What's Going on Here?

Keep the Community Alive in Community College
- A Blog about Fullerton College -

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Teacher of the Year

A blare of trumpets outside her classroom interrupted Emily Teipe as she was teaching her Wednesday morning American History class on March 25. What she first thought might be mariachi music turned out to be a contingent of well-wishers, led by President Hodge, come to inform her that she’d been chosen as Fullerton College’s teacher of the year.

“The in-class announcement was great,” said Neil Patel, one of Teipe’s students.

“Trumpets came in and everyone was wondering what was happening," Patel said. "Dr. Teipe was shocked thinking that it was a Cinco De Mayo event. Some students were laughing while others thought it might be someone who is running for A.S. in the upcoming elections.”

Teipe will be among 60 teachers of the year representing public schools and community colleges throughout the county to be honored at a dinner at the Disneyland Hotel on October 23, said Kristin Rigby, project manager at the Orange County Department of Education.

The teachers will receive gifts including $500 from Schools First Federal Credit Union and an award from the sponsor of the event, the James Hines Foundation, which varies in amount from year to year but is usually about $900, Rigby said.

The 60 honorees are also eligible to chosen as one of five Orange County teachers of the year for 2010. Winners will be announced on May 7. Four will come from k-12 schools, and one will represent a community college. Each of the five finalists will be receive a cash award of $15,000.

Teipe knew she had been nominated, but she was surprised to win.

“I’ve been nominated 17 years consecutively for this award,” she said. “I just considered it an honor to be nominated.”

Teipe usually teaches Western civilization and, her great love, women’s history, although this semester she is teaching U.S. history instead of Western civilization. She was in graduate school when she took her first class in women’s history.

“I sat in that class and I was hooked,” said Teipe. “I. Was. Hooked. I was like, ‘There’s this whole gap in my education. There’s this big empty space. Where are the women?'”

When she was hired full-time at Fullerton College, after teaching part-time for two or three years, she proposed a class in women’s history here. When there was no textbook available, she wrote one herself.

“I have hundreds of young women go through that class every semester,” she said. “I’m always running into someone in Orange County who was in my women’s history class. I go to the Cheesecake Factory and the server says, ‘Oh, Dr. Teipe, I was in your women’s history class.’”

Teipe said she thinks teaching is very life enhancing.

“I just wanted to be in a place where I could counsel women, I could encourage them, I could help them. I was a single mom going through school. I’d been there, done all that. When they come to me in class with their stories, I’m like, ‘I hear you.’”

Men also enjoy her classes, she said.

Patel, who is the recorder for the Student Senate as well a being a member of Teipe’s American history class, agreed with that assessment.

“Dr. Teipe is a very funny teacher,” he said. “She gives great lectures and interesting books to be read but very difficult tests.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Performance Cancelled

If you went to It's a Grind to see Mossi last night, you were disappointed. He didn't show -- but he has a great excuse. His wife went into labor with their first child. Cheers to Mossi and his wife!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trust Betrayed



Emilio Perez Fired
Tuesday night the district board of trustees came out of closed session and, with a unanimous block vote and no public discussion, approved several items on their agenda, one of which was the termination of Emilio Perez, director of public safety at Fullerton College.

Why? Who Knows.
Rumors both licentious and larcenous had been kindled by the sud
den removal of Perez, who was put on administrative leave last January pending the outcome of a district investigation. Investigation of what? Who knows? Reporters at the Hornet tried doggedly to unearth a source who would speak on the record, to no avail.

One reason given f
or keeping quiet was to protect Perez’ privacy. That’s a sticky issue, but I would argue that campus administration should consider the possibility that public disclosure would be a healthy response.

The California Public Records Act makes most records held by public agencies, including community colleges, open to public inspection, but
Government Code 6254 (c) exempts: “Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Privacy No Excuse
How do you interpret that word “unwarranted?” An unwarranted invasion of privacy is forbidden, but are there cases in which a violation of an employee’s privacy is warranted? What would those cases be?

The First Amendment Coalition, a non-profit organization formed to protect the people’s right to know, says here that California courts have found that if an investigation of a public employee results in discipline or termination, then the contents of that investigation should be open to the public.

We Should Be Told
A reasonable person might ask whether there’s any purpose to be served by airing dirty laundry when Perez is gone. Whatever he did is over and done. Why raise a ruckus over a dead issue?

But just what is the real issue, and is it dead or simply voiceless? Was Perez the problem, or was he a symptom of a problem not yet resolved and now shuffled under the rug? How will we ever know?

"No one's gonna help you"
Here’s the basis of my concern: Late last September, a student came into the offices of the Hornet with a complaint. (See the Hornet's story
here.) She’d been using a restroom in the school library when someone thrust a camera-phone under the divider separating her stall from the next one over.

She was stunned into inaction briefly, but then she rushed out after the perpetrator. She saw no one, but she found a campus staff member who said she’d seen the likely suspects and might be able to identify them. The student also noticed cameras installed in the library that might have taped the fleeing peeping Toms.

She went to campus safety, numerous times, but felt like she was being brushed off. She went to the vice president of Student Services, which oversees campus safety.

“I told her honestly that, more than the incident itself, the way that it was handled, the things that I was hearing from the director [Emilio Perez], actually made it a lot worse than the incident itself.

"And she said, ‘I understand that. Let me talk to him.’”

The vice president was polite and prompt, but didn’t really help. Campus safety had told the student that they’d reviewed the tapes from the library, but, according the student, the v.p. said she’d been told the library cameras weren’t working.

As a last resort the student came to the Hornet to tell her story.

Why the Hornet? She said that students should be given a heads up so that if they're ever in a similar situation they will quickly grab the offending phone, thus taking matters, literally, into their own hands. Here’s how she put it.

“Students come here to better themselves. And I strongly believe that they should provide an environment where it's safe for us to freely educate ourselves, but things like this happen and you're just lied to, and I feel like I've just been jerked around. That's why I want everyone to know that they should grab the phone if that were to happen to them. I want them to know that that's what they should do because after that it's too late. No one's gonna help you.”

That’s a hell of a way for a student to feel about her campus. Maybe hushing things up, moving things along, and shutting students out of issues that directly affect them isn't the best way to foster trust.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mossi at It's a Grind!

The multi-talented Mossi Watene will be playing at a coffee house in La Habra this Friday. Here's the clever and engaging promo he made in the library at Fullerton College. He's a student here at FC, of course.



To hear Mossi sing, check the column on the right.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

KinderCaminata

video On March 20, hundreds of kindergarten students descended on Fullerton College for the annual KinderCaminata, a festive mix of childish enthusiasm and college spirit that's been going on since 1994 when 2000 children attended the first event at Santa Ana College. Galal Kernahan proposed the concept to Los Amigos, an Orange County service club whose motto is, "You plead it, you lead it." And so he did, with great success.

Each year kids from local public schools are bused to college campuses where they are treated to events and entertainments designed to spark their interest in attending college when they grow up. The recent gala at Fullerton College was the first I'd ever seen or heard of KinderCaminata. I had a blast. The kids seemed to enjoy themselves too, both the little ones and the college kids.

You can read the Hornet's story by Alyssa Navarro here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Romance and Facebook



Photo Credit: Leo Postovoit

I'm trying to catch up with the new social networking tools because I'm told they're a goldmine for journalists. But mining is hard work, and you never know if or when you'll strike gold. I posted and twittered for quite a while before I found anything glittery.

Facebook is a carnival, and I still find it confusing. Yesterday the managing editor of the school paper sent me a message, and I had a heck of a time dealing with it. Where was it? Was it on his wall? Mine? Some sort of private message? Was he not answering me because he was busy or because I replied in the wrong place?

Finally I called him, using my landline because my cellphone still feels like unfamiliar technology and I don't trust it. It was jarring when the managing editor of the paper last semester asked us all for phone numbers and specified that they should be "real" phones, not "some number your mother's going to answer."

I think by "real" she meant "cell," which seems as odd to me as the notion that my mother, who lives in another town, would pick up my landline. For the purposes of that discussion, I guess I am my mother -- that is, the person who answers that ancient, immobile instrument in the kitchen. They always said we turn into our mothers. I was warned.

Then there's Twitter. It's quieter and I like that. I can also see some real potential in it for journalists. I can send short text messages from my computer or my phone (well, I can't send text messages from my phone because it's primitive and I'm incompetent, but, in general, people can send them), and they'll be received by anyone who is following me, following being a little like stalking, but with the active cooperation of the stalkee.

Oddly, though, the most interesting part of Twitter has been the minutiae. Paul ate at The Hat and posted a photo of his chili fries in a tweet. That's the sort of little stuff that makes our lives real. After a while you begin to feel like you know Paul. And you develop a craving for chili fries.

And then, amid the carnival confusion and the twittering minutiae, I catch a glimmer of something else. Ethan Morse, the student trustee representing Fullerton College on the district board of trustees, has just proposed to his girlfriend, after sunset at the pier, with the words "Elizabeth Marry me" spelled out in candles in the sand, placed there by friends. There are pictures on Facebook the next day.

Pure gold.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blogs vs. Newspapers



Print journalism is on the decline, and that's ok with me.

Don't get me wrong. My father was a reporter. (That's him on the left -- Ernie Crowley at work at the Middleboro Gazette in the middle 1950's.) I grew up thinking newspaper writing was pretty grand.

Now that I'm studying journalism I've come to realize its importance in enlarging our worlds and holding us all together.

But journalism is not synonymous with print journalism, and print journalism is turning out to be unsustainable. It's a very odd notion, isn't it, to gather "all the news that's fit to print" and distribute it daily to thousands of households on paper that will fill recycling bins and line birdcages the next day?

Which brings me to blogs.

Among journalists it's a hotly debated question (see the editorial in today's Hornet) whether blogs will replace newspapers. The argument against blogs is primarily that they are unreliable. Who knows who's writing them, how knowledgeable or trustworthy the writer may be?

But that betrays a basic misunderstanding of the blog.

Does anyone worry about how knowledgeable or trustworthy a printing press is? Or a roll of newsprint? A blog is a medium the way newsprint is a medium.

Is anyone seriously going to argue that Pravda, for example, was totally trustworthy just because it was printed on paper and its name means "truth" in Russian? What about The Enquirer? It's a newspaper. Does that make it a reliable source of news?

The reason people trust newspapers, to whatever extent they do, is that those newspapers have established a solid reputation. Readers sort out the wheat from the chaff when they read, and they can do that online as well as anywhere else. They can tell the difference between The New York Times and The National Enquirer.

Sure some blogs are tripe, but they're not all tripe. Readers with a taste for top sirloin will be able to find that online as well. Some pretty impressive writers have jumped on the blogwagon. If you need convincing, check out the bloggers at the Huffington Post.