Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eve of Destruction

In the January 24-30, 1996 issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, reporter Nina Siegal remarked that New College was moving away from its academic roots toward a vision that leaves little room for dissent. In the lengthy feature story titled New College's Brave New World, Siegal observed that the institution was, "undergoing a fundamental shift that some fear may lead to its destruction."

Quoting from a Spring 1995 report from New College to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the trustees of the school -- several of whom are still on the board -- were referred to as the 'Council of Elders' 'Thinkers-for-the-Whole' and 'those who own the mission and spirit of the college'. Questioning this absurdity, a student at the time, Stephanie Tarnoff, reasonably asked, "Are we a cult or are we a school?" Then board chair (and current trustee) Colleen O'Neal responded, "It's not like we're a bunch of Moonies here, but we all share the same basic philosophy and values."

Commenting back then on these so-called values, New College professor Harry Britt noted that the administration of Peter Gabel, Martin Hamilton, and Mildred Henry had, "used power very heavy-handedly in a way that has created a lot of intimidation and fear." A habit, we might add, they have continued to this day.

As New College now looks its destruction Nina Siegal predicted in the face, it seems the autocrats led by Peter Gabel have learned little in the last ten years. In fact, reading the scathing letter from WASC on July 5, 2007, it would appear the delusions of the long-reigning cabal have only gotten worse. Indeed, perhaps professor Britt was prophetic ten years ago when he said, "I haven't given up yet, but I'm extremely concerned that unless some basic changes are made in the direction of the school, it's not going to survive as a serious academic place."

With the benefit of hindsight, we would venture to say that has already transpired.

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