Tuesday, April 13, 2010

welcome to CSU Ionesco

I love absurdist drama - have since I saw a terrific high school production of The Bald Soprano, as part of the North Carolina high school theater competition. (My play, Escape, was being performed by my school, so I went to the regional and state competitions.)

I never wanted to exist inside an absurdist drama, but now I do.

So, the university turns 50 this year. Celebrations are planned for the summer, including what the university Foundation Board is billing as The 50th Anniversary Gala fund-raiser, starring Sarah Palin (presumably as Mrs. Smith). When this was announced, there was a tremendous backlash, some of it about Palin, but much of it about how the Foundation Board came to this decision, how it would be paid for, etc.

Ready? Here we go!

Under California law, the Foundation Boards of all public universities and colleges are not subject to the California Public Records Act. The Foundations are considered separate entities to that extent. Public money is used by Foundation Boards - sometimes a lot of it - and their purpose is, on paper, to support the public university, but the Foundation Boards themselves aren't public.

The Board has come under fire for choosing Palin, and the inappropriateness of her as a speaker at a public university has been pretty embarrassing to the university. People snicker about it.

When state senator Leland Yee filed a public records act request for documents regarding Palin's contract with the university, the Foundation Board told him there weren't any. Then they sent email to the campus assuring us that no public money was being used. If it's not immediately clear to you how you can have a contract without any documents, or how you can have a record that you're not spending public money on an event without any documents, then you're still sane and sober. Let me push you a little further into our madness.

At a press conference today, Yee broke the story that last week, during the university's spring break, and during furlough days when university employees are not working, employees of the Foundation Board were on campus, shredding documents. Documents related to Sarah Palin's fund-raising event. Including the contract.

And then they put the shredded documents in plastic bags in a dumpster. Where some students found them.

Our Foundation Board has oversight and approval authority over everything printed with the university logo on it. When I requested business cards, they had to approve them - not the issuing of them, but what was printed on the card. This is in order to protect the public image of the university.

Let's recap: Act One. Foundation Board needs to promote and protect the image of the university. Enter Sarah Palin. Snickering. Act Two. Deny existence of documents that aren't subject to public scrutiny in the first place. Shred them. Toss them in dumpster.

It's not that way, it's over here! It's not that way, it's over here! It's not that way, it's over here!

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