Chuck is a broken record

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His negative tone and skewing of facts consistently undermines any good points he makes. He comes across as arrogant and rude. The constant attacks on the agency, the "I have all the answers" attitude, and the conspiracy-theories of cover-up and misdirection among agency management are old. It is time to recognize that the vast majority of Peace Corps employees (staff and management, domestic and overseas) work hard in the best interest of the agency.

Serving in the Peace Corps is not a right and everything is not about the Volunteer. Ask most RPCVs and they agree: the customer is the host country that invites the Peace Corps in to their land. Volunteers are the delivery mechanism and there is a great side benefit to the program in the experience that these individuals gain. Read the 3 goals of the Peace Corps and notice it never is about the volunteers directly.

65.205.231.25016:58, 11 May 2011
 

The anonymous comment above about the statement we submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee comes from the Peace Corps Headquarters. Just google “65.205.231.250” and you can confirm that this is a Peace Corps IP address. (See http://www.ip-adress.com/ip_tracer/65.205.231.250) Indeed, the comment appears to be the official position of the Peace Corps regarding the statement my wife and I submitted. Of course, you learn a great deal about the Peace Corps when you see how its responds to its critics. And in this case, you see that its typical response is to attack the messenger instead of responding to the message. This sounds like how the Peace Corps deals with rape victims. Perhaps the Peace Corps would explain the causal link between the Peace Corps’ killing of whistle blower protections for Volunteers (included in the 2007 Dodd bill) and the murder by Peace Corps staff of Kate Puzey in 2009. It’s clear to us that she was murdered as much for Headquarter’s actions and policies as for what happened in Benin. Perhaps it would explain why the Peace Corps issued its first whistle blower rules the same day of the 20/20 expose – 33 years after the rest of the government adopted whistle blower rules. Perhaps it would explain why the Peace Corps has taken 50 years to adopt sensitive and professional policies regarding sexual assault. Perhaps it would explain why there have been 35 countries with a 40% early quit rate – Volunteers talking with their feet. And perhaps it would comment on why it refuses to divulge the country-by-country responses of the Volunteers – information that is vital to applicants deciding whether or not to accept an invitation to serve. Comments on our analysis and the merits of our policy recommendations are welcome. Chuck Ludlam RPCV Nepal – 68-70 RPCV Senegal – 05-07 Founder Friends of Nepal

ChuckLudlam21:42, 11 May 2011
 

Sure I work for the Peace Corps. So do many other RPCVs. We all don't agree with everything the leadership has done over the years, but it is just silly for you to take one person's opinion and say it is the official position of the organization. And your continued negative attitude also attacks all the fine people that work for this agency. You want personal attacks? Every single person you have interacted with while trying to be a volunteer again a few years back can affirm what I giant pain in the ass you are. This is all about you and what you want. You have burned all the bridges you had on the Hill. Can't you understand there are plenty of RPCVs that think this isn't but them and it is about the mission and the communities overseas? Get a life Chuck.

65.205.231.25019:59, 12 May 2011
 

In terms of “getting a life,” I’ll shortly be filing a Federal lawsuit against the Peace Corps for refusing to produce the country-by-country results of the agency’s 2009 and 2010 surveys of the Volunteers under FOIA. I’ve recruited a top national law firm to handle the case pro bono. The lead-up to the lawsuit tells us a lot about the Peace Corps. When I filed a FOIA request for the 2008 country-by-country survey results, the Peace Corps ruled that I had a right to these documents under FOIA, but I would have to pay thousands of dollars for the Peace Corps to download and email them to us (77 documents). I gave the FOIA officer the URL on the Peace Corps intranet so she’d have no difficulty finding and downloading the documents. But she refused to lower or waive the cost of production. Rather than pay the exorbitant costs, I got a staff whistle blower in the agency to email me the country-by-country results. It took about 1 minute for them to do so. I then published the country-by-country results online – PeaceCorpsWiki – in a spread sheet that enables applicants to rank the countries top to bottom on the questions. This is critical information that tells the applicant whether they’ve been invited to serve in a well or poorly managed country. (Our analysis of the 2008 survey finds that only about 15 countries were well managed.) In late 2010, I filed a FOIA request for the 2009 and 2010 survey results and the country-by-country and program-by-program break outs with the intention of updating the spread sheets. This time the Peace Corps flat out denied the request. I understand why. The Peace Corps actively discourages applicants from asking penetrating questions about the country to which they’ve been invited, implying that if the applicant doesn’t accept the invitation they might never get another. So the last thing it wants is for the applicants to be able to rank the countries. Of relevance here is that fact that in response to another FOIA request of mine, the Peace Corps has admitted that it invites 97%-98% of the applicants who survive the medical selection process to training. In other words, there is no surplus of applicants. This gives the Peace Corps a powerful incentive to keep the applicants uninformed and compliant. From my perspective, it would be a good thing if the Peace Corps found it difficult to fill its quotas for the lowest ranking countries. Then it would have an incentive to intervene to reform these programs. One of the many ironies in the agency’s refusal to produce the 2009 and 2010 country-by-country survey results is that two weeks before the Peace Corps willingly produced for me (under FOIA) the country-by-country early quit rates (the ET rates). This is the first time this information has become public (posted on Wiki). The results show that there are 35 countries that have had a 40% or greater ET rate, a sure measure of extreme dysfunction in these countries. From my perspective, it would be a good thing if applicants balked at being posted in a country with such a high ET rate. Again, the Peace Corps would have a powerful incentive to intervene to reform these countries. (We have found a powerful correlation between the countries with high ET rates and those with poor survey results.) Given the fact that the Peace Corps has now produced the country-by-country ET rates, on what basis can it then rule that I’m not entitled to the country-by-country survey results? A bizarre inconsistency. We will surely win our lawsuit to force production of these documents and we will also establish that the Peace Corps is one of the most secretive agencies of the government. As we have seen in the testimony of the victims of rape and assault and Kate Puzey’s mother, the Peace Corps has a lot to hide. Perhaps our Peace Corps staff blogger would persuade the Peace Corps to produce these documents. Alternatively, he or she could act as a whistle blower and email the documents to me so we can update the spread sheets and empower the applicants. Chuck Ludlam

ChuckLudlam17:26, 13 May 2011
 

I'm all for open government and such. The issue with country level survey data, however, is confidentiality. In some countries, the numbers are low enough that looking at the data can give you a pretty good idea on how people responded at an individual level. That's not cool. But country summary level stuff should be out.

Ranking posts just by this survey is not totally fair. This is one perspective - the volunteer respondent. There is a lot that can skew that and just "ranking" posts is not the way to go. There are other issues that go into all of these results and what a good posts is about than just volunteer opinion at one point in time.

Understand the on-boarding process: you apply, if you pass initial screening you get nominated. Once nominated, you go through legal/background check, medical clearance, and more assessment. If you get all through that, you get invited. So not fair to compare # that clear medical to the # invited. Only about 1/3 of applicants ever get to serve.

ET rates are at the lowest levels of the history of Peace Corps. In the late 60s, it was close to 60%. You are never going to get people to stop leaving early. Most that resign leave within the first 3 months. Better for them to go. Some leave around a year. That should be an issue of trying to make sure people have proper incentives to stay at this point. Another bunch leave around 20 to 24 months, because they have accomplished much of what they will and have other things (school, jobs) come up. The majority of people that resign do so for personal/family reason.

65.205.231.25020:12, 13 May 2011
 

Just a quick note regarding the statement above, that most that "resign leave within the first 3 months." Last month when I filed a written complaint and request for whistle-blower protection against retaliation regarding health and safety concerns as a Trainee, I was pulled out of class in Kenya and given the choice of "resign or be administratively separated." I didn't leave on my own accord. I didn't want to leave early, particularly when I was only four days away from being sworn-in. The bigger point is Peace Corps culture of shutting up those who question or raise concerns, however valid, with an order of 15 minutes to pack and a quick plane ticket out. And this just three days after filing my complaint and whistle-blower request. Some serious reform is coming, and I applaud the work of Chuck, Paula, Will, and others who refuse to back down. Thank God for broken records.

71.165.237.1218:21, 12 September 2011
 
 
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