Blaise Pascal, Penseé 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Faculty Trust and Fresno State's Media Spin on Tree Cutting

I have had three moments of acute clarification about Fresno State over the last year. All of them have to do with trust. 

The first came on December 15, 2011, when Bill Covino published the following email:
Dear Colleagues,

I have asked that the recently published anonymous email comments about Budget Task Force recommendations be taken down from the Senate web page, after receiving several strong complaints from faculty and staff about the offensive tone and content of some of the comments.  I initially authorized their publication, but will have to reconsider this.


William A. Covino
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
California State University, Fresno
This occurred in a context of several frustrating attempts by the faculty to get budget information from the university, and it's slow and incomplete provision, all with the survival of two schools hanging in the balance. At this point I thought that censorship had not only come to Fresno State, but that the necessary information faculty needed to rationally discuss budget issues was being deliberately withheld. Although the next day, the Provost announced (after a flood of outraged email) that he would not censor the Senate website, the shock didn't go away. The evening the Provost's email was sent, I considered trying to organize a hunger strike: "Starving for Information." I still think something along those lines might be necessary. 

The second came after the trees went down last week. I really thought that after this year, and all of the senate discussions and resolutions about lack of consultation on the budget, cohort hiring, and the logo, some attempt at reconciliation would be on the way, that at fall semester's academic assembly, surely President Welty would say something to try to mend fences. But when I saw the trees coming down last Wednesday evening and Thursday, I realized that Fresno State had a darker, uglier side to it than I'd ever imagined.

The third came when I watched Amy Armstrong on TV and read the stiff and emotionless responses of President Welty and Cynthia Matson to the campus and the media. But it was Amy Armstrong, on TV, who carried the administration's message to the public at large, and it is worth watching, once again, both Channel 26 and Channel 30's coverage of her statement:

KMPH Coverage of Parking Lot Devastation

These interviews of Amy Armstrong, conducted at different times, are quite similar, showing that she stays on script very well. Here are her main points:

1. The parking lot was full of potholes;
2. The ponding basins were taking up unused space
3. "Several" of the trees in the lot were diseased and dying
4. Information was shared at various groups and committee meetings, so the implication is, consultation occurred.

Let's take these one by one:

1. Parking lots with potholes can be repaired without destroying the trees. See Magda Gilewicz's picture of Fresno City College, currently repairing its lots:

2. "The ponding basins were taking up unused space." OK. There were no trees in the ponding basins. Fill them in, pave them over, and get a lot of extra parking without cutting the trees.

3. "Several" of the trees in the lot were diseased and dying. According to John Constable and John Bushoven, plant biologists, only 2 of the 160 trees taken down had any disease at all and even those could have been saved. Anyone who walked through the lot knew the trees were flourishing. They were mature enough that their roots had gone into the water table--they didn't even need to be irrigated.

4. "Information was shared." Rhetorical points for deceptive use of the passive voice. Shared by whom and what information and exactly to whom? This is extremely deceptive because apparently NO ONE on the faculty knew this was coming, but the public has been given the impression that consultation did occur

I don't especially blame Amy Armstrong for delivering the script. It's her job, though she might think twice about how long she'll feel good about herself if she sticks with it.

And this brings me to my third moment of clarification: We all know, because we are closer to the facts than the public at large, how deceptive that statement was. Most of the time, we read newspapers with skepticism, but it is unusual to be close enough to the facts to see a lie as it forms, a lie by a government entity to the public.

I keep saying that I have no confidence in the administration of this university. There are actually many people in this university's administration who I admire--who care about students and go the extra mile in trying to help them. But I have lost trust in President Welty and Provost Covino because this year they have given me an education in deception, manipulation, and bureaucratic intransigence. 

To have a working relationship with people you have to have a certain level of trust. Amy Armstrong's message to the media sums up why I no longer have that trust in Fresno State's administration. No confidence, senators. It's now or never.

[May 31. In the comments section I've added an email from Manuel Pena to Helene Joseph-Weil about the use of present parking at Fresno State. It adds some interesting facts to the case.]
Channel 30 Coverage of Tree Cutting

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Treemagedon Hits Fresno State: Channel 30

Channel 30 Coverage of Tree Cutting

Cutting Down the Trees: Time Line of Events

The most important time-line can be told from the growth rings of the oldest trees in the parking lots. But what follows is the time-line of events in just the two days it took to cut them all down and the faculty, staff, and student response during and after. (Several faculty members contributed; the first two entries are mine; this will be updated as we learn more.)

1 February 2012 FACEL meets, apparently without it's two faculty members (John Constable / Jacinta Amaral), and at the meeting there is a discussion or announcement by Amy Armstrong about the parking lot remodel. The content of this meeting is not yet clear. (Note that Jacinta and John are both already on some of the busiest committee in the university, for Jacinta, University Wide Senate and the Executive Committee and for John, chair of the University Budget Committee and member of the Budget Task Force. Note also that at this time that the faculty is scrambling to address Budget Task Force Recommendations. We are, you might say, quite occupied.) This committee had no chair and therefore kept no minutes. It's last reported minutes (Senate website) are 9/14/2011. See this link: FACEL Committee

2 March 2012 Alexandra Norton, reporter for The Daily Collegian, publishes a story about a remodel of Parking Lot J entitled "Parking Permit Price May Increase to $102": "The current plan is to pave over the water basins in between Lot J to make more parking spaces. The construction would take place over the summer and the current parking permit fee of $68 would increase $34, bringing it to a total cost of $102 per semester." The article includes coverage of a student senate meeting of the previous Wednesday in which parking was on the agenda. There is no indication in the article that removal of trees was announced or discussed in the student senate, which apparently had more notice of something happening in that lot than the faculty senate. See the article at this link: Daily Collegian: Parking Fee Article  (Thanks to Julia Bradshaw for finding this article.)

May 23, 2012 (Wed)
7:00 am cutting down of trees already in progress in J and A parking lots
8:15am: John Constable calls Bob Boyd and spoke to him directly.  He indicated that the parking was being put in to meet student demand and that the trees (a) had not been irrigated for 1-2 years; (b) were diseased and (c) did not meet the projected design of the new lot.  As a biological aside - if the trees were still green and not being irrigated then they were pulling on ground water and therefore represented no potential water costs to the University.
8:23 am Denise Bissett (linguistics) calls  Plant Ops to find out what is going on; leaves a message
8:46 am Denise Bissett receives a voice message from Mike Frick (Plant Ops ext. 8-6930): "The parking lot is being repaved and there will be no carport type structure."
10:16 am Amy Armstrong sends out email on Bulletin Board informing the campus community that "reconstruction of lots A & J will begin on May 24; no mention of removing trees
10:38am: Ulrike Muller sends email to Welty and Armstrong (cc to Zechman, Prince, Nef, Crosbie) protesting the cutting of the trees and calls Paul Crosbie to start actions
11:00am: Paul Crosbie calls Amy Armstrong for clarification (explanation offered: trees stopped growing, are no longer watered and are no longer healthy and needed to be cut down; reassures us that procedures were followed - e.g. conglomerate of facilities management, the campus groundskeepers, the contractors, a landscape architect were consulted) - email available through Ulrike
11:00 to 12: 00 email flurry between biology/chemistry faculty/business faculty about emails and phone calls summarizing the presented excuses for the cut down (trees are sick, students demanded more parking, relevant committees were consulted) - emails available through Ulrike
2:00pm: John Constable, Eric Person and Ulrike Muller seek to speak in person with President Welty (receptionist: "no longer on campus"), Cindy Matson (receptionist: "in meeting until 3:30pm"), and Paul Oliaro (receptionist: "in meeting") and leave instructions to be called back
3:00pm: John Constable, Eric Person and Ulrike Muller walk to parking lot to document cutting-down and talk to site manager and workers about time table and planned extent of destruction; John Constable inspects trees for signs of disease and takes pictures - only 2 of 64 inspected stumps show some signs of core rot (John, please insert correct term)
3:15pm: Madhu Katti, John Bushoven, Paul Crosbie join on-site protest (please add your name if I forgot you)
3:30 pm: Paul Oliaro, Bob Boyd and Cindy Matson show up in parking lot and talk to protesters (ask John Constable, Paul Crosbie or John Boshoven for gist of it)
5:53pm Craig Berthal alerts the campus community by posting on Huron County Extract photos and a report on the devastation of trees he witnessed that day

May 24 (Th)
7:00 am Clear cutting and chipping of trees continues
8:10 am Magda Gilewicz sends a message to John Welty (cc. Arts and Humanities) protesting the clear-cutting of trees
1:00 pm impromptu press conference called by some faculty an hour earlier to inform the media about the events on campus (ch.24, 26, 47 and The Fresno Bee) (about 20 faculty, staff and students present)
4:00 pm some faculty (Paul Crosbie, John Constable, Madhu Katti, Ulrike Muller, Kaberi Gupta) meet again to be interviewed by ch. 30
6:00, 10:00, 11:00 tv stations air their reports

May 26 (Fri)
Front-page article appears in The Bee
9:00 am Matson posts a response by Welty on Bulletin Board
10:00 am Welty starts sending individual responses to faculty who wrote to him about the clear cutting of trees
1:10 pm Covino forwards Welty's message to all-faculty listserv, prefaced by his own short message

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dr. Madhusudan Katti's "Reconciliation Ecology"

For more pictures of the parking lot trees and a fascinating site on urban ecology, see Dr. Madhu Katti's "Reconciliation Ecology" site:

Reconciliation Ecology

Emails to President Welty about the Deforestation

At the request of faculty members and others who wrote to President Welty for Cynthia Matson about the deforestation of the parking lots east of Peters, I am posting their emails. I'll alternate the colors, where necessary, to help readers keep them separate and will make additions as they come in:

University Arboretum and today's events?
From : John T Bushoven <>
Subject : University Arboretum and today's events?
To : Cynthia Matson <>, Bob Boyd <>, John Constable <>
Cc : John T Bushoven <> 
Reply To : John T.Bushoven <>

Wed, May 23, 2012 09:48 PM 1 attachment

Following a somewhat eventful afternoon on campus, I wanted to use this email to clearly state that any perception of civility on my part during our discussion should be recognized only as my attempt to maintain an open channel of communication. As such, I am enraged. I am enraged not by removal of the trees, but by the alarming absence of communication between Facilities Management and respective consultative bodies.

As we are all aware, the charge of the Arboretum Subcommittee (on which I sit) is “to review and make recommendations to the Campus Planning Committee concerning all campus landscape plans and new plantings.... to provide a clear and understandable process for review of items submitted and to evaluate those items within the context of its charge”.

I would also presume a similar breakdown in communication occurred between Facilities Management and the Sustainability Subcommittee, of which is also charged with providing “... advice on sustainable practices in land use, building design, operations, teaching and learning, and transportation as well as other key areas”.

It is imperative that the University clearly identify where our lines of communication failed, recognizing that this may have resulted from both “sides” and that we remedy such breakdown post-haste. Hopefully, this will serve to prevent further significant change to our University’s Arboretum without due consultation. In the absence of consultation with University faculty experts (Biology, Horticulture, Ecology etc.), any attempts to mitigate the ecological and political damage already done by today’s removal of the mature “urban forest” on much of the east campus has not much chance for success.

Alas, as the University community prepares for the summer months, faculty will likely be unaware of the activities of the day. It would be prudent for us to take this opportunity to assume a lead role in reconnecting the consultative body with Facilities Management over the course of the next several weeks. A first good step would be to cease, as much as safely possible, removal/planting of any mature/replacement trees on campus until such time allows for the respective Subcommittees to review and prepare recommendations pursuant to their charge.

With this in mind, let us also resume our review of the purpose of having our University designated as an “Arboretum” as defined by the granting body, the American Public Gardens Association. As you are aware, I have been drafting a University Arboretum Strategic Plan, on par with those of my colleagues at the Arnold Arboretum - at Harvard, CSU Fullerton, UC Davis, etc. All of which use a “Horticulture Faculty Director” model for all things academic, in close partnership with campus Facilities Management. This is a model that we would be well served to adopt at our University, should we wish to retain our Arboretum Designation. As such, my draft University Arboretum Strategic Plan includes the following components:
1. Arboretum academic leadership
2. Core mission, vision, guiding principles and organizational values
3. Collections management (accessions, tree care plan, bio-region development etc.)
4. Student and community-stakeholder involvement (courses, Friends of the Arboretum, San Joaquin
Valley Urban Forest Council etc.)
5. Financial viability and sustainability (fund development and internal allocations)
6. Website development and maintenance
7. Updated interpretive guides
See attached for my draft Mission Statement that will serve to facilitate our discussions.
Indeed, certainly a time to “learn from our mistakes”? I look forward to our future collaboration.
Your thoughts?

Regards, Johnpage1image7488
___________________________________ John T. Bushoven, Ph.D.
Department of Plant Science
California State University, Fresno

2415 East San Ramon Avenue M/S AS72 Fresno, CA 93740, USA

From: Magdalena Gilewicz <>
Date: May 24, 2012 8:10:51 AM PDT
Subject: S.O.S. for our trees
Dear President Welty,

What is going on on our campus is unconscionable and I urge you to stop the butchery of trees that began as soon as faculty and students left. The parking administrator's message to the campus community about improvement of parking didn't mention the horrible destruction of mature landscaping that would be taking place on our campus. This either shows total ignorance and insensitivity to environmental issues or was a conscious act to hide the destruction from the campus community.

The University should be in the forefront of environmental issues, of planting trees, reducing pollution, beautifying landscape, etc. Our campus is supposed to be an arboretum, so how could this be allowed!? Do a few extra parking spaces justify thistreemagedon? Isn't there enough asphalt already by the Savemart Center to accommodate hundreds of cars? The University could provide a minibus at peak hours to bring people to the core of campus, or, even better, create a nice, shady walking trail to get us to destinations at the center. There are other and much better solutions than cutting down trees and pouring more asphalt. We cannot go about chopping down dozens of trees in a city where we breathe most damaging air. The university should be teaching this by example. How far behind are we in our thinking on such issues?

As you see I (and many of my colleagues and friends who have just found out about his) are very upset about this. I'm asking myself right now: Who are we as a University? What do such actions say about us?

I hope you will act to stop this horrible destruction. Please stop it before more precious trees are cut down today.

Magda Gilewicz

Magdalena Gilewicz, PhD
Professor of English
Writing Center Director
Department of English MS/PB 98
California State University, Fresno
Fresno, CA 93740-8001
Office: (559) 278-4926
Fax: (559) 278-7143

From: "Diane Blair" <>
To: "John Welty" <>
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 4:15:41 PM
Subject: The cuts have now reached our trees . . .

President Welty,

Some cuts to our university may be outside of your control, these cuts were not. 

Others have already said quite eloquently and forcefully what needs to be said about this situation. I just wanted to add my name to the list of those dismayed by the cutting our campus trees in the name of increased parking spaces.

In addition, I can't understand why such a decision would be made without consultation of the Arboretum and Sustainability Subcommittees, at a minimum.We have got to change the climate on this campus when it comes to administrative decision-making-consultative bodies on campus were created for good reasons--consultation that includes differing points of view are not obstacles, they are resources to our decision-making processes.

Diane Blair

Diane M. Blair, Ph.D.
Immediate Past President, Organization for Research on Women and Communication
Department of Communication
California State University, Fresno
5201 N. Maple Avenue M/S SA 46
Fresno, CA 93740-8027
559-278-8578 (o)
559-278-4113 (f) 

From: Chris Golston <>
Date: May 24, 2012 9:27:51 AM PDT
To: John Welty <>, William Covino <wcovino@CSUFRESNO.EDU>
Subject: Not seeing the forest for the trees
Dear John and Bill,

I wanted to add my voice to the growing chorus of concern: why are the trees being chopped down? I'm hoping the answer will be that the improvements to the lots will be greener somehowbut the university's hollow commitment to most things sensible and to anything green makes this unlikely.

I doubt I'm alone in seeing this as more poor leadership on your part. A little foresight would've told you both that many faculty, staff, and students would be horrified to see trees being chopped down all of a sudden, and that some discussion with other members of the university community is always the way to proceed. Everyone makes stupid decisions some time, which is why it's good to consult with others, especially with those your decisions have an effect on.

If you have a long track record of making stupid decisions that everyone hates (hiring your wife or your boss's wife as graduate dean without a proper search; or spending money on a logo that is an embarrassment to the academic part of the university), you really need to consult with others. And consulting with toadies doesn't count, because they tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear.

Please stop the cutting immediately, before you do more irreparable harm; then explain what the reasoning was and why nobody was consulted (again). Then look for another job.

Chris Golston

Chukchansi Revitalization Project
Department of Linguistics
California State University Fresno

To: John Welty <>

From: Helene Joseph-Weil <>

Sent: Thu, 24 May 2012 10:25:57 -0700 (PDT) Subject: Fwd: Fwd: S.O.S. for our trees

Dear President Welty, 

I concur completely with the eloquent letter Dr. Gilewicz has sent you, given below. As a devoted birder, I must also add that this is the height of the nesting season for the myriad birds that inhabit those trees. How many nests were destroyed by this destructive act? These birds bring beauty to our campus community with their songs, and their musical gifts help to lighten and brighten our long days. Our gratitude to them, and to the trees that act to keep our polluted air (nationally rated to be at consistently dangerous levels) from being even worse than it is, should not have been wanton destruction, but finding ways to preserve them while meeting the needs of the campus. 

And, as another faculty member wrote to you, why is additional parking needed when the enrollment will be lower in the coming years, as mandated by the severe budget constraints? And how is this project being funded, if our campus is faced with draconian budget reductions, including a 16-unit cap that prevents many students from graduating in a timely manner or taking additional classes that broaden their academic knowledge and intellectual horizons?

Yes, new trees will be planted, at least that's what was stated in one of the announcements. But it will take many years for these new plantings to mature. I can understand cutting down diseased or dying trees, if no other recourse was possible (was it? was this investigated?), but to do so to mature, healthy trees is truly a deplorable act. 

The faculty and students are active members of the Fresno State campus, not visitors who would not care as much about preserving its environment.We needed to be alerted at the very least and given time to voice our reasonable objections and protests. Better would have been to hold a forum or campus meeting open for discussion and to present the project to the Academic Senate and the student body, to explain the rationale for this grievous destruction. 

If it's not too late, please do everything in your presidential power to prevent any more trees from being destroyed. Thank you.  

Helene Joseph-Weil
Professor Emerita in Music
Voice & Opera
Department of Music
California State University, Fresno

From: "Samina Najmi" <snajmi@CSUFRESNO.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 2:16:43 PM
Subject: Please save the trees

Dear President Welty and Provost Covino,

My colleagues have already spoken for me very eloquently.  I just wish to add my voice to theirs as a mid-career member of the Fresno State community, tenured just last year.  I love this campus and would like to be able to envision a future here.  The trees matter.  Their being summarily dispatched after long years of service sends a most discouraging message to some of us.

Samina Najmi, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English
Multiethnic U.S. Literature
Affiliated Faculty, Middle East Studies
California State University, Fresno
5245 N. Backer Avenue
Fresno, CA 93740


"Be the change you wish to see" - Mahatama Gandhi

From: Corrinne Hales
To: John Welty
Date: May 24, 2012

Dear President Welty,

I'm afraid that this action--and the way it was handled--only serves to make an already frustrated and disillusioned faculty, staff and student body feel more disenfranchised and alienated than we already felt.  The university administration has simply and suddenly destroyed something that meant a lot to many of us--that was a wonderful part of our daily lives-- and that contributed greatly to the mental and physical health of the campus community.

I completely agree with my colleagues (many of whom have already voiced their objections to you) about the shocking removal of the trees in our parking lots.  To take this drastic action without any consultation with those of us who spend so much of our lives on this campus--is just plain wrong.   The fact that the damage was already done by the time we were even informed about it is a betrayal of the community.   Those of us who park and work at the Peters Building on a daily basis have watched for many years (25 or 30?) as these trees grew slowly into maturity and helped to make the east campus entry more attractive, cooler, and less polluted.  Until yesterday, those of us waiting for rides on that side of campus had a shady place to sit on a bench (especially necessary in Fresno), and those of us emerging from the second or third floor of the Peters Building after a long day at work were greeted by a lovely view of the trees and the birds that lived in them from the stairway landing.   

In 2006, I had an exceptional graduate poetry workshop, and each night coming into the Peters Building for class, we'd marvel at the swooping masses of starlings and other birds that lived in the (now disappeared) trees and filled the sky at dusk.    That year three graduating students (including one whose thesis was selected as the Outstanding Thesis for 2006) wrote several terrific poems about the life they saw in those very trees--and I believe all of them have been published.  

Walking out to our cars after work or walking across the affected lots toward the Rec Center and Shaw Avenue will now be a dreary experience, relentlessly hot much of the time, and it will certainly be a much less healthy experience for all.  Visitors entering the campus will be greeted by a nasty, hot piece of pavement rather than a park-like shaded area and the sight and sounds of birds--and any new trees planted will take many, many years to provide what those trees provided so well.   Surely we could have found a better solution to any parking problems we face.   

I hope you will take a look at the photos of the trees in full fall color posted on Dr. Craig Bernthal's blog where you will see clearly the beauty that has been destroyed.  

Thank you,
Connie Hales

From: "Dr. Rose Marie Kuhn" <>
Date: May 24, 2012 10:02:03 AM PDT
Subject: S.O.S. for our trees
Dear President Welty:

1. I was horrified to discover what happened with so many of the beautiful and mature trees on our campus yesterday.

2. I urge you to make sure that this indiscriminate felling of so many beautiful and mature trees be stopped.  I am especially disheartened to discover that (1) such action was taken without consultation and (2) this started so soon after students and faculty left. 

3. The parking administrator's message to the campus community talked about improving parking for students and faculty.  Her message did not include the fact that so many mature trees were going to be eliminated.

4. Such indiscriminate action is especially troublesome since our campus is an arboretum.  Additionally, it shows a total disregard for environmental issues in our Valley and communities which are infamous for having the dirtiest air in the nation.

5. Instead of being at the forefront of environmental issues by encouraging the planting of trees, reducing pollution, beautifying landscape, and suggesting solutions for addressing our dirty air problem, our university sacrifices trees for the sake of asphalt and a few more parking space.  We cannot go about chopping down indiscriminately hundreds of trees in a valley where so many kids suffer from asthma related illnesses because of the most damaging air they breathe here.  The university should be teaching by example and not take such drastic actions which show a total disregard for the wellbeing of its students, staff, faculty and local communities.
6. In conclusion, I urge you, once again, to make sure that this arbitrary action of cutting so many beautiful and mature trees be stopped immediately so that no more trees get cut down in this mad round of destruction.

Greetings, Rose Marie

Rose Marie Kuhn, Ph.D.
Professor of French
French Program Coordinator
Office: Engineering East, Room 244

Department of Modern & Classical Languages & Literatures
Peters Building, Room 393
California State University Fresno
Fresno, CA 93740-8030

559-278-6890 (Office)
559-278-2386 (Dept)

« Il faut beaucoup d’indisciplinés pour faire un peuple libre. » (Bernanos)
« Le monde ne sera sauvé, s’il peut l’être, que par des insoumis. » (Gide)