More Drama at Chico State: Bullies, Bullying, Administrative Power, Incivility, Cheese Cubes, and Cookies!

The meeting about shared governance at Chico State that Julie attended and reported on here at Ethnography.com “Shared Governance or Managed Dissent,” in the form of a letter from California State University Chancellor Timothy White has run into a brick wall.  The dispute has turned into an argument over the meaning of the word “civility,” and almost incidentally, the nature of bullying.Not a good frame work for addressing problems raised by the Academic Senate!

The Academic Senate  in fact just did the bidding of the faculty and staff at Chico State by sending a letter to the “boss” of Chico State, the Chancellor White of the California State University in Long Beach,. The letter to White complained about bullying by the administration at the local campus here at Chico State. White responded by writing a letter back, accusing the local campus of being incivil, because they didn’t follow channels by sending their complaints of bullying and incivility to the local administration, i.e. the ones accused of bullying.  No discussion, just a peremptory letter.

Of course bullying is always a strange charge to make—particularly if you want to “follow channels.” By definition, bullies are almost always more powerful than those bullied. This means that the boss types like White and the Chico State administration can more easily be bullies for faculty and staff than vice versa. Or for that matter, faculty can more easily bully students, than vice versa.

So if you follow administrative channels like White suggests, that means you complain about bullying to the…bully.  Not a good way to change the subject, and move on if you are the complainant.   Round and round the mulberry bush you go! And this is the corner that Chancellor White rather inartfully pushed Chico State’s Academic Senate into by accusing them of “incivility” because a letter to him was not copied to the Chico State administration. What can the Academic Senate do now? There seems to be no face saving way  out for all, except maybe no confidence resolutions. Or the alternative, more use of the “weapons of the weak,” which means work slowdowns, secretive meetings, gossip, and grumbling.  We already got that, which is why the Academic Senate called the meeting in the first place, and wrote the letter to Chancellor White.

Which is where Chico State is at right now. The problem is that there is less and less meaningful discourse between the administration on the one hand, and the faculty and staff on the other as they develop a mutual distaste for each other. Not a good sign, and it is too bad Chancellor White cannot find it within himself to use his customary smooth talk to push back confrontation. There still does not seem to be an acknowledgment by the administration that serious morale issues, such as those at Chico State, do not lend themselves to the customary methods of appeasing the masses with tasty snacks like cheese cubes, cookies and coffee,  which Julie described in her blog ,do not get to the heart of the problem.

Anyway, all things end eventually. Our President announced his retirement last month effective June 2016, and the new President will presumably start things off on a new foot. Just, please, no more administrators who do not recognize the relationship between power and bullying!  And cheese squares and olives are not getting to the heart of the matter, either.

Letter from Timothy White

Letter from Academic Senate