College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
By Jann M. Contento &
Jann and Jeffrey, thanks for coming to my blog. If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future? Why?
Jeff- I would go back to the past and try to repair a few of my mistakes (there are so many!). I really don’t want to see the future. I would also like to meet myself with a full head of hair again. Hah!
Jann- I would return to
in early 1963 in hopes of capturing the essence of PDA’s Celeste’s beauty. Argentina
If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?
Jeff- I probably would invite 5 people I have never met. But the invitees, I’m afraid, won’t be available. The group would include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Abbey, Virginia Woolf, Frank Norris, and William Blake.
Jann- Likewise, individuals invited to dinner would be those I’ve never met. The likes of which would include poets, authors, philosophers, and enduring idealists.
What is one book everyone should read?
Jeff - Thoreau’s Walden. (But it should be read in the Context of Thoreau’s 19th century philosophical understanding.) Individuality has been commoditized by the 21st century. Owning a Cadillac, I’m afraid, does not express individualism or non-conformity.
Jann- Book of Wisdom and Augustine’s Confessions, oh, that’s two, ACH!
What inspired you to want to become a writer?
Jeff - I have always enjoyed writing poems and short papers. I see writing –fiction writing—as a means to create separation— “differeance’”—I would hope to be known as an artist, not a craftsman.
Jann – I have attempted, hopefully in meaningful ways, to express through written words what is often disallowed in daily verbal discourse.
Tell us about your work. My coauthor and I, in the Phil Dolly Affair novel, have used fiction to articulate many of the issues we have brought up in opinion pieces and articles on higher education websites. We have worked at community colleges, together, for about 40 years, and have carefully observed what we believe is a negative change in college culture. By creating a fictive campus, and populating it with all kinds of self-centered (and confused) faculty and staff, we hope to get our “message” out to our readers. The message is that community colleges have lost their way—their ability to truly serve constituents—in the 21st century—often because of the misplaced personal career ambitions of their staff. Our novel is satirical—but most of our characters can be found on any community college campus.
In many ways, we believe words—illusions- pretenses— have displaced true productivity, true leadership, and honest human feeling….
And of course, our novel contains romances—scripted, failed, tawdry, and redemptive. People get married to move their careers along. Marriage and romance in PDA create the machinery that helps couples achieve career and materialistic ambitions. In our objective correlative [we think] view, romance, true love, dedicated long-term supportive relationships, only exists in novels or movies. That is probably why romance novels and
are so popular. [By the way, early every staff member’s wife in PDA receives a visit from the local bug man two or three times a week. There must be quite a few pest problems in the Copperfield District!] Hollywood
Would you share your links with us?
One of our co-authored academic articles, Let’s Reform the American Community College, can be found at
The short story upon which our novel is based—Call Me Phil– published on Insidehighered.com back in 2008-- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/09/12/ross
This Ross article—My Awakening—How I Came to See The Text—illustrates many of our underlying concerns with scripted American life-- http://www.thehobgoblin.co.uk/2009_thetext_aug09.htm
Our Facebook Info Page—with links to reviews and excerpts—
And of course, our publisher,
Rogue Phoenix Press at www.roguephoenixpress.com
We'd love to read an excerpt.
In this excerpt, the Scottish militant-socialist bartender McDougal is meeting with the Copperfield Community College Dean of Instruction, Dr. Paxton. The Dean is explaining to McDougal why the college won’t allow a Socialist Students group on campus…
Dean Preston and Henry McDougal Meeting
"Why yes, Mr. McDougal, I am happy to meet with you concerning the rejection of your application to hold a socialist party rally here at
CCC. It's easy to explain--we don't think socialism [or Marxism or communism] or any of such stuff is appropriate on our campus. We don't want our students to get the, uh, wrong idea about CCC."
"Certainly I gathered that, Principal Preston. But I read in your college's mission statement, which I believe describes the heart and soul of your college, that ye celebrate diversity of opinion."
"Why yes, so we do. By the way, I am the Dean, not a Principal. Principals work at K-12 schools. Let me read to you our definition of diversity from the
CCC policy manual. I think this will help clarify matters to you."
We celebrate diversity and divergence by scrutinizing how people are different.
CCC relishes the importance of complete and systematic inclusion of the tired, the lonely, and the poor. CCC ignores differences, usually glorifying wretchedness while questioning male dominance. Diversity includes biometrics related to global issues, mp3 downloads, food abuse, suspicious dual enrollment programs, ethnicity, cell phone colors, anything which will help us get funding, most any conformity factors influencing life, church attendance, veterans status, abilities and disabilities [though as a learn-ed college we don't really think there are any disabilities--only opportunities to excel], challenges, beliefs, mannerisms, syndromes, work habits, gender orientation [though we do believe southerners and Californians probably represent true diversity of thought], personal identity, age, income status, language and communication style, nearness to poverty, red heads, intelligences, and life styles.
"I might add, Mr. McDougal, we encourage thinking outside the box, collaboration, networking, critical thinking, and respect for all genders and walks of life" [Even for Crazy Scotsmen, he thought to himself].
McDougal listened attentively and then said, "So, yah don't think socialism is a legitimate point of discussion on a college campus? Is it not a global issue? A work habit? Thinking? Ach! What do ye mean by diversity? Don't you know socialism and Marxism are legitimate areas of subject matter study and research--and influence academic focus--at universities? It's political science, economics, justice studies, communication, and civics. Doan' you think socialism is worthy of inclusion--as ye discuss it in your diversity definition?"
"We are not a university, Mr. McDougal, and unlike universities, we are in touch with our community, our stakeholders. They do not want to hear about socialism or communists. The universities fear us. Inclusion is one thing--socialism is another. Community colleges follow best practice theory--socialism is not a best practice."
"But, Mr. Preston, your own President, Mr. Dolly, has said on numerous occasions, that Copperfield Community College is a Higher Education Leader and wants to grant BA and MA degrees someday. How can you be an academic leader if you are afraid to study and interact with economic theories related to socialism and Marxism?"
"That's Dr. Preston, Mr. McDougal. And yes, we are a higher education leader, we are just not communists. We know what is best in terms of diversity for our students."
"Oh, tell me, Doctor Preston--who was Karl Marx?" asked McDougal as if he did not know.
"Ah, well, let me think, he was, uh, yass, he was premier of the
Soviet Union in the 1950's," said a reddening Dr. Preston.
"And do you know, Mr. Dean Preston, who is Hugo Chavez?"
"Hmm. I believe he is president of
Southern El Paso Community College--or at least somewhere over in . Yass." Texas
"Dr. Preston, what do ye think of collective bargaining?" queried the enlightened McDougal.
"Oh, Barb and I don't haggle over prices at garage sales," said the cheery Dean.
"I see. And just what is your doctorate in, Dean Preston?"
A beet faced
Preston replied, "What do you mean, what is my doctorate in?"
"Ach, you know, lad--is it a PhD in history, economics, philosophy, or political science?
Ya seem to know a great deal about history," declared the Scotsman in an admiring tone.
"Oh, no. I have an EdD in Educational Leadership."
"What did you study in school lad? What subjects?" asked the now-investigative highlander.
The dean seemed surprised. "What? Well, we studied, uh, diversity, networking, uh, email etiquette, operating PDA's and smart phones, salary negotiations, student organizations, dancing, program review, quality management, higher education leadership, TQM, collaboration, team development---you know, an in depth look at management processes and dialogue--oh, and best practice theory."
"Ach, well, you've convinced me of the foolishness of my plan, Dr. Dean Preston. A knowledgeable man such as yarself has a much better understanding of the dogmatic dangers of socialism than I do. I won't be back to Copperfield. Good day to ye, Mister Preston."
He walked out the office door, smiled at Secretary Nina [ach, she's a looker!], and thought, Good Lord--and they call this a college! I need a pint bad. Ach! At least the Unionists be marching in
Nina looked up from the vampire novel she was reading on her Snook when he walked by, smiled absently, and turned the page. She wiped a tear from her eye.
Quite satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, Dean Preston leaned back in his chair, smiled to himself, and thought, well, that crazy old Scotsman won't be back in here again. I showed the old commie. I wonder if Elena is free for lunch today. Maybe we can catch the Moondoggs matinee concert at the Coin…