PCC Says Farewell to President Brown

On May 18th, Portland Community College announced the departure of President Brown, who joined the school in 2013, replacing Preson Pulliams. The board acknowledged Dr. Brown’s success with fund-raising and strategic planning, which will carry over as the board gets ready to find a new president.

Before Brown came to PCC he found himself in a similar situation with the board of Dowling College when low student enrollment and looming debt went unresolved. When he took office in 2011 the school’s deficit was $977,000. The month his departure was announced that debt had grown to 60 million—the school wouldn’t release Brown’s salary.

That’s a far cry from his previous experience at Edinboro university, which had this to say about him: “Brown will leave behind him a legacy of growth, accomplishing what would take many other institutions upwards of 15 years to accomplish.” But that’s nothing compared with a few of his other credentials: a doctorate in physics, he served on the faculty of Princeton and Rockefeller, and has published over a hundred scholarly articles.

Dowling’s settlement is unknown, but PCC is giving him a $300,000 settlement. That’s enough to pay for 90 credits for 34 students. I contacted Executive Vice President Sylvia Kelley, who promptly provided a link to the board’s public statement. I asked students how they felt, but many simply weren’t aware there was any issue.

Trouble began when “Willamette Week” put out an article confirming Brown had applied for a chancellor position at Mid-South Community College in Arkansas. A week later the paper reported that the board was unhappy with Brown, and was negotiating a severance package. Word spread among faculty that Brown went on leave after the news broke, but it’s unknown whether it was paid or not. Brown’s contract officially expires next month.

 

Dreams

When I was really young I had two strange dreams. In the first, I was deep inside a cave, so big I looked like an ant. And before me was this immense opening, leading deeper still, but as I approached it I felt something I can’t really explain, but if a single word could do it justice, then it felt hollow. The rest of the cave seemed bright compared to the path before me. A sort of dull terror seized me, and I woke up. In the next dream I’m crawling through a maze of plastic pipes, like the slides on playgrounds, but these tubes just went on and on and on, with no life, no point, just a strange maze that filled me with that same hollow feeling.

When I was a teenager the dreams took a strange turn. I don’t have many nightmares, thankfully, but bad dream or no, enough of them ended with me “waking up” but unable to move. Granted, there’s a perfectly good scientific explanation for this. We can become conscious while still under sleep paralysis, if you haven’t, Google it–it’s enlightening. I was 14 and quite ignorant when this started to happen, and encouraged by my dad to believe it was demons, and his only advise was pray until it was over. So that’s what I did for many years.

After I gave up religion I discovered a couple things about my strange dreams. For some odd reason, sleep paralysis happens to me most when I’m face up. Either I fall asleep on my back, or I end up that way from tossing and turning, I always wake with my eyes to the ceiling. I have no idea how that affects my dreaming, but it does. Also, it’s not scary anymore. I don’t actually believe invisible tormentors are waiting for me to sleep–and that’s when something really special happens.

A few years ago I had a dream that I was walking through a garden in a large greenhouse. Not an ordinary greenhouse because the panes looked like cut crystal–I was lucid dreaming at this point. Something caught my eye, I turned to look at it and my brain drifted back. I couldn’t move, I opened my eyes, and my room was light blue, as if it were dawn. I pushed my chest up as hard as I could, and I started to sit up when I turned and looked down at myself asleep, then I woke. The strange phenomenon is commonly called astral projection. For me it was just a long lucid dream, I don’t believe we have a soul, much less that we can release it to wander and affect others. Sadly, the experience hasn’t happened since then–next time, I’m projecting myself to the coast.

A Thought on Voting

I went through an anti-voting phase when I was younger–it was short-lived. I know some people think voting is pointless, but think about all the terrible people who go and vote. All the racists, bankers, police, Fox “News” watchers, and all the assholes, voting for their favorite piece of shit; someone who’ll keep the water spinning down the toilet. If voting is simply another arm of the oligarchy, then why must we constantly battle voter suppression, malapportionment, and gerrymandering? Why vote? Vote because there’s nothing else better to do than the same usual shit. Vote to put people in congress who can work together. Vote so rapists can’t force their victims to carry a child to term. Vote to reform prison, law enforcement, and end the systemic cycle of abuse against people of color. Vote to keep the planet green and blue. Please, go and fucking vote.

“Super PAC”

The real shame about the “super PAC”, other than eroding our vote, is that all those billions could be used to help us. We all need money for school, food, childcare, and way too much to write about. It’s a waste because Hillary doesn’t have to raise a dime, she’s got my vote. And I don’t think a “super PAC” gives Hillary any sort of edge, it does the opposite.

When You Start To Hate Each Other

A lot of people go into marriage with expectations, aspirations, and delusions. And we know many marriages don’t last very long—probably for those reasons. Some make it to two years, others to the cliché seven, and I’ve been told that even the healthiest relationships only last some 18 years. As of August this year I will have been married for nine years. And I’m very happy to say it’s all played out just like the textbooks say it does, and we still haven’t killed each other. But we, like all couples, fight, and we soon found ourselves in a cycle of anger and confusion. I’d like to tell about when marriage goes wrong, things that cause it, and what you can do to change it.

Fighting isn’t unhealthy. Fighting means you both have autonomy and you feel safe expressing your boundary, or your wants and needs. But, the main reason fighting is because one or the other is simply angry. Anger is an unavoidable emotion, and it’s okay to be angry, but not to stay that way. The best thing you can do to diffuse a fight is to learn to manage conflict. Professor John Gottman has done substantial studies on how couples do this, and has found three main styles of conflict management: “…Avoidant, Validating, and Volatile,” (BUSBY, D. M.). I fall in between Validating—characterized by confirming my partners feelings in the midst of an argument—to Volatile, wherein there’s lots of conflict and dispute. Other couples are Avoidant, and don’t bother confronting each other. And, oddly enough, each conflict style makes for a long-lasting marriage.

Gottman discovered much more than just how to argue though, he uncovered an almost magic ratio. Five to one. That’s the ratio of good to terrible thing you need to do to stay together (Gottman). Even if you something pretty shitty, five good things against it, and compromise, will keep a couple (maybe more) together. But if it’s that easy, then there’s a catch—right? Knowing these things and doing them are totally different.

When we get mad we lose all reason, which is why the first thing you need to do after you get angry is ask yourself why you’re angry, and ask your partner why they are upset. As soon as we start thinking on something else other than that we are mad, we start to feel a little better—analyze your way out of anger.

Don’t dwell. If, while you’re at work, recreation, whatever you’re doing—and instead of enjoying yourself, you find that you’re constantly reliving a fight, or some injustice in your head–that’s an early warning. After too much dwelling and time spent in conflict, we come to perceive our partners differently. We have a harder time discerning communication—particularly men—and start to believe our partners have negative intentions toward us. We come to believe that the ones who love us the most, do not, and that they seek to harm us instead of uplift us. This happens to everyone.

After enough time a number of given things can happen which all result in divorce, or what’s called “living together loneliness” or LTL, which, as it was described to me, sounds worse than a divorce.

I finally had an afternoon to spend with a longtime work friend, Thomas. Great artist, all around good guy—and funny. He’s had an ongoing love affair since November. He’s almost fifty, he’s been with his partner for about seven years, and for the past two, they’ve just been roommates. One night Thomas found himself drunkenly chatting with a young red-head he works with, at a bar, who was in the same situation—you can guess the rest.

Just two years ago I was on the verge of a divorce, and it taught me a lot of things. First, marriage is the most wonderful thing in the world, and it can also be pure torment. I’m not against divorce. I’m for people having the proper emotional tool to keep up a good relationship, part of that skill-set is knowing when to say good-bye. Most divorces happen because people don’t really know what they’re doing, but if you do know what you’re doing and you’re still both unhappy—don’t stay miserable for too, too long, it’s a waste of time.

Communication is everything. If you can’t talk to each other, you’re not going to make it. And you have to be able to talk about anything—including the state of your relationship. The odds are really good that if you’re having any kind of relationship problem, it has something to do with communication. And it’s not just the words used, it’s how you carry yourself while you’re communicating. Are you facing your partner? Are you engaged in what they’re saying? What facial expressions are you making? These are all things to consider while communicating.

Marriage is largely luck—to “keep it a hundred,” as late-night comedy host Larry Wilmore says: I got married just after I was old enough to buy alcohol. I was a young, ignorant, Christian missionary, who preferred marriage, because of my Christian upbringing. The man upstairs isn’t too fond of sex outside of wedlock. And a lot of my being married today is sheer luck—my spouse and I changed substantially in our taste, and intelligence, but we changed together. Still, it’s honestly the most difficult commitment I’ve even made in my life.

It’s easy to care for the loving, horny, spouse who’s ignorant or unaware of personal bullshit. But sometimes life falls apart. I was a butcher a few years ago, cutting steaks, when my dad called me and told me my mother had cancer—a rare sarcoma.

At the time I worked for an evil psychopathic boss—literally—and the stress was too much. I took most of it out on my wife, and she did the natural thing, she retaliated. We spent two unhappy years together, fighting, making each other miserable, but we needed each other. In our case, saying, “I’m going to divorce you” is just a hollow threat. I have nowhere to go. Neither of us want to start our lives over from scratch, at age thirty.

If you can make it through these stages of marriage, then something special happens. If you can communicate well, compromise, and continue to do good though the toughest parts of marriage—with a little luck—the bond grows stronger, and you learn what to look for in the future, so the downward cycle isn’t repeated.

Marriage is a lot of hard work. It’s not something anyone should just jump into. It’s a huge commitment, and though you can just get a divorce—it’s more complicated than that. But, if you manage anger, and have the proper knowledge and tools for maintaining a long-term relationship, the benefits outweigh the challenges.

Work Cited

BUSBY, D. M. and HOLMAN, T. B. (2009), Perceived Match or Mismatch on the Gottman Conflict Styles: Associations with Relationship Outcome Variables. Family Process, 48:531–545. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01300.x

Gottman, John, and Nan Silver. “What Makes Marriage Work?” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, n.d. Web. 01 May 2015.

Night’s Sky

I can’t stare at the night’s sky for too long. Eventually, the beauty fades, and I start to think about all the giant rocks zipping by in the darkness–all around us. And the darkness in the sky syncs with my mind, and I see an asteroid–the size of the moon–coming at me like a cue ball. A blink, and our precious microbe-covered rock is just another molten ball, screaming through space.