Saturday, May 7, 2011

Town Hall Video

I don't know why I'm lavishing so much coverage on a fairly unimportant event, but our favorite "paranoid" commentator has spotted video of the Town Hall meeting on the Southern's web site.  The slide show and print remarks have yet to appear on the Chancellor's site. Some high (or low) points:
  • 17:25 The ostrich slide, which gets lots of laughs. The Chancellor thereafter quickly refutes some of the heresies of the unions.  
  • 25:00 My own splendid question and the Chancellor's response.
  • 43:09 Rachel Stocking's question about IBB and union busting.


  1. I've only had time to look at selected parts of this interview, mercifully skipping through the obsequious performance of the Uriah Heep Director of Music. Rachel asked some good questions. Rita fudged. But when the camera panned to the next speaker, those in the front of the auditorium were noticeably applauding, not those in the middle and back rows. Quite obviously Rita filled the auditorium with her own supporters, a well know technique used by the Tea Party and British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. These town hall meetings are as useful as those done by Obama.

  2. 18:27 - 19:05 about tenure is also worth noting. She starts out with the strong statement that the administration IN NO WAY intends to erode the protections afforded this EARNED STATUS then adds the verbal asterisk of "as defined by the Board of Trustees."*

    * Congratulations. Because you have earned tenure, you cannot be terminated without cause unless there's a financial crisis. However, you can be laid off, even if there's not a financial crisis. If your layoff lasts more than two years you won't be rehired, but at least you will not have been terminated.

  3. Minutes 40 - 43 are interesting too. The question asks the chancellor about her plans for addressing academic quality issues, but her answer primarily deals with retention issues.

  4. To anonymous #1: I object to your comparing Cheng to a Fascist. I have strong disagreements with her leadership style and would go on strike if there is no other option, but tagging her a fascist is not "suitable to civilized conversation."


  5. I share MS's view of the language of Anonymous #1, but haven't deleted that comment (or a few other similar comments), in the hopes that, as in this case, the comment threads would essentially prove self-policing. For my part A1's comments about the Chancellor don't obviously cross the line, though they were unfair and, in my view, absurd--as if someone holding a meeting has an obligation to ensure that the audience has a cross section of views on campus. Of course the Chancellor hoped for a friendly crowd, and her friends came to support her. So we should not treat support in the room as proportionate with her support on campus. I for my part hoped that more pro-union people would attend and ask questions, so am every bit as much a fascist as she (no doubt I fully qualify for that label under the rather rigorous standards of Anonymous #1).

    The Uriah Heep bit was, to my mind, a gratuitously vicious piece of rhetoric. Denouncing it here is the least I can do.

    My decision (in consultation with Namdar) not to delete such comments (so far) is in part simply due to my distaste for censorship. It's also due, I suppose, to a certain sense of fair play. For taking down such comments wouldn't primarily serve to protect the Chancellor and her supporters. On the contrary, I believe that such comments help the Chancellor (and others) make the case that her opponents are "uncivil" and worse. Mutandis mutatis, that's why I think her ostrich slide is such a gold mine for her opponents (though it doesn't qualify as vicious).

    It's fun to type out such comments, and when their poison is witty and erudite, as in this case, they can be fun to read, but this sort of nastiness won't help advance one's cause, and to my mind it can be particularly ugly & cowardly when done under the protection of anonymity.

    If comments don't prove self-policing, our next recourse would probably be to ban anonymous comments, so as to tag comment authors, rather than this blog, with the responsibility for their words. I don't want to routinely have to play censor by deciding which comments can stay. But we'd rather not have to go there; there are some good reasons for anonymity.

    Also some bad ones.

  6. Can I ask what people think about the ostrich slide? I have voiced criticisms of the Chancellor, but I am also one of her constituents. Why did she take precious time out of a one-hour town hall meeting to visually mock me? What model of leadership is being provided here? Honestly, I am shocked by it. What do others think?

  7. I think the ostrich slide is atrocious and it was in really bad taste for Dave to have posted it here, which only serves to promote the Chancellor's position. I am dismayed by the tone of voice in that posting and subsequent postings as they actually give the impression of supporting Chancellor Cheng under the guise of so-called objectivity. I notice that there was no time lost in denouncing Anonymous 1's choice of words. Note that contrary to what Dave has stated, Anonymous #1 did NOT apply the label "Fascist" to the Chancellor. What Anonymous #1 actually stated was that the Chancellor used a well-known TECHNIQUE that has been used by the TEA PARTY and the BRITISH UNION of Fascists in the 1930s, which is not at all the same thing as referring to a person by that label.

  8. Poor me, I am misunderstood.

    I happen to think it's clever (and effective) to adopt the Chancellor's inflammatory & puerile insult as a badge of honor.

    Re British fascists (my favorite kind). Note that I said I didn't think Anonymous #1 crossed the line with his/her remarks about the Chancellor. I agree with your explanation for why this is so (though I didn't bother spelling this out in my earlier comment). It's just that I didn't find the criticism terribly telling. It's the equivalent of the right wing attack on Obama for using rhetoric and rallies just like ol' Hitler did. (Of course, Anonymous #1 would apparently endorse this critique, if from the far left.)

    At any rate, sorry, I won't be agreeing with every attack on the Chancellor. And I may sometimes aim for something like objectivity. If only you could help me find a slide mocking someone for being objective, I could find a place for it on the masthead, too. It would be a nice complement to the ostrich.

  9. Sadly, no decent image here, but perhaps a song instead: Karen Elson's "The Truth is in the Dirt."

  10. While I don't doubt that the Chancellor may have arranged for a friendly crowd, it is also possible that there are many on campus who simply don't believe that she is as evil as some campus groups make her out to be. The ostrich slide may be a bit overboard, but it is certainly no worse than some of the stuff that Randy Auxier has written about her!

  11. Quite obviously, Rita has charmed certain people on this site. But remember she has been trained by a drama coach like most politicians are to smile sweetly and wield a big stick. Those who have been here for some time will remember the permanent inane grin on the face of former Chancellor Pettet as well as a letter sent to the DE by our fawning Director of Music that earned a justified rebuke from Professor Emeritus Mark Schneider. Those taken in by our version of the Dowager Empress of the Ching Dynasty deserve all the contempt they get. A discourse involving sweetly phrased terms such as "sacrifice", "imposed contract", and "tenure is safe at SIU" is certainly far from civil. At this present moment Rita is probably looking up the records of union membership and drawing up her layoff list for Summer when nobody will be around to protest.

    Dr. Petrie and Sir Dennis Nayland Smith, where are you when we most have need of you! (Stated 'tongue in cheek' especially for those eager to misrepresent an opening comment that my fellow brother "Anonymous" had to spell out for the clods who misinterpreted it.) If this type of misinterpretation continues, then we are all lost.

    Make no mistake. This is a very serious fight in which no compromise is possible.

  12. To the anonymous poster that defended the ostrich slide on the grounds that it was no worse than comments made by Randy Auxier. I would just remind you that Randy Auxier is not the chancellor of the university; Cheng is. She is supposed to be our leader. What does that mean? Leaders are supposed to rise above the fray, engage with their critics in a respectful way (ESPECIALLY at moments when disagreements become heated), and provide a model for civil discourse in the public sphere. Leaders are supposed to maintain this standard, even if some of their constituents abandon it.

    My objection to the slide is not that it was so vicious or below-the-belt. It was that it was puerile--the visual equivalent of thumbing one's nose at one's critics. I expect more from my leaders, even those with whom I have fundamental disagreements.

  13. I agree with Natasha- in part. I regret that that the Chancellor chose to use the ostrich slide. I agree that leaders (ours and leaders in general) should try to stay above the fray and not allow themselves the luxury of responding in kind to those that resort to the kinds of attacks that she has been subjected to.

    But there is another truism that is relevant here. “If you are going to dish it out, you better be prepared to take it”. In this case that would translate to: “Complaining that your own tactics are used against you is a double standard”

    The better argument is that we should all try to rise above such tactics; not that they are OK for some, but not for others.

  14. Hi there, Anonymous. The Chancellor can't have it both ways. She can either choose to stay above the fray OR she can decide--to borrow your phrase-- to "dish it out" herself. This time, she chose the latter. It was the low road, and it reflects poorly on her leadership style.

  15. Great posts, Natasha, especially in the light of today's photo of Cheng on the DE - as if emulating the title of that old blaxploitation satire "I'm Gonna Get You, Sucker(s)"!

  16. "“If you are going to dish it out, you better be prepared to take it”. In this case that would translate to: “Complaining that your own tactics are used against you is a double standard”"

    This statement implies that if the chancellor is going to dish out something like the ostrich slide, she should not also issue a call for respect and civility at the Faculty Senate Meeting.

    "Chancellor Cheng commented that when she reflects on her last year, she would like to finish with a call for respect and civility on campus. She was quite discouraged by the public discourse on the weekend in which letters to the editor questioned the academic credentials of University administrators...."

  17. Randy Auxier might not be the chancellor, but he is a very vocal member of the FA and as such represents the faculty at this university. He is no less responsible for his words than the chancellor is.

  18. Randy Auxier can defend himself, heaven knows, but I've got the itchy trigger finger.

    We're all responsible for our words, and, to beat my favorite dead horse, those of us who sign our names take responsibility for them. Randy Auxier is one member of the five person FA bargaining team, but that isn't his full-time job (in fact it's not part of his job at all, inasmuch as he isn't getting compensated for all the hours he puts into it). I don't happen to think that means he can't also speak as an individual faculty member. That's what this blog is supposed to be for.

    So Randy Auxier has no duty and in fact no right to "represent the faculty" any more than the rest of us do. When Randy Hughes speaks as FA president he represents the Faculty Association (which, as many are fond of pointing out, represents the faculty in some senses--as at the bargaining table--but not in others--as in infallibly channelling the views of all of us).

    The Chancellor's job is rather different. That's why, when we're being polite, we call her the Chancellor. That fancy title comes as part of a package that includes a healthy salary, various perks, and lots of duties and responsibilities. One such duty is the duty to speak, save in clearly private settings, as The Chancellor.

    When the Chancellor showed the ostrich slide, she pretended to be surprised it was still in her show, then admitted that she was being "deliberately provocative". Ok: sometimes a leader should be provocative. But if you're provocative you will provoke people. Coupling provocation on your part with a call for more civility from others isn't a terribly consistent strategy.

  19. The Chancellor should have checked the true facts before hastily perpetuating what is simply a myth! Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand! No way! They may seem like they are doing that to uninformed unobservant folks--which is why it is now a common idiom. Find out what an Ostrich is really doing when it seems to the myopic onlooker like its burying its head in the sand. As a Chancellor of this university, she should surely be better informed about animal behavior! She shouldn't be perpetuating these myths!

  20. Dave:
    Excellent response! I admire you, Randy Auxier, Randy Hughes, and many more that are spending countless number of hours to help SIUC and SIUC Faculty. Keep up the good work. I am not a member but I know, there are a lot of faculty members behind you.


I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.