Thursday, May 3, 2012

Botman update

[A summary of the events surrounding the vote can be found here.]

[Added] Ok, so apparently a lot of what I say below is premised on something that seems to be true only in the mind of Selma Botman.  The idea that 2/3rds of the electorate was required requires a very selective reading of the rules.  By which I mean it's looking more and more like she was willfully ignoring what the rules said so she could claim an interpretation more beneficial to herself.  Meaning that it looks like the vote of no confidence was successful, in spite of claims to the contrary.[/Added]

I don't think most people who come here care much about the ongoing saga of what has unfortunately become known as Botmangate* but for any who do, I've just heard news today that confirmed I suspicion I started having yesterday about why the voter suppression attempts were going on.

Normally when one engages in voter suppression it's because their opponents supporters are more likely to be screwed over by the attempt.  If your opponent's supporters are poor, you make it more expensive to vote (for example requiring them to show ID that isn't free to get), if they're without cars you make the trip to the booth longer, if they're busy you try to make the lines longer, if they're low interest you make it so they have more hoops to jump through, if they're not registered yet you make it harder for people to help them to register and make it harder to register in general, if they're women then you make it hard to vote after a name change (as women tend to change their names after changing their marital status) and so on.  You make what sounds like a general rule that actually targets a demographic that you want to suppress.

Almost none of that applies here.  The voters are all university faculty and supporters vs. opponents of the no confidence vote do not, so far as I know, fall along any easily identifiable demographic lines anyway.  Certainly some people were indeed getting shafted far more than others by the many and bizarre requirements Botman insisted upon for a ballot to be counted, but Botman had no way of knowing whose side those people were on.  In fact, in all likelihood the shafting was entirely orthogonal to support or opposition, meaning that it probably didn't change the makeup of the voting population at all, it merely reduced its size.

I wasn't sure why you'd even want that until I discovered that passing or failing had nothing to do with which side got the overwhelming majority of the votes.  You see for the no confidence measure to go forward  two thirds majority was needed, and indeed more than two thirds of the votes were for no confidence, but that doesn't matter.  Because it was a two thirds majority of eligible voters that was needed.  (Recall that not all of the eligible voters are even in the country right now.)

[Added:]Ok, it's more complicated than that.  She claims that it's 2/3rds of eligible voters, but that is in no way clear.  A bit more here.[/Added]

By depressing the turnout, which she did quite successfully (given the circumstances the turnout should have been as near to 100% as elections ever get), she made it so that about 90% of the votes would have to be for no confidence in order for it to actually work.

Her suppression effectively changed the threshold from 2/3rds to about 9/10ths.  Which means that, apparently, she succeeded.  The vote of no confidence did not pass, even though more than 2/3rds of the votes were for no confidence.  (Except maybe it did, more on that in a bit.)

Selma Botman won.  Based on her past statements, for example her threat to fire the entire language department because she didn't like someone asking for the context behind her (inaccurate**) figures, I have a feeling things will get very bad.  She's already made a very big show of going around to places she would never have been seen before with no apparent purpose other than to personally decide whether or not the faculty she was observing belonged on her enemies list.  Her power is limited, but given her vindictiveness I expect her to do whatever she can within those limits to make a lot of people's lives hell.

And that's before we consider how we got here in the first place.  The vote of no confidence wasn't because she was a vindictive jerk who will shoot for voter suppression to get her way.  It was because she's driven the university into the ground through severe mismanagement, it was because she refuses to take responsibility for her actions, it was because she refused to do her job, it was because she cut people out of the loop knowing full well that success required keeping those people in the loop because she was more interested in being able to blame failure on others (the people she was locking out of the loop) than actually succeeding.

It was because she was lying to people constantly and using those lies to justify backwards policies doomed to failure and then blaming others when they failed.  It was because she'd do things like say, "We have to eliminate these three positions, we can't afford them," and then turn around and create three new, entirely unnecessary, positions each of them more expensive than the things we supposedly couldn't afford.

It was because her idea of how to save money is to hire someone with a salary big enough to pay for multiple full time positions we actually need and have that person tell her how to do her job while she's telling everyone else they'd have to cut back even more necessary positions because we have no money.

It was because her mismanagement turned a surplus into debt and her explanation for why that happened was another lie.  An obvious lie.  The kind of lie that says, "I know this isn't true and you know this isn't true, but I frankly don't care what you think and not only do I not have enough respect for you to tell you the truth, I don't even respect you enough to make up a plausible lie."

It was because she's been basing her plans on obvious falsehoods.  (Like the idea that the current students here couldn't leave even though they are leaving and the resulting dropping enrollment is what she uses as a justification for everything she ever does.)

It was because her plan to solve enrollment problems was to ignore all of the students who actually want to come here and instead try to entice students who have never heard of us, who are being courted by Harvard, to come here from China.

It was because she was ignoring the actual situation in reality in favor of hypothetical worlds that, while possibly interesting places to set fictional stories, were flatly contradicted by known facts.

It was because she has continually tried to do things that, as sure as things can be in this world, would lose us money and justifying them based on the falsehood that they'd save money.

It was because she used up more goodwill than anyone is entitled to.

It was because she gave out raises to her people at the same time she told the academic side they'd have to cut back so much they'd have to lay people off.

It was because she funneled more than 3 million dollars from academics to administration when the academic side couldn't afford it and made it so the actual business of the university (you know: teaching, learning, that sort of thing) was funded at the lowest level in the university's history.

It was because she fucked up all the damn time and rather than letting those fuckups being a course correction she'd just keep on going, blaming others for her mistakes while taking credit for anyone and everyone's successes.

It was because she's not good at her job.  Not even a little.

And now, it looks like she keeps it.  Maybe.

See, there's some dispute over which rules were being operated under, and there's some confusion about details, and while Botman put out a press release saying that she won (by losing by more than 2/3rds) I haven't heard from everyone.  It may be that 2/3rds of voters actually is sufficient.  And if that's the case then she lost.

So the Selma Botman no confidence saga might not be over.  Maybe.  I should know more by the end of the day.  The vote has been counted, and Selma has offered her interpretation as if it is fact, and the paper has passed that on uncritically, but I don't know for sure that that is true.

But then there's a larger issue at work than even that.  The faculty has no power.  Even without voter suppression, even without confusion over the rules, even if every single member of the faculty had voted no confidence, all that would happen is to have the vote be handed off to the chancellor and trustees, who make the call.  And I have no idea whose side they're on anyway.  I'd like to think that they're on the side of the university or the students or something like that, but if that were the case they'd have gotten rid of Botman a long time ago.

I don't know where things go from here.


* I get that once upon a time it was considered witty to combine Whitewater and Watergate to form Whitewatergate and then -gate became a suffix meaning scandal, but it really has to end.  Let Botmangate be the last -gate and from now on instead of Xgate we should say, "the X scandal."  For that matter, even here and now, wouldn't, "The many and varied scandals of Selma Botman," be a better description than "Botmangate"?

** To be clear, no one other than Botman knew that Botman was lying at that time.  The person asking for context was not trying to catch her in a like because the person had no idea it was a lie.  That came out later.

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