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From University of Southern Maine. Reads like a dystopian novel but this is real.
Several faculty members have asked me to make public this post about corporate bullying at USM, so here it is. Thanks for all the support.
March 30, 2104 Read more ...
To the #USMfuture Student Who Asked Me That Question:
At last three faculty meetings I attended at the University of Southern Maine, armed guards hovered outside the door or circulated through the rooms, hands moving to their hip holsters whenever faculty members raised their voices. Never before in my 25 years at USM had I witnessed such shows of state force against the faculty, even when the campus mobilized in 1995 to demand the ousting of then-Chancellor Michael J. Orenduff, a protest that eventually lead to his departure for an institution in the southwest.
After Friday’s faculty meeting (March 28, 2014) of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, which was devoted, in part, to a controversial plan designed to reduce the number of departments in the college, an observing student asked me why so many faculty either remained silent or debated details of the plan without ever attending to its consequences for students, for shared governance, or for tenured faculty whose retrenchments will be played out in courts over the coming year. What drives this behavior, he asked—self-delusion or self-interest?
While both are likely candidates, I suspect the real answer is fear.
Although the newspapers have done a good job of presenting the numbers that the UMaine System provides to justify their reallocation of resources, and sometimes publishing counter-evidence, what the newspapers cannot capture is the culture of fear created by the anti-labor lawyers and their cronies on the Board of Trustees. This anti-labor culture is enacted by the President and Provost, the former brought out of retirement to implement their policies, the latter an appointee of a deposed University President. The Provost serves “at the pleasure of the President,” as he keeps repeating, which means that she can fire him if he steps out line or refuses to do her bidding. much as I, as Director of Women and Gender Studies, serve “at the pleasure of the Provost.” Our Dean in CAHS is herself an appointee of that same deposed president, her job deeply dependent on staying in the good graces of the President and the BOT.
This lack of job security has a chilling effect on the ability of Deans and Directors to contest the reallocation of resources and to protect their faculty against arbitrary decisions on the part of the Provost and President.
Long before the spectacle of tenured and tenure-track faculty being herded in to receive their retrenchment papers while students protested in the halls, this administration has been cultivating a culture of fear. Theo Kalikow’s appointment began with the creation of a “Leadership Institute” into which hand-picked members of the staff, faculty, and administration were inducted.
Their first assignment was to read a book called Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions. Written by John Kotter, formerly of the Harvard Business School, and advertised as a "low-threat tool” for changing organizations bound by tradition, the little book features members of the Penguin Leadership Council compelled to adjust to changing circumstances or die. The first of the Eight Step Process of Successful Change is to “Create a Sense of Urgency”; this sense of urgency, we’re told, must be reinforced continually because otherwise "they will say the danger was overstated and that any change is not needed.” Despite concrete evidence that the UMaine’s system so-called budgetary crisis was partly a product of strategic bookkeeping, faculty and staff have over the past two years been subjected to a series of expensive external consultants touting “creative disruption.” Meanwhile, faculty received an ongoing stream of ominous emails from the president’s office, one of the most dramatic being “Survival Is Optional.”
This onslaught of fear-mongering rhetoric has been underwritten by surprising, last-minute changes in contracts for untenured faculty; by the Provost’s Office creation of a Hunger Games-like competition for promotion, tenure, and sabbaticals; and by the President’s ongoing threats that some as-yet-to-defined axe will fall—“You aren’t going to like them,” President Kalikow kept saying. Her warnings were punctuated and reinforced by armed security guards escorting long-time employees from their offices, shows of unnecessary corporate violence that finally resulted in the highly-publicized (and videotaped) forced march of tenured, sobbing faculty into the Provost’s office.
Even worse, the administration encouraged faculty to turn against one other by suggesting that younger faculty could be “saved” if older faculty would retire. Some did, some didn’t. But this insidious practice encouraged faculty to turn on each other rather than on the administration, who claimed throughout that they, after all, were simply making USM “sustainable.”
Whether or not USM’s iceberg was indeed melting, this BOT, Chancellor, President, and Provost took a blow-torch to it.
To what end? According to Kotter’s book, the penguins formerly ensconced on their melting icebergs will become “nomadic,” moving from iceberg to iceberg, a practice that never lets up “until a new way of life becomes firmly established.” At this point, a “new system of rewards” will be offered, through which it is “ensured that changes would not be overcome by stubborn, hard-to-die traditions” (123). Translated to academic culture, this means that tenure-track positions will be replaced by lectureships and online classes; nationwide standards for tenure and promotion will give way to demonstrations of having promoted the new branding; and raises will be used to reward those who show willingness to forget academic values and to promote a “new normal.”
What the BOT and faculty underestimated in this plan, however, is the power of USM’s students to fight the model of education they are being offered, with its hordes of “nomadic” or contingent faculty and the death of academic values. They have put their bodies on the streets, and their considerable skills online to create a network of allies that some faculty, in their fear or self-interest, have been unable or unwilling to emulate.
And thus the guns. While USM students circulate information about the necessity for peaceful protest, instructing fellow students about what is legal and productive, the BOT and USM administration fall back on shows of potential violence. Having failed to subdue the students and faculty through threats to their livelihoods, they resort to implicit threats on life.
As faculty sit in college and university meetings, we do so after a prolonged period of emotional abuse and under the overt or covert threat of violence. Given the systematic sacrifice of our colleagues to this misguided attempt at re-branding USM, many of us are a little dissociated, unable to respond coherently or helpfully to the rapid changes in our job conditions. Some are positioning themselves for the “new system of rewards,” and others hope to hold on until they can afford to retire. I found out a few days ago that a colleague got a job offer from Northwestern--the best possible outcome for her, although a real loss for us and for our students. The administration promises another round of cuts to staff in conjunction with a presumably faculty-driven reorganization of programs in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
So-- to my student who has been fighting for us and for an education of which he can be proud, let me admit that faculty at USM are not only traumatized but are, as a group, often less brave than the students who fight for them. Our usual mode of critical thinking and civil debate has been tethered to the tenure system and to its guarantee, through teaching and scholarship, to free speech. Whether or not free speech disappears with the iceberg of job security remains to be seen. In the meantime, I thank you for reminding us through your words and actions of the principles that made the American public university system great.
All the best,
5 months ago
If you want to see one of the principles of Super Site Formula in action, head over to The Dogington Post and notice the post about Michael Vick and the flame wars that ensued. This was expected. Guess what the flame war does for our engagement?
Oh Read more ... , by the way, the tee shirts are selling like crazy.
5 months ago
A friend of mines boss just found this female beag
5 months ago
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To all actors who are opposed to the growing sickness in Los Angeles that is casting director "workshops" (and the related schemes), please join me in my mission to EQUALIZE the equation, to even the playing field, and to inject some reason, common s Read more ... ense and professional responsibility back into the casting director/actor relationship.
It seems as though the casting community has lost track of their responsibility to the very people without whom they would have no career or profession. Much of the casting community is suffering from an ethical disconnect and seems to have developed a palpable arrogance and sense of entitlement when it comes to their place in the Hollywood heirarchy. Their moral compass can no longer find True North as it seems their unyielding lust for actor dollars to provide access to their offices and shows has clouded their sense of what is right and just. It's no secret that many casting associates make as much or more from workshops than they do from casting. And every dollar is paid by actors.
I just spoke to a woman who canceled her membership with a popular workshop company (she's STILL fighting for a refund) because they replaced one of the casting guests on a TV show she was targeting with a woman - now a casting assistant - whom she studied with in an acting class just 6 months before.
It's getting bad. Isn't it time to stop paying a casting person's rent when you can barely pay your own?
Just to be clear, as I've said in the past, and will continue to say...this is not about casting professionals who are real teachers, with ongoing classes with a real curriculum. This is about one-night, single session events where as many as 24 actors get up to perform scenes for a working casting person, with limited (or no) feedback or critique. We all know what they are; actors know what they're paying for and casting people know why they're being paid. They can deny and justify, but the intent is clear. The Emperor has no clothes.
It's simply time to stop feeding that beast.
The workshops and the insidious pay-to-play culture in Los Angeles can be stopped it its tracks. It's already happening, drip by drip, but the way to make it go away is not to give the scheme credence and in fact, call them out for what they really are: a waste of time, money...and credibility! Workshops are not a replacement for hard work, dedication, sacrifice and talent. They are a lazy way to pretend that you're doing something "pro-active" for your career. Don't let yourself fall into the traps they set up!
Here are some things you can do.
There's my Facebook friend who is working on a petition to present to SAG-AFTRA, where actors can voice their concerns anonymously. His name is Larry Vigus. Find him and sign up!
There's a company called TCD Studios owned and operated by Michael Valentino and Christina Birdsall and they're doing everything they can to provide real low-cost goods and services for actors as well as having created a mini-studio which is actually creating member-generated SAG-AFTRA projects, putting the power BACK in the hands of actors.
There's an awesome and beautiful casting director, Gabrielle Evans Fields, who has started producing FREE showcases where talent reps can present their talent to industry pros. She needs a donated theatre or similar space in the Valley. Know anyone?
There's Stephen Salamunovich CSA, a 20+ year casting veteran in the Seattle area who understands the actor's plight and fight to get a foot in the door of those who can help move a career forward. He stands on your side.
Then there's Dea Vise - who in addition to marching boldly toward her doctorate in Clinical Psychology is one of the kindest and most giving casting directors you'll encounter. Find her. Friend her.
And there are agents and managers on my friends list who agree with my philosophy about workshops, but simply cannot speak out against the scheme that pays the very same people who might hire their clients. If you're reading this, you know who you are, and I totally respect you and your need to protect your interests. But if you CAN speak out...do.
So we're starting our army here and now. Slowly but surely the workshop industry is becoming recognized for what it truly is. With your help, which could be simply telling your friends not to pay - and with your support - which could be just sharing what you see and agree with - we will make a difference. A bigger difference. A lasting difference.
Tell your friends.
Write your unions.
Write the CSA.
Write the Los Angeles City Attorney.
Write the human resources departments of the studios and networks who employ the CDs who take your money.
Then write the press.
Write letters to Backstage, Variety, Hollywood Reporter.
Respond to posts about the issue and make your own posts in online actor-related forums.
If you're brave, post things on your Facebook page or tweet it or Instagram it or Reddit it. Make a video, share it on Vimeo or YouTube.
Start a Mastermind Group and vamp on ideas of how you can make a difference.
Follow me on Twitter (@billydamota) for news and updates.
Go to tierjump.com to learn more about me and my story.
Write a great story. Get a good camera. Begin to create your own content, become your own boss...and put the greedy users out of business. Hire casting directors whose philosophy is in line with your own.
You don't have to do it all, just what you can. Even one voice can make a difference. A chorus of concerned voices can change the world!
I love being a casting director. Although I can see areas where their approach to this issue could use a little help, I'm proud to be a member of the CSA. I want there to be a day (while I'm still alive!) when a young professional who wants to follow in the footsteps of legends like Marion Dougherty, Mike Fenton and Lynn Stalmaster and become a casting director will have NEVER even heard of workshops.
A guy can dream.
(NOW...HIT SHARE. IT'S RIGHT DOWN THERE!)
5 months ago
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