Monday, January 4, 1999

Classic Raghu Mathur: "I feel discriminated!"

THE MATHURIAN CANDIDATE: “I FEEL DISCRIMINATED!”: RAGHU’S REMARKABLE LETTER TO CHANCELLOR SNEED, OCT. ’89; by Chunk Wheeler [Dissent 15, 1/4/99]

Theorists of the origins of our calamity inevitably point to, among other things, the remarkable career of one Raghu P. Mathur, the president of Irvine Valley College, and the only person in the history of the institution to have been censured for lying (4/5/94).


Raghu has been a player of sorts in our district almost from the beginning of IVC’s existence in 1979, when he began his single-minded quest for administrative glory. The fellow’s penchant, however, even in those early years, for duplicity and connivery earned him the enmity of IVC’s first president, the forthright and unforgiving Ed Hart. Hart moved on in ‘86, but Raghu still failed to “advance,” and, owing to his paranoia and narcissism, he necessarily blamed the situation on others, most notably Terry Burgess, who, like Raghu, was hired as an instructor during IVC’s early days, but who, unlike Raghu, successfully made the shift to administration, where he flourished.


Raghu being Raghu, he responded to the situation by constructing a private reality in which he was continually thwarted by racists and those who envied his supposedly superior abilities. This fantasy was the germ of a conspiratorial Weltanschauung carefully fashioned by Raghu to appeal to some of his more insecure colleagues—people who do virtually no “shared governance” work on campus but who resent the “undo influence” of those who do. This world view is evoked and invoked even now by Raghu and his Mathurians. Naturally, when asked to defend it, these people have nothing of substance to offer. In this respect, they are like Mr. Frogue, with whom they are allied, and like conspiracy fans everywhere.


By 1989, Raghu’s self-promotional labors had profited him nothing, and so he appealed, not for the last time, to the Chancellor--this time in a letter. As you’ll see, the letter, which is reprinted below, is remarkable in many respects.


Judge for yourself. [See blue highlighting below.]

October 9, 1989...
Dr. Richard Sneed, Chancellor…


Dear Dr. Sneed:

I wish to document certain issues of interest and concerns [sic] to me and others at Irvine Valley College. I realize this is a long letter; however, I would appreciate your indulgence in full consideration of issues presented herein in the best interests of students of Saddleback Community College District.

Spring Schedule Development Process


With respect to the development of chemistry schedule [sic] for spring 1990, I received a memo during my summer vacation, in mail in late August, from Seth Hochwald, Chair, School of Physical Sciences, Math, and Technologies, that our input for chemistry schedule was due to him within a couple of days which I found to be suspiciously short notice for such vital task [sic] of schedule development. So Walter Floser and I, two full-time chemistry instructors at Irvine Valley College, promptly called in our input to the school secretary. Within a week or so when the college opened for instruction, I received a spring schedule from the school secretary seeking staffing recommendations. Frankly I couldn’t even recognize the schedule as compared to what we had proposed. This obviously meant that our input was ignored. On friday, September 1, I met with Seth and asked him if this was indeed his recommended schedule to the administration. He said yes. I asked him if he had seen our input. He said no. I couldn’t believe that he was recommending only one section of Chem 1A for spring 1990 whereas we could fill 3 sections of Chem 1A considering a) what we have generally offered in the past and b) ensuing growth this year. Incidentally, we could have filled three sections of Chem 1A during fall ’89 but only two were allowed by Terry Burgess. We literally turned one section full of Chem 1A students away during Fall ’89 even though he had given me his word of honor last May that he would open an additional section of Chem 1A if needed which, of course, he did not. This proved to me that Terry Burgess is neither trustworthy nor responsive. On monday, September 4, I asked Seth again if this was indeed his recommended chemistry schedule for spring ’90. At this time he said he had nothing to do with it and, in fact, the schedule was pre-determined by Mas Hayashi, School Chair for Spring and Summer ’89 only, and Terry Burgess last May. So obviously Seth lied to me on friday, September 1. Furthermore, we are infuriated on why did Seth seek input from us in the first place when he knew that the chemistry schedule was already determined? Obviously Mas and Terry had predetermined chemistry schedule for spring 1990 without any input or consultation with chemistry instructors. We find this extremely insulting. We would like to know why was it so? We have inquired about this but we have gotten no answers from Mas Hayashi or Terry Burgess.

A Classic Conversation with Area Dean


Subsequently I met with Dr. Clella Wood, Area Dean, and asked her if she was at all aware of the Chair’s proposed chemistry schedule for Spring ’90. She stated no. This shows lack of communication and coordination between school chair and the area dean. In the meantime, she talked with Seth and then a few days later the following conversation occurred between her and me:

Raghu: Are you supporting one section of Chem 1A as proposed by Seth?

Clella: Yes, however, I could go along with offering two sections of Chem 1A if we cut Chem 2B as proposed by Terry. (Chem 2B is a course for nursing majors.)

Raghu: Do you know what the enrollment was in Chem 2B last year in the spring before you have apparently agreed to cut Chem 2B with Terry?

Clella: No. (In fact it was 21).

Raghu: Do you know how many sections of Chem 1A were offered last spring and what the enrollments were in those sections before your making a decision for next spring?

Clella: I believe 2 sections of Chem 1A were offered (when in fact three sections were offered). No, I haven’t checked the enrollment in those sections of last spring.

Raghu: Considering the fact that schools have historically received augmentation for new courses and/or programs, did you present our need for 18 hours of organic chemistry sequence of Chem 12A and 12B to the Instruction Council so that we could offer organic chemistry courses in our organic laboratory in this new physical sciences building in which you sit as dean?

Clella: I didn’t know that you needed OSH or that you needed to offer organic chemistry courses (for science majors) or that we have organic chemistry laboratory in this B200 building. You have never told me this.

Raghu: I had so informed the school chair about the augmentation need last spring. Didn’t he inform you as he should following channels of communcation?

Clella: No.

Raghu: Do you know if the augmentation issue for organic chemistry was ever brought up by the school chair in the Instruction Council meeting?

Clella: No (when in fact it was brought up but the dean was absent as I used to find her absent quite frequently when I attended these meetings regularly as school chair).

There you have it! This conversation exemplifies the existence of an utterly dysfunctional administration at IVC. You have an area dean who is not in touch with what’s going on in her building, in her division, and in instructional council meetings. I, as a past candidate for the dean position, cannot help but honestly feel that she was hired for the position not because she is knowledgeable and competent but because she is white. I feel discriminated. I feel extremely disturbed and angry. She is literally out to lunch several days each week for extended periods of time. She claims that she goes out to lunch meetings with business/industry leaders to develop contacts for IVC. Give me a break. If so, where are the results of such meetings? How many new vocational programs has she singlehandedly [sic] brought on line at IVC? There doesn’t seem to be any accountability of her whatsoever. Is this the kind of knowledge and performance expected and accepted by her bosses?

With respect to resolution of issues surrounding chemistry schedule for spring 1990 with Terry Burgess, certain characteristics of his leadership and management style have made significant impressions and have, in fact, painfully grieved me about the tremendous lack of instructional decision-making processes, trust, and respect at Irvine Valley College. It is with great reluctance and after much soul searching that I bring these concerns to your attention for deliberation and resolution, perhaps through better administration.

Administration By Misleading


Terry Burgess stated in a memo to Dr. McFarlin (see attachment II) that Seth Hochwald and Clella Wood had advised him that he cut the single section of Chem 2B (for nursing majors) from spring schedule and, therefore, he concurred with it. In fact after receiving the memo, when I inquired Seth and Clella if they had indeed so advised him, they denied it and stated that the recommendation had actually come from Terry and they (Seth and Clella) simply agreed with the recommendation. Incidentally, the agreement occurred without any consultation or discussion of the program by any of these three people with the full-time chemistry instructors and Chem 2B was summarily cut from the spring schedule. When I confronted Terry in the presence of Dr. McFarlin, Seth and Clella, he admitted that he had indeed lied in the memo and had deliberately mislead [sic] us. Furthermore, this shows that he is advancing his own bias against Chem 2B course by using Seth and Clella. He needs to learn to stop using people in this manner and instead institute a mechanism through which school chair and dean could work with faculty, discuss issues honestly and professionally, providing recommendations through win-win approach to problem solving that would best serve the short term as well as the long term educational needs of students in a globally equitable manner considering all departments and schools at IVC. In my judgement when administrators facilitate decision-making in this manner, they can help build a strong and productive team.

Administration By Hypocricy [sic]

Terry Burgess repeatedly states that he welcomes input from subject experts but, in this context, when we had given him our highest professional judgement to best serve student needs, I feel that it has met with direct criticism, immediate dismissal and indifference rather than deliberation, accomodation, and genuine compromise. Needless to say that his such behavior is clearly perceived as hypocritical.

Regarding Chem 2A/2B program for nursing majors, we, the chemistry instructors at IVC, have repeatedly asked him that he and Ev Brewer should jointly call a meeting of all the biologists, chemists, and nursing faculty in the district to evaluate and revise, as necessary, chemistry requirement for biology courses which serve as pre-requisite for entrance to nursing program but, not once, have we heard from him that he, as vice president of instruction, would be willing to provide leadership in this vital curriculum and instructional area. We have proposed that, in the meantime, Chem 2B be offered just one more time in spring ’90 as a continuation course for students in Chem 2A this fall semester. We feel that we have a moral obligation not to shortchange students who are already, so called, in the pipeline.

He has provided a lot of leadership in quadrupling the biology program in the last ten years at IVC whereas chemistry program has not been allowed to grow proportionately. Apparently it does not occur to him that a vast majority of biology students must take chemistry simultaneously to persue [sic] their educational goals. As vice president of instruction, I believe that it is his duty to provide leadership in strengthening all viable programs at IVC and if some programs are not growing as they should, he should investigate by working with concerned faculty and rectify the situation. Instead, so often (approximately 80% of the time) in the last three years, I have found him sitting in front of a computer terminal in his office managing data, which is important, but he needs to know that the real curriculum and instructional business occurs in the classrooms where he is rarely to be found. It is well known among faculty at IVC that he is not a people’s person.

When Annie advised us all to get together, discuss, and compromise, he sent his compromise proposal to me through Seth with the idea that the chemistry instructors should either accept it or forget it. No meeting of all concerned parties was called by him. Yes, I had discussed the issues with him earlier but to no avail and that’s why I had requested Annie’s intervention. After our meeting with Annie and all concerned parties, she had advised me to continue to meet with Terry to help resolve scheduling issues. In response to this, I scheduled a meeting with Terry for October 2 at 4:30 p.m. When Walter and I arrived for the meeting, we were told by Lorraine, his secretary, that Terry felt that the case was closed and there was no need for any further meetings and thus, he refused to meet with us. We were appalled. What a blow to communication! Is this the kind of behavior expected and accepted by his bosses? Such practices would reflect negatively on the Chancellor if they are allowed to continue. I believe that the communication should have still continued since the deadline for schedule to go to press was still a week away.

In a subsequent meeting on tuesday, October 3, called by Annie at my request, Terry Burgess states that he has “lost patience in dealing with chemistry schedule issues”. I reminded him that the schedule deadline was still a week away and I, for one, had not lost patience and was still available and willing to discuss and resolve the issues. Once again I asked him at this meeting that I would like to see the final chemistry schedule before it goes to press so that I could help ensure that the classes were scheduled in appropriate labs and times without any conflicts. He agreed to do so but he NEVER sent me a copy and the schedule was sent to press on October 9. Please ask him why was this so? I would like to know.

Administration By Unilateral Proclamation of Compromise


The compromise Terry suggested regarding spring schedule was unacceptable to chemistry instructors because just last May when the school was planning schedule of classes for the current school year, we had experienced a cut of 42 hours (approximately 30%) in chemistry program and his compromise proposal contained yet additional cuts. Thus, with his proposed additional cuts in Chem 2B and Chem 106, nursing chemistry and general chemistry programs faced significant destruction. In fact we have been concerned that his line of thinking would lead to total elimination of chemistry program for nursing majors, from Fall and Spring semesters, at IVC.

In fact, when I suggested a viable compromise in meeting with Annie and Terry on October 3, it was immediately discarded by Terry. Terry Burgess would be happy to tell you that he proposed compromise [sic] that the chemistry instructors would not accept; however, he fails to give any significant credence to our compromise proposal. Incidentally, Webster’s dictionary defines compromise as an “agreement between two parties”. In fact Terry has insisted on prevailing on his compromise “proposal” and has arrogantly walked away from the discussion table.

Administration By Arbitrary Decision Making Process


We have advised Terry Burgess repeatedly that he should not increase chemistry lab CAP from 28 to 30 students but he has done so arbitrarily with no regard for creating an overcrowded situation in laboratory [sic] where chemicals, which are inherently dangerous, are used for experimental purposes and, therefore, would endanger the health and safety of students, staff, and the instructors. I must state uncategorically [sic] to you that if this overcrowding situation is allowed to exist, Saddleback Community College District will be liable. Existence of dangerous conditions for chemistry may pose potential embarrasement [sic] to the Chancellor if IVC administration is allowed to make decisions with disregard for necessary checks and balances.

Terry Burgess states in a memo dated October 4 (see attachment III) that Seth, Clella, and he have agreed to raise the CAP from 28 to 30 students. As of friday noon on October 6, Seth told me that he did not support such an increase in CAP and had indeed told Terry so. Well, to me, this amounts to another lie from Terry. This is just another example of Terry using school chair’s [sic] name to advance his agenda. I wonder what he is advancing using the Chancellor’s name and possibly in the name of Board of Trustees.

Administration By Violation of District Policy


Chemistry instructors had proposed a section of Chem 106 (2 LHE class) for spring ’90 which Terry Burgess, Seth, and Clella had deleted without any consultation with us. We have offered Chem 106 for the last ten years to assist Chem 1A students with problem solving skills. When I asked Terry as to why he had deleted Chem 106, he stated that the course could be taught by us in our office hours. Upon our further insistence that the course was indeed a necessity for Chem 1A students (for example, Saddleback College is offering 5 sections of Chem 106 for its five sections of Chem 1A this Fall semester), he agreed to offer one section of Chem 106 on TBA basis, not so recommended by us and apparently set up for failure with a requirement that the class must have 25 students in it to go which, I believe, is in violation of district policy of 18 students. See attachment V in this regard.

Administration By Lack of Logic


Terry Burgess has scheduled 3 sections of Chem 1A on T Th; two of these sections are scheduled on 5:30 - 10:00 p.m. on T Th. Furthermore, Terry has scheduled 2 sections of Chem 1B on MW. Common sense would seem to suggest that it is preferable to spread out like classes over different week days and times to target different student populations as we had initially recommended. Apparently the classes were so scheduled so that they will not fill and then be cancelled later. I continued to question the wisdom behind offering same classes on same days and, especially the same times but logic is no where [sic] to be found. Now, all of a sudden, he has deleted the third section of Chem 1A without any discussion or notification to us. We had to send him a registered letter by mail asking that Chem 1B be scheduled in the appropriatae [sic] lab room before that was corrected. His such tactics amount to unnecessary harassment of professional people.

Administration By Failed School Chair Model


As far as I am concerned, the whole discussion and approach to schedule development and decision-making had been extremely deficient and rather chaotic and stressful. It has taken a lot of positive energy away from faculty working with their students in classrooms. Is it acceptable for school chair to abandon his responsibility for schedule development and transfer it to another faculty member? I believe not but it is being done in the School of Physical Sciences, Math, and Technologies at IVC. Do you know who is in-charge [sic] of school operations when a given school chair is teaching part of his/her load and/or overload classes? It is the secretaries who are serving as administrators by default. It points out clearly that the school chair model has failed miserably and should be immediately abandoned. Department chair idea can work in a large college or university, like, Saddleback College, along with division deans in the governance structure. A small college like IVC does not need school chairs and division deans. Different faculty members in a given school are being asked to serve as school chair on a rotational basis. School chairs are coming and going through a revolving door and, I feel that it is so because many of these faculty members cum school chairs have had absolutely no educational background in administration, are not experienced in performing administrative duties, and have not even had any aptitude for such responsibilities but they serve as school chairs because the position is rotational and it is now their turn to get burned out. Furthermore, it has had divisive influence, pitting faculty against faculty within the same school which would have its own far reaching consequences for the future. I understand the whole situation exceedingly well because I have served as school chair and have observed and discussed the situation with other school chairs. It is unfortunate that even though IVC is now aproximately [sic] 10 years old, its administrative channels of communication and decision-making processes are still rather primitive and urgently need professionalism, sophistication and class.

Administration By Lack of Leadership


I have found that even though Terry and I have discussed chemistry scheduling issues a few times, his positions on a vast majority of issues remain totally unchanged and nonetheless he wishes to embrace his self-proclaimed compromise. Such stubborness on one hand and the concept of compromise on the other hand just don’t match. In fact, such behavior shows arrogant abuse of power. Is this the spirit of AB 1725 in which faculty and administration are expected to mutually resolve academic issues? I ask once again is this the kind of behavior expected and accepted by his bosses?

Furthermore, to compound the complexity of the situation, chemistry schedule was sent to press without our knowledge and signing off on the final version. In other words, we knew of several discrepancies in the schedule and we have no idea whether they were adequately resolved but the schedule was sent to print. I ask how would such a schedule best serve students? We have asked Terry, Clella, and Seth repeatedly about our seeing the final copy but our requests have apparently been either ignored or denied. As of noon on friday, October 6, I stated to Seth that Walter and I have not yet seen the final chemistry schedule. He was surprised that Terry had not shared the schedule with us. I was surprised to hear from Seth that even he had not seen the final copy. The schedule went to print either that afternoon or was so scheduled to go on monday, October 9, 1989.

Administration By Lack of Instructional Support


This semester we are offering Chem 12A: organic chemistry course for science majors at IVC which is supposed to have 6 hours of lab component each week. Each week, since the semester started, no experiments are being done in this class because the school chair, area dean, and vice president of instruction have failed to plan adequately to get all needed chemicals and supplies for the course. It is evident that these students are not getting an education, they are getting a shaft! IVC stands to get a bad name as a result. Saddleback Community College District stands to get a bad name as a result. Does anybody care? We have tried to work with Terry Burgess for the last three years regarding equipping organic chemistry program but this is where we are today.

Conclusion


As you know, last year Clella Wood and I were candidates for the position of Dean of Physical and Business Sciences. When we both made it as finalists, the process was stopped because, I was told, that the interviewing committee did not recommend 3 candidates to College President as the district hiring procedures had required. I firmly believe that the process was stopped not so much because of the hiring procedure requirement but because Terry Burgess and his personal friend, Honorable Shirley Gellatly, didn’t want me selected with no regard to qualifications, competence, and the best interests of the college. This reflects negatively on the Chancellor. This was a pure and simple case of racial discrimination against a professional educator, who all his life has worked hard to earn people’s trust, confidence, respect, and affection. There is absolutely no question in my mind even today that I am the best qualified to do the job 100 times better than Clella Wood or any other dean in this position at IVC on any day of any week, month, or year. In fact, I felt honored when Riverside Community College, through their own objective hiring procedures, offered the same kind of dean position to me that the Saddleback Community College District had denied. However, the IVC position was readvertised, the interviewing committee (which was this time unquestionably stacked against me by Terry Burgess) recommended once again only two people to the President but this time selection was made with total disregard for hiring procedure requirement of recommendation of three finalists to the President. From my perspective, selection was intended to be made when I was not part of two finalists. Is this because Terry felt threatened with my competence? What a blow to justice! I feel strongly that injustice has been done to me and, as far as I am concerned, the entire Board of Trustees and the Chancellor are now as much guilty of this as remains Terry Burgess. I would have had no problem accepting that I was not selected if I have had a clear perception that people involved and procedures used have been reasonably fair. Furthermore, my perception of unfairness in selection process is shared by many other faculty members at IVC. Under the current environment of dysfunctional administration at IVC, I would not accept any administrative position and, in fact, I consider myself fortunate to have been excluded from such an utterly failed administration, whose reputation for failure and problems seems destined to grow and spread like a cancer which, if allowed to continue unchecked, may envelope [sic] the Chancellor.

IVC faculty’s general perception of Terry Burgess is that he is not a fair player. There is no question in my mind tht [sic] he would ruin the college in the long term. Even the last accredditation [sic] team saw it through and stated that he was trying to transform IVC from community college to a liberal arts Reed college at the expense of the need for a comprehensive community college and he is apparently succeeding in it in subtle ways with perhaps your blessing. I realize that we don’t live in a perfect world but, at the same time, I don’t believe that deliberate unfairness should be promoted or tolerated as normal behavior. IVC deserves a vice president of instruction who tries to be fair and truly is vice president of “instruction for all disciplines”. IVC deserves a vice president of instruction who would not sit in front of a computer terminal almost whole day long [sic]. I encourage you to talk with each full-time faculty member at IVC and look around carefully to find out what’s really going on. Let me be very candid that if you believe everything is running smoothly at IVC, you are operating under great illusions.

In summary, there is general perception among faculty at IVC that Terry Burgess is a pathological lier [sic]; is a person who uses names of other administrators to advance his own personal agenda filled with biases and prejudices; and is a person who lacks the appropriate breadth and depth of administrative experience and personal characteristics of even-handedness, patience, team building, and knowledge of necessary strategies for conflict resolution. If you were to examine all the circumstances of his instructional management, I feel most confident that you will wonder whether he is indeed best suited for the position of vice president of instruction at IVC. I would contend that IVC is growing partially because of him but mostly in spite of him.

In the meantime, I ask for your intervention in resolution of all issues, including the ones surrounding chemistry schedule for spring 1990 as outlined in this letter. I request that you investigate the instructional budget allocation at IVC. I contend strongly that various schools and their departments have been given inequitable instructional budgets through faulty and rather deceptive mechanism established by Terry Burgess.

Let us create an environment of true collegiality and shared governance with mutual respect and cooperation among professional educators. It can be done. There has to be a better way. I have worked extremely hard to contribute positively and to do my part. I have never believed that I am perfect. I am always willing to listen, learn, and improve. I have bent backwards to work with Terry Burgess but each time he has failed me. In my 22 years of experience in education, I believe that IVC currently has the worst instructional leadership that I have ever seen.

I would appreciate a written response from you to all issues presented herein. I would be most delighted to clarify and discuss these matters with you in greater detail if you wish. Hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
RAGHU P. MATHUR

cc Ed Romeo
Mike Runyan
Lee Walker

BURGESS RESPONDS:

Editor’s note: I contacted Terry Burgess in Hayward about the Mathur letter. He stated that he vaguely remembers it, but that Mathur had authored so many similar polemics over the years that one letter virtually ran into another.

Upon reflection, he did recall that the primary precipitant of this particular letter was a dispute over the offering of a section of Chem 2B (Nursing Chemistry) and Chem 106 (Problem Solving in Chemistry) in the spring semester of 1990. It seems that Burgess had warned Raghu and Walter that, if the fall semester enrollments for Chem 2B were low (as predicted by the 1989 decision by the Saddleback Nursing faculty to remove the course as a requirement for program admission), then the class, which was slated to be among Mathur’s overload assignments in the spring, would not be offered.

Similarly, Burgess had argued against offering multiple sections of Chem 106, when fall section enrollments has been in the single digits. Mathur had promised strong fall enrollments, but they hadn’t materialized. Hence the cancellation decision. As this melodramatic episode unfolded, it became clear to all involved (including Chancellor Sneed and President Annie McFarlin) that the real issue was Mathur’s overload—an issue not particularly burning for anyone but Mathur’s banker.

The closing diatribe about the “travesty of justice” in Mathur’s failed attempt at administrative appointment is particularly curious. Then President Kong made the initial decision to suspend the search process when an insufficient number of finalists (fewer than three) were identified. Later, in the second search process, then President McFarlin decided to proceed with final interviews of two finalists, one being Nick Kremer, who was ultimately appointed.

The “minimum of three finalists” requirement was President Kongs’, not President McFarlin’s.

As to Burgess’ “stacking” the committee in the second search process, he was actually on vacation for eight weeks in Europe when the search process was conducted. He didn’t even participate with President McFarlin in the final interviews leading to Nick’s selection!

Burgess also remarked that his so-called “failed leadership” in guiding the growth and prosperity of IVC for nearly twelve years certainly does contrast starkly with the current IVC leadership. He directed me to the web site for IVC’s spring 1999 enrollment to illustrate the difference.

* * * * *
Should anyone else desire an opportunity to respond to Mr. Mathur’s letter--or to defend the president--please contact one of the persons associated with the ‘Vine or the Dissent. Or email us at Unabauer@aol.com

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