Monday, April 27, 1998

THE 1998 IVC ACCREDITATION WHITE-WASH

Among the many chapters of the Raghu P. Mathur saga is his and his friends’ efforts to submit rosy and bowdlerized reports to the agency charged with assessing Irvine Valley College.

In the Spring of ’97, not long after Mathur’s illegal appointment as interim President of IVC, Professor Rebecca Welch, who had been serving as the chair of the college’s accreditation “self-study,” resigned in protest over Mathur.

At some point thereafter, Mathur appointed his crony (and union Old Guard pal) Ray Chandos as chair. By law, the chair of this committee is jointly decided by the Academic Senate and the college President. The senate held a vote in which Connie Spar was chosen by a wide margin over Ray. This did not stop Mathur from appointing Chandos as head of the Accred self-study.

What follows are bits of some news articles and then an article from the Dissent.

4/2/98
Controversy arises over Chandos appointment
By Jason Chittenden
Staff Writer [The Voice]

Contributing to the tension on campus, Irvine Valley College President Raghu Mathur appointed Ray Chandos as Accreditation Self-Study Chair on March 23 despite the Academic Senate's vote of 15-4 in support of Connie Spar for the position….

4/21/98
College: Harsh report softened?
EDUCATION: Committee members say south- county accreditation report was altered.


By KIMBERLY KINDY
The Orange County Register

Harsh criticisms directed at the embattled South Orange County Community College trustees were removed from a draft report prepared for Irvine Valley College's accreditation review, according to district records released Monday….

[Kindy's article included the following comparison: Original draft vs. Chandos' draft:]

HOW DRAFT REPORT DIFFERS FROM ORIGINAL

ORIGINAL
"General community perception of the current board majority holds that (it) ... is not an 'independent body' but rather operates at the whims of a small vocal group of faculty, notably the faculty union leadership."

DRAFT
"...the board is an independent policy-making board capable of reflecting the public interests..."

ORIGINAL
"...this board has repeatedly violated the California Open Meetings Act ... such repeated violations have resulted in additional lawsuits now underway and in a general breakdown of confidence."

DRAFT
Statement was omitted from draft report.

ORIGINAL
"In the past, the board has interviewed the chancellor's final recommended candidates. More recently the board has instead directed the selection process itself..."

DRAFT
"The governing board selects the college president under the employment procedures for executive positions, and delegates the evaluation of the president to the district chancellor."

ORIGINAL
"The president (Irvine Valley College President Raghu Mathur) makes every effort to review budgets and expenditures, though his unfamiliarity with college-wide budgeting and state fiscal concerns requires him to rely extensively on the advice of others, notably, specific board members' preferences..."

DRAFT
"The president is well informed of state allocations and other income projections early in the budget development cycle." [End]


4/22/98
College District's Self-Evaluation Draft Draws Fire for Its Omissions
• Education: Critics say items critical of South Orange County trustees were omitted from the faculty administration report being sent to accreditation agency.


By ROBERT OURLIAN
TIMES STAFF WRITER

…Critics of the majority of the Board of Trustees charge that a draft report of a "self-evaluation" prepared by faculty and administrators was altered to remove lengthy passages critical of trustees.

The editing—while not illegal—shows an attempt to cover up problems at Irvine Valley College, one of the campuses administered by the South Orange district, critics charged….

4/25/98
College District Not at Risk, Trustees Say
• Education: leaders offer assurances on quality and accreditation after the latest flap, over criticism edited from a report.


By ROBERT OURLIAN
TIMES STAFF WRITER
Leaders of the South Orange County Community College District hastened to offer assurances Friday that educational quality is being maintained and that accreditation is not at risk as students threatened to leave the district to attend other colleges...Criticism is intensifying over faculty contentions that a draft college accreditation report on the school system's administration was "sanitized" when criticism of trustees was removed. But administrators said the process has retained its integrity....

5/1/98 OC Weekly
A Clockwork Orange
by Matt Coker


ERASER HEAD: Stinging criticism of the South Orange County Community College District board of trustees was reportedly removed from a self-evaluation prepared by a committee of faculty students and staff for Irvine Valley College's accreditation review, it was disclosed on April 20. Key passages detailed board micromanagement and violations of the state open-meeting law. Language blaming the district's state financial-watch status on the board's refusal to heed the advice of its own financial experts was apparently excised. The Irvine Valley professor who headed the eight-member committee reportedly said he edited many statements out of the report for length's sake. But it wasn't short enough for trustees, who complained the sanitized version was still too critical of them. Accreditation officials invited committee members to send them an alternative report if they believe the final version is inaccurate....

* * * * *

From Dissent 6, 4/27/98

[UNTITLED—“CHANDOS & Press conference”]

BIG BILL REPORTS…


By Big Bill

I went to the district press conference on the 24th of April, but I was late, ‘cuz I got a speeding ticket. The cop was nice--she warmly thanked me for my cooperation. And then she handed me a big fat ticket.

So I entered the smallish Chancellor’s Conference Room at about 12:10--just as Williams was reading his “statement” defending IVC Accreditation Chair Ray Chandos’ edits of the assembled drafts from the various IVC standards committees. The resulting document, submitted to the Board on Monday (4/20), had received very negative media coverage throughout the week.

For those who don’t know, I should explain that Raghu Mathur appointed his pal Ray to the office of Chair of Accreditation against the recommendation of the IVC Academic Senate, which preferred the excellent and non-partisan Connie S. (Connie received 15 votes, Ray 4.) As usual, the Ragshire Cat dismisses the charge that he has once again ignored the Senate’s input despite the law, which, in this instance, states that the selection of an accreditation chair shall be made by the President and the Senate together. Indeed, Mr. Goo had chosen Ray and pronounced him “accreditation chair” in a memo sent [to the Senate president] before senators had a chance to vote on the two candidates.

Many of us fully expected Chair Chandos to water down specifically those elements of the ten committee drafts that were critical of Mathur and the Board Majority; after all, Ray has been an intimate member of a union leadership group, a gang that has declared, through its actions, contempt for any standards of decency and fair play. But few of us expected Ray’s fix to be so blatant, so naked, for Ray has sanitized the drafts of any significant criticisms of his friends.

Consider, for example, the job he did on the draft submitted by the standard 10 (governance) committee. What follows is the committee’s work and then Ray’s bowdlerized version:

The committee’s verbiage:

General community perception (10.2) of the current Board majority holds that this Board of Trustees is not an “independent body” but rather operates at the whims of a small vocal group of faculty, notably the faculty union leadership. Further, as local press, lawsuits (10.3), and other documents attest (10.4), decisions made by this Board are often not seen as being made in the “public interest,” but rather are viewed [sentence cut off in duplication] manner. The unfortunate national and international attention brought on by recent Board actions is not believed to be in the best interest of the communities served.

While the Board policies and state laws (10.5) dictate their need to “post agendas, establish a protocol for public comment on agendized and non-agendized items,” and to preserve minutes of all Board meetings, since December 16, 1996, this Board has been found to violate those requirements, necessitating “cure and correct” actions, and resulting in legal judgments against the district issued by the Superior Court of Orange County (10.6). Further, pursuant to seeking legal remedies, community members and counsel representing district employees have repeatedly requested relevant documents, particularly minutes of closed session meetings--which this Board does not make or retain as required by law. As the referenced lawsuits indicate, this Board has repeatedly violated the California Open Meetings Act by discussing in closed session matters expressly forbidden by law, and has conducted employee evaluations without the requisite prior notification of the individuals. Such repeated violations have resulted in additional lawsuits now underway and in a general breakdown of confidence and “trust across stakeholders’ groups” (10.8, p. 6).


Ray’s “edited” version:

The above mechanisms insure that the board is an independent policy-making board capable of reflecting the public interest in its activities and decisions, with continuity in membership and staggered terms of office.

—Wow.

[Inserted: from LA TIMES April 22, 1998:

The Accreditation commission is aware of the district’s problems—fiscal woes, a drain of top administrators, infighting over institutional governance and a trustee recall campaign—and will not be deceived “for three nanoseconds” by an inaccurate self-study report, [Judith Watkins of the WASC] said.]


This, of course, is only one example. There are many others. Nor are the “expurgations,” additions, and modifications confined to Standard 10, for other standards chairs have complained bitterly about Ray’s ham-fisted “edits” of the committee drafts. (For instance, Ray deleted a reference in the standard 3 draft to “low morale” among employees despite overwhelming evidence of enervation and demoralization provided by college and district surveys.)

Ray and his crew of defenders--all of them FA-affiliated--have suggested that the committee drafts sometimes expressed idiosyncratic political views of individual faculty. Ray, they argue, merely sought to shorten the drafts by eliminating undocumented claims and elements that did not respond directly to the appropriate questions. Clearly, however, many of the deleted elements were directly responsive to the questions, were well-documented, and (for what it’s worth) reflected the views of many at IVC. Further, as the above example illustrates, Ray added rosy elements that did not originate with, and that even contradicted, the original committee drafts.

Way to go, Ray.

ANYWAY, I went to this press conference on the 24th. Three reporters had showed: Bob O. of the Times, Laura H. of the Irvine World News, and Bob S. of the Lariat. Williams was the only Trustee in attendance. Pam Zanelli and her hair were there, as were Kathie Hodge, Chandos, Dixie B. [I think], Dean Wormer of Faber, and Glenn Roquemore (interim IVC VP of instruction, and former IVC Accred. chair).

Williams’ reading of his (entertainingly underwhelming) Statement was followed by a few Q&As, but then there was a brief lull, and so I made my move: I said that I was there representing the SOCCCD Dissent and the IVC ‘Vine, and then I started to ask a question; but before I could complete it, Williams’ said he did not recognize me as a member of the media. I asked him why. He said, “‘Cuz,” or something equally erudite.

Not satisfied with that answer, I returned to my question; I asked, “In the case of Standard 10, Ray deleted the committee’s reference to the Board’s violations of the Brown Act; are you saying that this fact is not relevant to ‘governance’ or that it is not documented?”--or something to that effect. Williams sought to obscure or block my question through the clever gambit of loudly objecting as I spoke. I almost said, “I know you are but what am I?” Instead, I asked, “Are you gonna throw me out?” Williams said nothing. I said nothing. Everybody said nothing.

The other reporters eventually asked more questions. Bob Ourlian (who had read the original standard 10 draft plus Ray’s edit) noted that all of the deleted verbiage criticized the Board, and none of it praised the Board. He asked whether that pattern were coincidental. “Is that what you’re saying?” he asked.

The response, I think, was something like, “Bla bla bla bla.”

At some point, Glenn Roquemore seized upon the notion of “balance.” He said that it was Ray’s job to seek a balance, not just to present the views of one “side.” Eventually, Ourlian responded to Glenn’s theme by asking whether Glenn was saying this: to be objective, the report must have an equal measure of praise and of criticism of the board. (Later, Ourlian and I joked: “It’s a good thing these people weren’t in charge at Nuremberg: ‘Sure, these Nazi fellas did some bad things, but, hey, there were some real positives, too.’”)

Before Glenn could hiss “yes,” Kathie jumped in to say no; that’s not what they meant at all, she said, though, in truth, she did not shed much light on what they had in mind by this “balance” talk.

After a few minutes, Ourlian pointed at me and said, “Well, if Roy can’t ask questions, can I at least ask him some questions?” And he did.

He asked, I think, how faculty at IVC view Ray’s “edit” job. I seized the opportunity to say everything I was going to say anyway, to the horror of Williams, Zanelli, Wormer, et al. I explained that every member of the faculty to whom I have spoken thinks that Ray’s appointment was purely political. Ray is simply doing the bidding of Raghu and the Board Majority, thereby quidding the union’s pro quo. I described the dubious process by which Ray was chosen as Accred. Chair and of the resignation, 11 months ago, of the original chair, Rebecca Welch. (Rebecca had written a memo stating that, with Raghu as president, she no longer had faith in the integrity of the accreditation process.) I added that I disliked Zanelli’s ‘do, which seemed to threaten to sprout dangerously in all directions.

Bob S. seemed to be shocked--shocked!--at these allegations. If these charges--in particular, the “charge” that Chandos was appointed in the manner I described and that Chandos’ editing reflected bias--can be verified, he said, well, that’s pretty serious.

Eventually, Laura H. expressed her utter bewilderment at President Mathur’s appointment of Ray Chandos as chair of accreditation given IVC’s difficult political atmosphere. Why did he not confer with the Senate? Why did he appoint someone who, obviously, would be viewed as biased?

“Bla bla bla bla,” they said.

[INSERTED: from The Register April 21, 1998:

“As a student, I am very concerned that the accreditation team will potentially find major discrepancies between how the final reports portray the college vs. the actual condition of the college,” said Debie Burbridge, who attends Irvine Valley and Saddleback colleges.]


It is possible that Williams and his allies scheduled the press conference in part because the “protest” movement at IVC is rapidly gaining momentum. Not only have three successful “marches” been staged, but students have begun to express concerns about IVC’s accreditation status in classes and in the student newspaper, the Voice.

I have been told that, during President Mathur’s recent visit to the School of Physical Sciences and Basketweaving, he characterized faculty and staff who have participated in the marches as “despicable.”

Now, some say that “despicable” is Daffy Duck’s tag line, but I am among those who demur; surely everyone knows that it is the endearing tag phrase of Sylvester Cat (contra-Tweety-Bird). Dissent would like to get this straight, so we would appreciate any help in this regard.

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