, actually, as we all know that only the laser matters
A week’s gone by? It may be irrelevant (relevant?) at this point for me to expand on my earlier post, but here goes. Anonymity or a pseudonym doesn’t result in some kind of body transplant. (If only change were that easy.) There’s consistency to be found in the real and virtual worlds. Can there ever be anything other than self-disclosure?
PhiloDave: “Also, if I ever start another blog, I think these words would be my guide: ‘There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.’”
I share this Catholicity of taste. I’d also insist on talent, or at least expertise. Ultimately, the lounge, like our college, rises or falls based on our efforts and ability to work together. Sometimes that means individuals need to be responsive to feedback from their fellow human beings. In other words, some may have heard your call for decentralization and participation, but blogging may not be everyone’s calling.
My students earn Fs too. Some change.
And as I’ve said before, glad you’re back.
(BTW: Every allegory invites some “return of the repressed.” I love allegories, so I hope everyone enjoyed Poe as much as we did.)
“Catholicity of taste”–great phrasing. Now that’s talent…
Ah, that. Thank you but I can’t take credit. It’s sort of a Catholic thing/meme. I also remember it spoken by one of Edward Albee’s characters in “Zoo Story” (or maybe “Tiny Alice”).
BTW: I followed the links you provided over at your “Better or Worse?” thread. Yes. That’s what I had in mind.
It may be useful for PhilDave and Realist to put themselves in others people’s shoes, and to dig into the history of reprisals and vindictiveness of the CCC administration. Until Reinvention became the new sacred cow, the administration had been using their Edgar Hoover-like office of the EEO to go around the union contract to punish, and even fire people without due process (if you want to know more about the lack of due process ask your chapter chair). After all the Reinvention beheadings at District Office, including the Vice Chancellor in charge of the EEO until the beginning of this year, the IG has become the instrument of choice to continue this task. In fact, it has a wider embrace, so it dwarfs the EEO capacity to persecute and intimidate people.
So, how are you going to face and what are you going to tell anyone who has been punished or suspended in your college (on the basis of frivolous charges) about your sanguine reply that you don’t have to worry if you have done nothing wrong?
To paraphrase the famous words of the German reverend who denounced silence in the face of Nazi persecution of Jews, Communists, trade unionists, gays, etc. many decades ago: after they have come for many before you, who is going to speak on your behalf when they come for you?
Seriously, are you stupid? Is your life in danger?
Sorry, I need to be clear. I think when you invoke heros of the Nazi resistance then you have probably way overstretched. I don’t use words like “stupid” against people who likely have graduate degrees often. But this is an absurd statement and you deserve it. It was irresponsible, disrespectful to people who fought genuine evil, and completely self-serving. I found it offensive and pitiful.
It is a very self-righteous and worn-down masquerade to insist that we cannot learn from history, that we can not quote people who have resisted, in many forms and circumstances, abuse, injustice and tyranny. By your logic we would never be able to quote Malcolm X, James Connolly, or Victor Jara, if we are not African-American, Irish, or Chilean. The misery and butchery faced by the people whom these three persons represented is as real and profound as that of the German people I referred to before. I assume that you have a graduate degree too. I also assume that you can understand analogies, and that as such, that you can understand that my point wasn’t about the butchery of Nazism, but about the need to join together and confront early, when there is time, a threat that if left unchecked will become worse and affect more and more people. This is it. No need to feel insulted, unless you have a different agenda, in which case, would care to make it clear?
This entire colloquy is astounding, you’re all right, the Inspector General is definitely out to get you instead of simply enforcing the law and ethics code. I know, I was waterboarded last night for stealing a pencil. Let’s definitely focus on this instead of remediation. This is really sad. Your self-interest, mis-guided at that even, has blinded you. Can we keep our eyes on the ball or are we that sad?
Fallacy Alert: False Dichotomy!
(take a few deep breaths there, ‘Anonymous’…)
PhiloDave – I did not invoke Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I think you can possibly take a step back and admit where the fallacy lies here. Anyway, hold me to a bar that the prior commenter cannot meet.
Both can be true.
As I said, laugh in the face of all those who have been wrongfully fired, suspended without pay, unjustly faced “pre-disciplinary” hearings, etc. Where are you living and working? These are people’s lives that get ruined, and you can be so nonchalant about it? This is sick.
Which ones are we talking about Willie? The ones who lied about their residency? The one who sexually assaulted someone? Is there a specific person we should shed a tear for?
Clearly you live in your little world, so cloistered that you don’t know or don’t care about those have have been crushed by the administration. I detect an air of defense of the administration as always right, and all those people being punished always guilty. No questions asked. I don’t care about the Chancellor’s lackey who was made a sacrificial lamb. I do care about the ordinary mortals that work or worked with you and me that have paid a high price. People that I cannot name because I cannot betray their privacy. Plenty at HW. But, hell, to you it doesn’t matter, you already declared them sexual molesters. All you need is an administrator to tell you.
I don’t know of ANYONE who would “laugh” in the face of such actions, WW, and I don’t get the sense that anyone is laughing here.
Strawpersons are easy to construct and easy to knock down. You should also be aware that it’s easy to recognize when an arguer is substituting one for the argument being put forth.
Less heat and more light would be appreciated.
Well, PhiloDave, as I said above, I cannot betray people’s privacy. But there are many cases, in every college. At HW, I will only say this:
Case 1: employee fired for alleged sexual harassment. Everyone who knows the person knows that this wasn’t true, that the alleged victim wasn’t credible (and this is not the sexist excuse of frat boys and jocks, the facts of this case don’t fit this scenario), and in fact seemed rather manipulable. Suffice it to say, that even though the person in question is no longer working at the college, same person came into some substantial amount of cash of the kind that settlement gag orders prevent from disclosing in nature and amount. Same person had before the alleged incident come under the wrath of a powerful and vindictive administrator.
Case 2: Person didn’t allegedly live in Chicago, contrary to evidence of several years living with another CCC employee. IG didn’t care about the evidence, quite substantial, no due process, person agrees to quit to avoid firing. Case supposedly frozen in suspended animation.
Case 3: Employee with whom person in Case 2 lived, suspended without pay, because of “not handling” the situation properly (i.e., not turning in and testifying against Case 2-person). Even if there was no conclusion and no wrongdoing declared in Case 2, person in Case 3 declared guilty of wrongdoing for events related to Case 2.
I can go on and on.
Now tell me if this matter doesn’t need to be taken seriously. Tell me if the lives of these people have not being ruined. In these harsh economic times, in which finding a new job is a monumental task, losing your job can mean losing your house and even more. Tell me if there is no reason to be irate and concerned. Tell me if we can afford to be dismissive of this power. Please do, because otherwise I cannot make sense of this place.
I don’t know a thing about any of those cases, WW–not even who they are–and I respect your privacy commitment (and, frankly, don’t care to know who they are). Furthermore, I know nothing about any of the cases. Perhaps you know more; perhaps you were privy to all of the discovery of each case; perhaps not; I don’t know that part either, and so it is hard for me to say whether these are abuses of power or merely the appearance of it.
I don’t like to see anyone fired, WW, just as I don’t like to give F’s in my class, but that doesn’t mean that sometimes it is earned, nor does it mean that sometimes it isn’t in the end a good thing for the person. I once fired a very good friend of mine (who earned it), and to this day we joke about it. He has consistently said that it was one of the best things that could have happened to him.
In other words, I’m not sure if those people’s lives are ruined or not. That they “could be” does not mean that they are.
I do agree that these are matters to be taken seriously. I truly do not know what else to say.