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.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hong Kong Schoolboy Activists Portrayed in "Lessons in Dissent"

To listen to our interview with Director Matthew Torne on Subversity Online, click: here. Documentary available for viewing via UCI on-site or via VPN: Kanopy streaming. May also be available at other academic web sites.

Oxford-educated scholar (his Master's thesis was on Hong Kong politics) turned documentary filmmaker Matthew Torne's  "Lessons in Dissent" (whom he also co-produced) deftly portrays two dedicated teenagers fighting the moneyed Hong Kong establishment and special administrative region's Beijing masters.  It's a study in contrasts and a striking depiction of a new generation of young activists and protesters in a very politicized Hong Kong.  Some spectacular footage is included.

Media-savy teenager Joshua Wong
Focusing not on the recent Umbrella Revolution or Movement, Torne details the struggle in Hong Kong against the proposed imposition of what critics termed brain-washing and propagandistic, a mainland China-dictated National Education in Hong Kong school curricula.

One figure portrayed is the media savy 15-year-old schoolboy Joshua Wong Chi-fung (之鋒), the convenor of Scholarism, and who led the fight against National Education in 2011, and who also was a key figure in last Fall's Umbrella Movement.

The more radical Ma Jai is shown being arrested

In striking contrast is the more below the radar and less known Ma Wan-ke () (nicknamed "Ma Jai" () a 17-year-old secondary school dropout (from the same school and housing estate as the more mainstream Joshua Wong), who while lacking Mr. Wong's more sophisticated political analysis (spoken in the film in Cantonese, with English subtitles), nonetheless is able to offer biting observations that prove that he is able to be well read and  educated despite Hong Kong's at times stultifying education system.  He is an active member of the more anarchistic League of Social Democrats.

Matthew Torne at UC Irvine 25 February 2015; Photo c Daniel C. Tsang 2015
For Subversity Show Online, show host Daniel C. Tsang interviewed Director Matthew Torne earlier today from London via Skype.  Torne had shown his documentary before several dozen students at UC Irvine the Wednesday before.  Meanwhile, Joshua Wong was featured in  the L.A. Times after their visit to UCLA.

Protest leader Joshua Wong
On Subversity,Torne offers a critical analysis of the current political situation in Hong Kong in the aftermath of last fall's uprising.  He explains why he chose the two young protesters to feature in his film and offers some trunchent analysis of the People's Republic of China as Hong Kong's new colonial masters.

Joshua Wong with Lessons in Dissent DVD
The DVD was just released in Hong Kong; the boxed set comes with two DVDs (the documentary plus outakes) and a 96-page booklet with trenchant analyses of the political situation in Hong Kong.  - Daniel C. Tsang.