Pei Zheng Scandal
It all started with a new Program B foreign supervisor named Max Long. Most people think the Pei Zheng scandal started with the now notorious video of Max’s now notorious meltdown in front of his dorm one evening a few weeks after he became supervisor. But it started even before the semester was in session.
Teacher T taught IELTS in Guangzhou on weekends, so he had Mondays off. Max’s predecessor knew this and Max knew this. Both of them gave teacher T Mondays off. But the previous supervisor had staff meetings every semester the week before classes began, usually on Thursday. Teachers got their schedules during these meeting. Max did not have a meeting, so teacher T didn’t arrive at the campus early. Instead, he asked other teachers to get his schedule. 3 teachers asked Max for his schedule. Max refused all of them.
Max didn’t email the schedules. Nor did Max notify the Program B teachers they had to come to his office in person to get their schedule. If Max had held a staff meeting, as all other EEC supervisor’s have done every semester, or sent a notice to all the teachers to come to his office to get their schedule, teacher T would have arrived early, just as he had done other semesters. Take Max out of the formula and there is no problem.
Well, one of the 3 teachers looked at teacher T’s schedule on Friday and told him, “You’ve got Mondays off.” So he didn’t show up until late Monday. Over the weekend, Max changed his schedule to include Monday classes, but didn’t notify him. When he goes to Max’s office to get his schedule, he’s told, “You missed your Monday classes. We’re docking you a day’s pay.”
5 teachers left during the semester because of this type of behavior. Anyone who was involved in a controversy with Max was not invited back. Many others got tired of the mess and applied elsewhere. The FAO of one school where I applied asked me, “Why are so many foreign teachers from Pei Zheng College applying here?”
Max was the hot topic for most of the semester. Checking your email, walking out of the dorm, eating at a restaurant, hanging out in the halls between classes. Wherever you went, people were sharing the latest Max story. At the Magick Café, teacher R asked teacher W and teacher J, who were sitting at the table next to her, to stop talking about Max. The situation degenerated into a shouting match.
When Max’s predecessor was in office, there were no shouting matches at the Magick Café and you could easily get through an evening at the Magick Café without hearing his name. Toward the end of the semester, Karl Wang, the Foreign Affairs Office Director, and Arthur Zhang, the English Education Center Vice Director, would also become hot topics. Now about that video.
Teacher R asked someone at the Foreign Experts Bureau and a civil litigation judge about a clause in the Pei Zheng contract. When he didn’t hear from one of these people for a while, he asked someone at the Canadian consulate to give them a nudge. Actually, he spoke to someone at two FEB offices. One of the FEB people consulted with someone at the Labor Board. The Labor Board person told the FEB person the clause was invalid. The FEB person relayed the message to teacher R. Teacher R relayed the message to the other FEB person. After a call from the Canadian consulate, the other FEB person called Karl Wang.
Karl promptly abandoned the clause. The clause allowed the school to withhold the February salary of foreign teachers until the end of the contract. Karl not only paid teacher R’s February salary immediately, he paid every foreign teacher’s February salary immediately.
Teacher R was standing outside the dorm explaining to a couple of other teachers his role in the situation. Max interrupted the conversation and started firing off false accusations at teacher R. “You acted on behalf of all the foreign teachers.” “I don’t appreciate you representing me.” “I don’t appreciate you tampering with the situation.” “You’re giving other foreign teachers a bad name.” “Supervisor B [ Max’s predecessor ] wonders if you’re the reason his visa wasn’t renewed.” “You threatened Karl with legal action.” “You tried to sneak around hoping nobody would discover who you are.”
All teacher R did was consult with the appropriate people about his legal status. There’s nothing illegal, unethical, immoral, seditious, misrepresentative, irresponsible, etc, about asking a government official, “Is this clause enforceable?” He wasn’t trying to unit the foreign teachers, get the February pay clause removed from the contract, or any such thing. He just wanted his February paycheck on time, it’s that simple. Max is disturbed, it’s that simple.
(Every school uses a standard contract provided by the national government. Some schools add an auxiliary contract. The auxiliary contract is just as valid as the main contract, expect that no part of the auxiliary contract can invalidate any part of the main contract. The main contract says teacher R gets paid every month and on time. Therefore, the February pay clause of the auxiliary contract conflicts with the monthly pay clause of the main contract.)
Then Max held up a piece of paper, switched topics, and got even more upset. Instead of making appointments by email or mobile phone, he left notes on dorm doors telling people when he wanted them in his office. This practice made his the object of much derision. Teachers would roll their eyes and say to each other, “Another note from Max.” Max was also known for using blank business cards. Someone expressed their contempt for him by pulling a prank. They put a blank business card on every dorm door. They also taped a cockroach to his dorm door. He discovered this a few minutes before interrupting the conversation.
Max became shrill and started saying, “I’ll find you,” “I’ll get you.” Then he started pacing and ranting. “I fight dirty.” Most of it’s on the video. One thing that’s not on the video: “I know you didn’t do it because you’re too lazy to climb to the 5th floor.”
Based on a misencounter with Max a week or so before, I knew about his disturbed condition and knew he practiced false accusation as standard operating procedure. This episode confirmed both for me.
One of the other teachers listening to teacher R’s story secretly recorded Max’s meltdown and confronted the Chinese and foreign management with it. Because this didn’t produce the results he wanted, he emailed the video to every Pei Zheng foreign teacher. The video is on Tudou and Youtube.
I waited for a response, aware that the response would set the tone for the rest of the semester. Max was not fired, demoted, or disciplined. The entire semester, no matter how bad the situation got, no one in management issued an announcement about Max’s behavior. Now about my encounter with Max.
A handful of students wanted to transfer to another class. All of them were from the same class. When Max told me this, I immediately knew which class without him identifying them. They were my most uncooperative class. One of them may have been a ring leader. He missed the first week. The second week, he didn’t come back after the break. He waited for me in the hall and told me he wanted to transfer. This means he decided to transfer after being in a classroom with me for 45 minutes. Two others were in one of my classes the previous semester, so I recommended they transfer rather than get the same lessons from the same teacher.
This left maybe 3 students and they wanted to transfer because their roommate, classmate, or girlfriend was in another class, or they just liked another teacher, or whatever. The explanation they gave Max was, “He doesn’t let us talk.” Students do most of the talking during my lessons.
Students know their real reasons will make them appear immature, so rather than lose face, they accuse the teacher. “He doesn’t let us talk” is a pretty common accusation in these situations. Max was a teacher for years, so he knows all about this.
I pointed out to Max that all of them were in the same class. I told him it was my most uncooperative class. I asked him why I didn’t get the same reaction from my other 9 classes. But he wanted to investigate my lesson. I told him it was not only the same lesson I gave to the other 9 classes, it was the same lesson I gave to all my classes last semester, to all my students at every school; that it was a universal lesson used by teachers all over the world.
Some classes develop a personality. In case, uncooperative. Class personalities are just one of those unexplained phenomenons of teaching. I pointed this out to him too. And again, as a teacher, he’s familiar with this phenomenon. But for the sake of pursuing an accusation, he pretended to be a blank page.
He was determined to pry open the lesson on the false possibility that I was responsible for decision of that handful of students. He believed I was doing something wrong because he wanted to believe I was doing something wrong, just as he wanted to believe teacher R was doing something wrong, just as he wanted to believe teacher T did something wrong. Because he is disturbed. Deeply disturbed.
He has obviously been in this condition for a long and I’m pretty sure I’m not the first one who’s addressed it. But no matter how often he manifests this condition, no matter how many teachers have a runin with him, no matter how much controversy causes, no matter how much disrespect he breeds, no matter how much he lowers the morale of the staff, he refuses to recognize a clear pattern.
I finally said, “This conversation is over and don’t relay any more accusations from students.” He walked outside and stood in the hall with his back turned to me until I left, then immediately fetched the Program A director into his office. A few minutes later, he showed up in my classroom.
I told him I could not teach while he was in the classroom, but he refused to leave, so I waited. When it became obvious he wasn’t going to leave, I told him, “You made a mistake by accepting this position. You’re not qualified to be in management. I suggest you resign.” When he still wouldn’t leave, rather than give him ammunition for a false accusation, I changed the lesson.
Almost the entire time he was in my classroom, he was looking down at his desk. He wrote furiously the whole time. What he was writing about I don’t know, but it couldn’t have been his observations about my lesson since he certainly wasn’t watching the interaction between me and the students.
By a very fortunate coincidence, the lesson I changed to was the same lesson supervisor B observed the previous semester. If supervisor B’s qualifications to observe my lessons can be called into question, then his observation of 35 other teachers can be called into question. Furthermore, teacher K, a serious and professional teacher from Program A, observed one of my lessons the previous semester and offered very positive feedback, which I relayed to the Program A supervisor. By another very fortunate coincidence, teacher K observed my best class in the fall semester. By yet another very fortunate coincidence, the class Max visited was my best class the spring semester.
I was sitting in a circle with the marketing students. They said, “What’s wrong? You look unhappy today.” I gestured toward Max. They said, “Don’t worry, we’ll support you. We’ll say you’re a good teacher.” So here are a half a dozen disgruntled students in one of my Tuesday classes versus half a dozen enthusiastic students in one of my Wednesday classes. Which one are you going to believe?
If Max really wanted to know what goes on in my classroom, he had my lesson journal from the previous semester. I keep a detailed record of my classroom activities. Far more information than 99% of other ESL teachers offer. With non-English majors, about 35 pages. With English majors, about 75 pages.
Well, as I discovered much later, his version of the story, the version he offered to the Chinese management, the version that eventually reached the ears of a vice president of the school, was this: “He did nothing for the first 20 minutes.” After I caught wind that I had been slandered to the vice president, I sent Arthur the same journal and invited him to compare it with Max’s report. Of course, he didn’t take me up on my offer. And he certainly didn’t clear my name with the vice president.
The lesson in question? “My favorite movie.” Talk about plot, characters, themes, etc. Movie genres. Drama, comedy, romance, etc. TV genres. Sitcom, talk show, talent contest, etc. Types of TV dramas. Family, medical, legal, etc. The teachers gives the students 3 genres, the students give the teacher more genres. First the students rely on their current vocabulary, then they use the dictionary. Name a famous romance movie. “Titanic.” Name a famous science fiction movie. “Transformers.” Etc. The teacher corrects the Chinglish vocabulary. Martial arts instead of kung fu. Animation instead of cartoon. Fantasy instead of magic. Etc. The teacher explains the difference between animation and cartoon. Animation is shown in a cinema, is 2 hours, and is for adults and children. Cartoon is shown on TV, is 30 minutes, and is for young children. The teacher explains that kung fu is only one type of martial art. In China, kung fu is popular. In Japan, karate. In Korea, tai kwan doe. Difference between a documentary and a docudrama. Sitcom means situation comedy. Etc. More vocabulary. Series, season, episode, scene, rerun, etc. About as conventional as it gets. Now about my runin with Arthur.
I showed videos to my students to explain the difference between literal and figurative language. It’s difficult to schedule multimedia rooms because everyone wants to use them. Also, I have 10 classes, so I would have to schedule a multimedia room 10 times on different days at different times. All my classes are in teaching building #4 and the Foreign Language Department is in teaching building #4, so I asked teacher A, who is in FLT, to introduce me to someone who might be able to let me store my flat screen TV in a locked room.
Teacher A introduced me to Richard, an office supervisor on the 4th floor. Richard locked and unlocked a storeroom for me on Monday and Tuesday. But he was out of town on Wednesday. So he introduced me to Mr. Yan, whose office is next to the storeroom and who also has the key. I told Mr. Yan I had class at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and asked him if he would be in his office at 9:30 a.m. to open the storeroom. He said yes. But Mr. Yan was not in his office on at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, so I had to scramble find someone else with the key.
During lunch on Wednesday, I asked one of the maids to keep my classroom door locked so no one could steal my TV. But I noticed that most of the maids will open the classroom doors for anyone without any questions. Not being able to rely on Richard, Mr. Yan, or the maids, I took my TV home after classes on Wednesday. On Friday, I did not want to take my TV into the rain. So I showed the students videos in my apartment.
I could not ask Max for help with this situation because I was avoiding Max. Max’s involvement in this situation was to spy on me, call me, bark at me, hang up before I could explain, and report me to Arthur. I could not ask Arthur, Karl, or the Program A supervisor for help with Max because they had all repeated sent a clear message to everyone throughout the semester that they were going to protect Max no matter what. I promised the students videos. I had to keep my promise or they might complain about me. And who would they complain too? That’s right, Arthur.
I didn’t have to avoid supervisor B. Supervisor B would have helped me and I could have showed videos in the classroom on Friday. Take Max out of the formula and there is no problem.
Arthur emailed me expressing disapproval about moving the Friday lesson to my apartment, but it wasn’t clear from the message that he wanted to meet with me, so I didn’t answer him. He sent me another message making it clear that he wanted to meet with me. By then, I had already been notified by the FAO that my contract would not be renewed.
Moving to another school is a major logistical process. Updating your resume, searching the job boards, customizing your resume and cover letter in response to various ads, downloading attachments, checking the message boards and corresponding with current and former teachers about the schools where you’re applying; two trips to the next school, one for a medial exam and foreign expert certificate and one for a visa transfer; sorting through, organizing, and shipping your bags; rounding up translators to visit the ticket offices and delivery services; responding to government office request for additional documentation.
And throughout this process, you can’t walk away from your teaching duties at your present school. I was also working on a business English workshop, a bilingual vocabulary book, a movie seminar, and other projects, not to mention trying to partner with Chinese friends on starting a language school. To say the least, I was preoccupied. Plus the climate was having a devastating affect on my health.
I started writing Arthur a letter, but after 4 or 5 paragraphs, I was just too tired and too busy, so I didn’t finish it. If he had something to say to me, he could email it. And if he wanted to know why I moved my lesson, I would have been glad to send him the background when I got caught up on everything else. Besides, he knew I was leaving, so I was suspicious why it was so important to him to meet with me.
He persisted with another letter. All 3 of these letters were Max, not to me directly. Well, the last letter through Max was on a Monday morning. When he didn’t hear from me Monday morning, he contacted me through the Program A director on Monday afternoon. He wanted to meet with me on Tuesday afternoon. I had classes all day Monday and all day Tuesday. Sometimes I didn’t even turn my computer on from Sunday until Wednesday.
Then Karl got in on the act. Both times Karl demanded a meeting with me, he wanted me to come to his office the same day. First they make me busy by taking away my job, then they expect me to meet their unreasonable scheduling demands. Arthur portrayed my refusal to meet with him as disrespect. But the simple fact is, I was just plain busy.
In addition to looking for another job, I had to plan my visit to America. One of my relatives had sold my parents house and vehicles and moved everything I own into storage, all without my knowledge or permission. Spending time in America without a room and a car was yet another logistical problem. And here these guys were dragging me into their pathetic, egotistical drama.
Considering Arthur knew I was leaving in a few weeks, he was trying way too hard to get me into his office. I was going to finish out the semester quietly and move without making an issue of Max and without blacklisting the school. But Arthur wasn’t going to let it go. He was determined to pick a fight with me, so I through down the gauntlet at him.
I gave him an ultimatum. Either address Max’s behavior and undo the damage Max had done, or I would blacklist the school with a long, detailed, embarrassing report about Max and their refusal to deal with him. He responded by going to the vice president and asking her to expel me.
(When I met with Karl, he took me to see the vice president. As FAO Director, Karl has executive authority and therefore doesn’t need permission to expel a foreign teacher. Being more cautious than Arthur, Karl didn’t want the situation with Max to spill over onto the Internet, especially during recruiting season. Arthur is an academic director and therefore doesn’t have the authority to fire employees, so he appealed to the vice president, who is his and Karl’s supervisor. I’m piecing this together, plus what I got through the grapevine.)
Meanwhile I wrote to the Program A supervisor. Here are some excerpts: “I’ve been keeping notes on the situation with Max in case it ever came to this. No easy task since Max is constantly looking for trouble and always finding it.” “You, Arthur, and Karl have been drinking the koolaid all semester, protecting Max no matter how bad the situation gets and issuing straight faced, sanitized versions of some of the most appalling office politics I’ve every seen. So all of you made it clear there wasn’t anyone to appeal to about Max.”
“You’re universally admired and universally respected because you’re a great guy and a model supervisor. But I discovered another side to you this semester. Early on, you should have used your influence on Arthur and Karl to convince them they made a mistake by hiring Max and persuade them to cut their losses. Instead, you have allowed a rabbit dog to run rampant through the department barking at and biting people left and right and piling up carnage. I’m sure more than one person has gone into your office with horror stories about Max. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Outside that office, it’s much worse. Hardly a week has gone by without yet another story a foreign teacher having a runin with Max. And some weeks, it’s every day. You pretty much go from that office to your dorm room and back and don’t hang out much with the other foreigners. So let me clue you in. We can’t get away from it.”
“No such pattern under you, [supervisor B], or previous foreign supervisors, not even close. You need to watch that video. If Max acted in front of Arthur or Karl the way he acted in that video, they would call security and have him hauled out of their office. If he acted that way in front of students, the FAO would have his visa revoked. And if he treated you the way he’s treated the foreign teachers, well, I’m guessing you would have stopped drinking the kookaid a long time ago.”
Here’s something I meant to say and forgot to include in one of those letters: “Every other foreign supervisor, yourself included, has held a staff meeting every month. Have you ever wondered why Max has never held a staff meeting? All it would take is for one person to tell him one this he doesn’t like and he would unravel in front of everyone, just as he has unraveled so many times before. Then 35 teachers would be in Karl’s office demanding his resignation and threatening to quit. So he does his dirty work one on one, behind closed doors; no witnesses, no recordings, no paper trail.”
I later wrote to him to assure him I wasn’t ignoring Arthur. After rehearsing how busy I was and telling him about the aborted letter, I added, “All things considered, getting involved in yet another drama with yet another vindictive, scheming manager is just not a priority. If Arthur really wants to know what happened on the day in question, I’ll be glad to write up a memo with the full background - after I find another job, relocate, get back to America, set some things in order there, and get some rest. I’m not being sarcastic, he’ll just have to wait his turn in line.” Meanwhile, I sent all the foreign teachers copies of my earlier messages to the Program A supervisor.
Karl agreed not to expel me, but on the condition that I apologize for all my comments and on the condition that I meet with Arthur. My next paycheck was a few days away and I need to get to the end of the semester to get my airfare. So I issued an “apology” under duress.
When the semester was over, I sent another mass email to the foreign teachers: “It should come as no surprise to most of you that I issued that apology under duress because I was a few days away from my next paycheck and literally minutes away from being expelled. I waited to say this because I wanted to get my airfare and because I didn’t want a gap in my resume [ or a spot on my record, having never been expelled from a school and having never ran away from a school ].
It should also come as no surprise to most of you that Karl broke almost all the promises he made during that meeting. The only promise he kept was paying my airfare and last month’s salary, and the only reason he didn’t try to steal those is because I shut up for the rest of the semester and he thought he wouldn’t hear from me after I was gone.
It has become clear that Karl’s actions were calculated to make it as difficult and expensive as possible for me to find my next job in China [ and to make an example out of me ]. And he succeeded. Because I have to move to another school, because Karl waited so long to tell me my contract would not be renewed, because he refused to give me a recommendation letter, and because I could not get my work visa transferred while in China, I will have to spend at least 6000 yuan on travel, shipping, accommodation, and visa expenses. [ Add 2000 to that figure because train tickets were not available and because airfare is expensive ]
He, Arthur, and Max have wasted an enormous amount of my time, caused me an awful lot of stress, and distracted me from several major projects for an entire semester. They have done similar damage to the finances, careers, and peace of many other teachers. When Karl started targeting the Magick Café, I realized how far he is willing to abuse his position.
Some of you desperately want to insist that somehow all this is my fault, that surely all this is a big misunderstanding, or that I’m obviously not responding to the situation properly. I don’t have time to write an essay about the importance of holding people accountable for their behavior or an explanation for how the ESL community operates. Suffice it to say at this point, these guys are out of control and someone has to expose him for sake of everyone involved.”
I’m sure he still would have insisted I meet with Arthur, but for reasons I’ve already explained, I wonder if he would have expelled me if I refused to write an apology. It was a risk I wasn’t in a position to take. So I had to endure the humiliation until the end of the semester. Meanwhile I had to scramble to sort, pack, and ship my most valuable possessions in case of a worse case scenario.
Other promises were that I would not have to deal with Max, and that I would have no trouble getting my recommendation letter. He also told me the situation was resolved. But it wasn’t resolved. No sooner than we finished speaking, he hauled me upstairs to see the vice president. The next week, he also hauled me back into his office for some more finger shaking. He also wanted to know why I hadn’t issued an apology. I had sent the apology only a few hours after the previous week’s meeting. Turns out his foreign supervisors, who were so diligent to tattle when they have something negative to say about me, did not bother relaying the apology to him. Meanwhile, Max continued contacting me, so Karl obviously didn’t bother relaying our agreement.
Nor did I get a recommendation letter. As soon as I received notice that my contract would not be renewed, I asked for a recommendation letter. What I received instead was a proof of employment letter. I received a job offer and was told by the FAO at the other school that the letter was not good enough. I called the FAO and was told, “That’s the only letter we give to departing foreign teachers.” So I asked the other FAO to send them a form, thinking a form from FAO to FAO would clear up the confusion and speed up the process.
Karl sent the form to Arthur and Arthur agreed to fill out the form on the condition that I meet with him. Nor did Karl require other teachers to meet with Arthur to get a recommendation letter. Obviously Karl and Arthur arranged this as a trick to finally get me into Arthur’s office.
I tried for 3 weeks to get a recommendation letter. Other teachers got a recommendation letter in a few days. Later I saw the recommendation letter Karl provided to other teachers and it says something much different than the letter he gave me. It’s pretty obvious Karl never intended to give me a recommendation letter and it’s pretty obvious Arthur wouldn’t have given me one even if I had met with him.
Karl has been an FAO director for several years. He has given recommendation letters to many foreign teachers. He has received recommendation letter requests from FAOs all over China. He has requested recommendation letters from FAOs all over China. He has submitted many recommend letters to government officials. He is far too fluent, far too intelligent, far too perceptive to claim he doesn’t know the difference between a proof of employment letter and a recommendation letter. To suggest otherwise is to imply he is completely incompetent.
No, he knew all too well what was at stake for everyone involved. He led me on, pretending to help me, assuring me every step of the way that everything would be OK, delaying the process as long as possible, hoping that by the time I discovered what he was doing, it would be too late, that I would not have time to transfer my visa while still in China. Meanwhile, he not only got me to stop criticizing him, he got me to renounce criticizing him. I’m unemployed and financially devastated, he still has his job and his behavior has cost him nothing. Well played! Very wicked, but very cleaver.
I went to Arthur’s office a few minutes after meeting with Karl. He was there, but didn’t talk to me. A couple of weeks later, I went to his office again, but he was out of town. I finally sent this letter to his secretary: “I have been to Arthur’s office twice. I’m not going to his office again. If he has something to say to me, he can send me an email. If he’s curious about moving my classroom, I told the whole story to my translator. If my translator is willing and has time, he can go to Arthur’s office and explain the situation in Chinese. Otherwise, Arthur will have to wait until I have time this summer to write a full report.
I have met with Karl twice and I have met with the vice president once. I’m not going to any more meetings. I have sent you 4 mails, I have sent Eric 3 emails, and I have sent Karl 1 email and given him 1 one paper letter. I’m not sending any more emails. I have done everything Karl has told me to do. I’m not issuing any more apologies, signing any more documents, or complying with any other demands.
Furthermore, I have 3 heart conditions. These heart conditions do not prevent me from traveling the world or teaching English, but my heart cannot endure intense physical exertion or intense emotional stress. A few weeks ago was one of the most stressful periods of my life. I almost had a heart attack several times during that period. No matter who Arthur is or what he wants, he’s not important enough for me to have a heart attack.
Furthermore, I’m busy transferring to another school and planning important personal business during my summer visit to America. I have to be responsible with my time, my health, and my career. So I’m not going to any more meetings or responding to any more correspondence.”
That background report on the week I showed videos, I had that translated. I didn’t send it to him. He obviously didn’t want to know why I moved my classroom, nor did he care whether Max’s report about me was accurate. Now about Karl’s attacks against the Magick Café.
First off, let’s set the record straight about a several things. The Magick Café owners are both Chinese. One owner has a wife and a baby. The baby recently had heart surgery. The other owner has a full time job during the week and manages the café on weekends. The Magick Café has yet to make a profit.
The manager is not and never has been the owner, nor has he ever received a salary. He started the café as a Chinese-western cultural exchange project and an expat community service, not as a get rich scheme. His volunteer work at the café was in no way a violation of his contract.
The Magick Café is not in any way, officially or unofficially, owned by, operated by, or associated with the school. The Magick Café does not in any way have an adverse affect on the school. Indeed, the campus cultural exchange association lists activities at the café as a method for achieving their goal and their website includes a crowd of students on the patio of the café with the manager and the cook.
The Magick Café is completely out of Karl’s jurisdiction. Karl abused his position to attack a Chinese owned business as a way of taking revenge on a foreign teacher. If nothing else proves Karl is out of control, his attacks against the Magick Café certainly do.
It all started when they made teacher M, the Magick Café manager, the Program B supervisor. He didn’t want the job and didn’t apply. He told them no several times, but they badgered him into it. He described the position as, “The kiss of death.”
Well, during his tenure, he had a runin with Karl and a runin with Arthur. These 2 guys were enemies until then. They started cooperating when they opposed him.
Foreign supervisors aren’t contracted to work during the summer break, but Arthur wanted him to do paperwork in July. He agreed but wouldn’t work for free, as some foreign supervisors do. He estimated the paperwork would take about 10 days.
Karl tried to calculate his July pay according to 10 straight days, which would mean 1/3 of a month’s pay. But teacher M, now supervisor M, knew better. Managers and office workers don’t work weekends. Karl and Arthur work Monday through Friday, as do the FAO staff, the EEC supervisors, and the EEC secretary. Working 10 days meant supervisor M would remain on campus 2 weeks and that’s half a month’s pay.
Supervisor M threatened to appeal to the president, but Karl wouldn’t budge. Supervisor M said, “Why are you forcing me to do this?” But Karl still wouldn’t budge. The president sided with supervisor M and Karl held a grudge from then on.
This president also supported the Magick Café as a place for cultural exchange. But when a new president was in office a few years later, it was payback time and the Magick Café manager’s contract was not renewed. 5 years without missing or being late for a class meant nothing.
When he asked Karl why his contract wasn’t renewed, the reason Karl gave was teacher M’s association with the Magick Café. When he offered to walk away from the Magick Café, Karl told him, “The decision has already been made.”
(I won’t speculate what Karl planned to do with rest of the money. Suffice it to say, if it remained in the school budget, he would have no motive to fight so hard. Indeed, he would have no motive to recalculate the pay in the first place.)
The runin with Arthur involved a impending major scheduling disaster. Instead of counselors or the EEC moderating the process, students were allowed to schedule their own English lessons. Too many students signed up for English lessons during periods when every foreign teacher was already scheduled with other students. The solution was to get more foreign teachers or tell the students to reschedule.
Anyway, supervisor M warned Arthur and told him to deal with situation before it came to a head. Arthur ignored his warning, then tried to blame the fallout on supervisor M. At this point supervisor M got fed up and went back to teaching.
No sooner than Karl did his dirty work on the Magick Café manager, he approached the Magick Café’s cook in the teachers dining hall and said, “It wouldn’t be in your best interest to go to the Magick Café.” Talk about a classic veiled threat! This is beyond reactionary. This is beyond vindictive. This was outright thuggery. The cook chose his paying job over his volunteer job and informed the Magick Café manager that afternoon.
Well, a couple of weeks later, the former cook was in Karl’s office and Karl quoted something the former cook said in the Magick Café about his resignation. The quote was word for word. Of course, this means Karl has a spy reporting to him about activities in the Magick Cafe. Back to Max.
Teacher J was a new arrival. He was scheduled to replace teacher L. But teacher L wasn’t leaving for another week. During teacher J’s first trip to Max’s office, he says to Max, “I don’t want to be idle for a week. If you can round up a ladder, I can paint your office.”
The next time teacher J goes to Max’s office, Max is in the hall dancing a goofy jig and pointing at his office, with an expression on his face that says, “I have something to show you.” They step into the office and Max gestures “Ta-ha!” at a ladder. But he changes his mind and sends an email to teacher J saying, “I-DON’T-WANT-YOU-TO-PAINT-MY-OFFICE.”
(Let me pause here and say that stories involving other teachers are related as they were told to me. I was diligent to ask followup questions in an effort to get the stories completely straight, but I can’t guarantee any of these stories are 100% accurate. If I recall the teacher J story correctly, he used to be a professional painter. And if I recall correctly, he was baffled by Max’s sudden reversal and pressed Max for an explanation, leading to the shrill email. I talked to these teachers on their timeframe and took notes on my timeframe and we all had our hands full with management problems. So there might be a few details off and a few details missing. But the accuracy rate is 95% or above. If anyone in management offers their version, I’ll be glad to include it without censorship.)
Max is observing one of teacher W’s lessons. During the break, teacher W goes downstairs to hang out with some other foreign teachers. Max follows teacher W downstairs and hovers as the teachers are talking. Max is the only person present who doesn’t find this situation creepy.
Max’s early response to complaints about his behavior was to email this message to the Program B teachers: “Please remember that... the old guy from American wearing suspenders, baggy pants and a stringy ponytail ALWAYS welcomes dreams and schemes, suggestions and contentions, comments and complaints, requests and rejoinders.. especially those which helpt benefit _all_ ProgBers. Of course, I will 'read' your ecorrespondence; however, I'd prefer for you to visit the ProgB office in order to 'tell' me your ideas.
Thank ye. BTW, below the signature-block is the too-short-of-a-list of suggestions/comments which were received during WEEK 3. Those "italicized" were spoken; those marked with < > were written.”
-- "I think that we should be assigned only one classroom; that way, we could arrange and decorate the room to suit an entire semester of classes."
-- "Don't be so confrontational."
-- "That slob of a co-worker - please, fire him... now!"
-- "A class with an equal proportion of male and female students is usually a better combination than a class with only male or only female students. Ask TAO (Teaching Affairs Office) to assign male and females students to our courses."
-- "Relax. Not _every_body hates you."
-- "I think that we should not be assigned one classroom. I don't mind moving between classes - as long as it's not from building-to-building."
-- Eat dead cockroaches and die.*
* Neither written nor spoken - but I got the 'message'.
Another response was to invite some of the teachers to his office for a feedback interview. After one of these interviews, he left a note on the teacher’s dorm door: “Thanks for your feedback. We have lost some battles, but the war against idiocy and absurdity will be won.”
Having lost several teachers early on because of his own behavior, he proceeded to assign overtime til the FAO could find replacements. No, he didn’t put out a call to anyone eager for overtime. He just notified them. Some of them refused to accept overtime, reminding him they were teaching the maximum allowed in the contract. He responded to one of them: “Find me a teacher to replace the one who will lose their day off because you refused to take this class.”
Max finally held a staff meeting at the end of the semester to explain final exam and score procedures. The room where he conducted the meeting was already booked. A Chinese teacher had been using that room all semester. She and her students showed up and found their classroom occupied by 3 dozen foreigners. Guess Max forgot to put a note on her dorm door.
After I issued my public “apology,” Max continued contacting me, but adopted a conciliatory tone. After the staff meeting, he said to me, “Thanks for coming.” Then he sent me this email: “Thank you attending and being so attentive during yesterday's ProgB Teachers' Meeting. (To be honest, I was surprised to see you; and yet, very glad, indeed.)”
I had a responsibility to administer final exams and submit scores. I had to attend the meeting and pay attention to fulfill my responsibilities. Max did not factor into that decision. If he thought I took my cues from him, he was into some serious confusion.
When I sent a mass email with directions to the electronics accessory market, he answered, “Thanks for the directions to that electronic-appliance neighborhood. The DVD player that you sold me [last semester] is still a workhorse; of course, it'll eventually expire and need replacing. When that time comes, I'll consider shopping in that neighborhood.” Similar response when I sent a mass email with directions to the new Burger King. At one point, he even knocked on my dorm door to offer me watermelon.
My strategy in all these situations was to ignore him. The only way to deal with him is to not deal with him because dealing with him is a losing proposition. And my stand had not changed - his behavior was unacceptable, he was not qualified for the position, and he needed to resign.
Let’s switch to something more serious. Namely Friday afternoon classes and spying.
One of the major reasons foreigners come to China is to explore Chinese culture. How are they supposed to explore Chinese culture if they can’t travel and how are they supposed to travel on weekends if they have Friday afternoon classes?
When I expressed this sentiment to supervisor B, he explained that only newcomers have Friday afternoon classes. As a newcomer, I had Friday afternoon classes in the fall semester, but I could look forward to Friday afternoons off in the spring semester. The catch here is that supervisor B was leaving at the end of the fall semester.
I asked supervisor B if he had passed that policy on to Max during Max’s training. He said yes. I followed with Max at the end of the fall semester and the week before the spring semester. His response: “We’re here to work.” He gave me Friday afternoon classes.
Max spied on people almost every Friday afternoon. This was the only period of the week that he consistently spied on people.
Where was Max on the Friday afternoons he didn’t spend spying? Every month, for 4 months in a row, he closed the Program B office to give himself a 3 day weekend. One of those 3 day weekends involved a Monday. The other 3 involved a Friday. And what was Max doing during those 3 day weekends?
After all that’s been said about Max, do I really need to point out that other supervisors haven’t used their position to hypocritically take so many liberties with their schedule?
Over 7000 words and there are plenty more horror stories and antics. Maybe later. For now, let’s close with a conversation between me and a package delivery service manager that went something like this:
“Why are you leaving Pei Zheng?” “Various reasons.” “But mostly because of Max?” “I’m not the first foreign teacher you’ve talked to who’s leaving because of Max, am I?” “Right.”
I need to emphasize that the situation at Pei Zheng College is not the result of the typical culture clash foreign teachers encounter in China. It is the result of Chinese and foreign managers being way out of control.
Furthermore, these managers have been confronted many times, in person and in writing, by me and many other foreign teachers, therefore they have had the issues repeatedly rehearsed for them at great length. Also, I warned them more than once I would write this report if they didn’t change their behavior.
They understand everything that has been said to them. In the case of the Chinese managers, both speak English and one is fluent. Even if they don’t completely understand what has been said to them, they have an abundance of competent translators available to clarify any misinterpretations and plug any gaps. They also have foreign supervisors who can answer questions.
I emphasize this because all of them have proven themselves to be very good at pretending they don’t know what happening in their school and pretending they don’t recognize the implications.
I wrote most of this with a raging toothache, so expect typos. And pardon the extremely crude format til I find a webmaster and affordable hosting.
I can’t strategize with you, answer your questions, or give you advice. I can only provide you with information.