Monday, March 23, 2015

Jack Peltason effectively saved my job

The Peltasons 23 January 2015 at UCI University Club. 
Photo copyright © Daniel C. Tsang 2015
Irvine -  It was my first battle with the University of California, Irvine, administration.  I had come up for academic review a few years after arriving in 1986 at UC Irvine as a bibliographer for political science and economics as well as as social science data librarian.
The powers that be in the Libraries had decided no, I wasn't going to get a positive review.  I realized that if I didn't appeal, it would make it easier the next round for them to get rid of me, since I had not then yet achieved "career status" - roughly the equivalent of "tenure".

So with the help of my union, University Council-AFT, and its smart executive director, Gary Adest, I went through the appeals process.

At that time,  I felt it was fortunate that the decision for whether or not to grant a step increase rested outside the Libraries, so that another set of eyes would review the file.    Unfortunately, the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the time, Tien Chang-Lin, whom I thought I knew well through the Asian Faculty and Staff Association, agreed with the library administration and turned me down for a step increase and raise. 

Fortunately one could appeal further, if there were "irregularities" in the way the review was conducted.   (Whether or not a step up and raise were given is considered "academic judgement" - not subject to an appeal.)   I definitely thought so; an outside hearing committee and a secret ad hoc board (this apparently) sided with me - and ultimately Jack Peltason - who was UC Irvine Chancellor at the time - and a political science professor I had helped occasionally - on 9 November 1989 overturned his deputy, Dr. Tien (who would later head UC Berkeley).  Since I had already gone through in the meantime another review successfully, Dr. Tien subsequently advanced me to Librarian IV "without further review".

By his 1989 action Jack no doubt effectively saved my job.  Jack Peltason, who would later head the the entire UC system, passed away Saturday.

It is thus perhaps ironic for a union and political activist like myself to give credit to the big boss or 大老板 .  Without what "Jack" decided in my case, I would likely not still be here, now 29 years after I started at UCI.

Years later, another Vice Chancellor expressed surprised I was still here, given the University's deep pockets to fight off any challengers from employees.  I guess I was persistent, had great union support, and allies in high places, not least the then-Ombudsman, Ron Wilson as well as Gene Awakuni, then-head of the Counseling Center at UC Irvine, who would offer diversity training in the libraries subsequently.  He later became a top-level university administrator at CalPoly, Hawaii and Columbia.

For more background, see my 1992 Amerasia Journal vol. 18 no. 1 essay:  A Look Back: David vs. Goliath at UC Irvine [licensed to UCI users]

In what was arguably his last public appearance, Jack Peltason showed up at a 23 January 2015 memorial service at the University Club for David Easton, another eminent UCI political scientist.  Although Jack did not address the gathering, he communicated spiritedly though an iPad with his admirers gathered around after the event.  Above is my photograph of this gentle man who fought for affirmative action with his devoted wife Suzanne.  May he rest in peace. - Daniel C. Tsang.

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