Monday, September 6, 1999

The "Clocktower" incident (Mathur to fire an insufficiently worshipful executive assistant?)

What follows is an excerpt from a much longer article that presented much of Chancellor Sampson’s deposition (in Roy Bauer’s successful 1st Amendment lawsuit against Sampson and the SOCCCD).

Also excerpted: Lisa Alvarez's deposition (she was asked about the incident).

Dissent 28 (9/6/99)

In December, without warning, Chancellor Sampson placed a letter in philosophy instructor Roy Bauer’s file that accused him of violating “workplace violence” and “discrimination” policies (six items from Bauer’s newsletters were cited) and that ordered Bauer, who had been successful in two Brown Act lawsuits against the district, to seek counseling.

In March, U.S. District Judge Nora M. Manella issued a preliminary injunction that stated: “The court finds the six statements/illustrations at issue in this case constitute protected speech and enjoins [the chancellor] from enforcing [district regulations] on the basis of [Bauer’s] past speech or any similarly protected future speech. The court also enjoins [Sampson] from ordering [Bauer] to undergo psychological counseling of any sort….”

Eventually, the suit will be settled through a summary judgment or, if necessary, a trial. The district has taken the position that Bauer is a violent bully who, owing to his activities, is responsible for much, if not all, of the rancor and chaos in the district. According to Bauer, however, the rancor and chaos exists independently of him; his newsletters (which are the work of several people) simply report what officials would rather keep hidden.

What follows are excerpts from Sampson’s recent deposition in connection with this suit. Attorney Carol Sobel asked the questions; David Larsen (of the fancy-pants lawfirm of Rutan and Tucker) appeared on Sampson’s behalf.

Chancellor Sampson
(a peaceful event in which Bauer was only an observer--and yet, somehow, it’s cited as an example of Bauer’s “threatening” behavior):

[12/12/2009: As I recall, President Mathur disliked his secretary, the much loved and respected Bobbie W. Evidently, she was not sufficiently worshipful of Mr. Goo. Word spread that she was about to be demoted or even fired. And so a kind of demonstration (i.e., people were standing around grumbling) spontaneously erupted near the old IVC Clocktower, which was only twenty yards or so from the President’s large window. Someone learned that, just then, Chancellor Sampson was meeting with Mathur. As I recall, one “demonstrator” went into the administration building and, somehow, the Chancellor became aware that people were outside unhappy about Mathur’s imminent action. In fact, I (RB) was present, but I did not organize the “demonstration,” nor did I do anything but stand back and watch. The bearded fellow mentioned by Sampson was in truth former Art History instructor Jim Dobbs, not Bauer.] The “Clocktower” incident was cited by the district to illustrate Bauer’s alleged menacing ways.

…Who were the employees you recall complained to you that they felt threatened by Mr. Bauer’s publications prior to the time you wrote the letter of December 2nd, 1998?

President Mathur, acting dean Woodward, GR, members of the board.

Which members of the board?

Dorothy Fortune, Mr. Williams, Mr. Frogue, who were all concerned about security in the boardroom, discussed with me the need for increased security. [Note: in recent months, Trustee Frogue has on at least two occasions invited Bauer to his home for dinner.]

Anybody else; do you recall?


Okay. When was the first thing you recall Raghu Mathur saying to you about the articles?

He was concerned about his own personal safety in his office….

Did-—go ahead.

I’m sorry. I recall being in his office one day when Mr. Bauer and a group of faculty members stood outside his window, you know, and in a threatening manner attempted to get my attention—his attention.

…[W]hen was this that Mr. Bauer and…a group of faculty stood outside Mathur’s window?
It would have been October, November, I think.

And who else was in the group?

Mr. Bauer and approximately 15, 20 other faculty and staff members. Many of them I don’t know.

Who did you know?

I had met the English teacher. I have forgotten his name.
And who else did you recognize?

I didn’t recognize—I don’t know many of the faculty members or the staff members that I was seeing.

When you saw this group, where were you standing?

I had gone to Mr. Mathur’s office for an appointment on another matter.

Did you look out the window?


And how did the group first come to your attention?

They all came—Mr. Mathur’s office has a full length window. The blinds were open, and the group gathered outside of his office. And I have forgotten—the issue related to rumors that had spread on the campus that he was going to transfer his executive assistant. And there were people, you know, highly agitated. One of them was actually coming up to the window. I don’t know who it was.

Can you describe the person?

Age 55, male, beared or gray hair. I forget who it was. He was actually very aggressive in coming up to the window and looking in and, you know, the group was attempting to make a point.

Well, when this group appeared outside of President Mathur’s window, did you say anything to President Mathur about it?

Yes. I asked him what is going on.

And what did he say?

He said there was a rumor going around that he was going to transfer [his executive assistant], and we discussed it.

Did he tell you who was in the group outside his window?

I didn’t ask. I went out myself. They obviously wanted our attention, and so I went out and talked to them.
Did Mathur go out with you?

No, he did not.

And when you went outside, who did you—did you talk to anyone specific in the group?

I talked to the English chair.

He was L [probably Lewis Long]?

L. Yes. And I had met L because he had been nominated as an outstanding teacher, so I know him from a ceremony that we had been to. And, you know, I addressed the issue of are you going to transfer [the executive assistant], and I think I responded to that, “No, that wasn’t going to happen.” And his comments related to wait lists and how stupid it was for the board to be concerned about wait lists and how bad wait lists were and that sort of thing. We had an exchange about that.
Other than the individual who you described—male, 55, gray-haired, beard…

I don’t remember that beard part exactly. I forget who it was.

—But coming up to the window, putting his face close to the window…


What other action in this group were threatening in your perception?

Well, it was intended as a demonstration of concern, and there were a number of people visibly agitated and upset.

You used the word “threatening” before, and are you equating a demonstration of concern with the term threatening?


So…specifically what conduct, what expression did you observe that you believed was threatening, other than what you have described about the person coming up to the window?

Nothing other than that.

And there was nothing you observed Professor Bauer do that was threatening; is that correct?



[Evidently, our little demonstration worked, for Bobbie was not demoted or transferred. Not long after, she retired.]
From Lisa’s Deposition

From Dissent 35, 11/1/99

On Tuesday, October 5, 1999, IVC English professor Lisa Alvarez was deposed in regard to Roy Bauer’s First Amendment lawsuit. She was represented by attorney Bob Myers, formerly City Attorney of Santa Monica. Also present were Bauer’s attorney, Carol Sobel, and the Chancellor’s attorney, David Larsen.

Essentially, Bauer’s lawsuit was a response to an action perceived by him as a first step toward termination. The district (Chancellor Sampson, the Board Majority, Raghu Mathur) was sick and tired of Bauer’s newsletter, which was highly critical of those in power and the ruthless unionists who put them there. And so Sampson and the board went after him. Bauer and his contributors’ satirical writings suddenly were labeled “violent” and “racist.” Bauer was told to cease his violence and discrimination and to seek anger management counseling.

Bauer refused to go to counseling or to change his publication. Instead, he and attorney Carol Sobel went to federal court.

3. The “clock tower” incident

Q Now, you say you were surprised at a characterization of a college gathering that you attended. What college gathering are you referring to?

A It was a rather spontaneous gathering of faculty and staff in the A quad by the clock tower, and I’m trying to remember the date, but I cannot. My sense is it might have been last spring, but I’m not sure.

Q Outside the president’s door/window?

A Yes.

Q A spontaneous gathering—How many faculty gathered?

A I believe the student newspaper indicated it might have been 40 faculty and staff.

Q This was spontaneous? Everybody just happened to be there at the same time?

A Perhaps “spontaneous” is imprecise…I was not on campus last year. I was on sabbatical, so I don’t know the nature of communications around this particular event. I received a phone call at home.

Q So somebody invited you to be there?

A Yes. [They] suggested that something was happening.

Q Okay. Who made the phone call?

MR. MYERS: I object to that question. If you want to ask about comments [people made] about the deposition, that’s fine. Now, you’re inquiring into a political event on campus—who organized it, who was involved with it. And as a state institution, I don’t believe that your client can inquire into these political matters. This is getting pretty far afield.

MS. SOBEL: I’m going to interpose an objection, too, on behalf of a third party who is not present, but because the First Amendment permits third-party protections to be raised by someone who is present in a proceeding such as this, I’m going to interpose a “First Amendment right of association” objection for whoever it was who telephoned Professor Alvarez.

MR. LARSEN: Was it Roy Bauer?

MR. MYERS: Objection to the question.

MR. LARSEN: Are you going to instruct her not to answer?

MR. MYERS: Yes. If you want to sit here and violate the constitutional rights of my client, we will object and instruct her not to answer.

MR. LARSEN: You and I obviously have disagreement—

MR. MYERS: Let the judge decide.

Q What surprised you about the chancellor’s characterization of this gathering when you read his testimony?

A His rather casual dismissal of the concerns of a large [group] of my colleagues.

Q So you…disagreed with how he viewed the gathering?

A. …[His] attitude…became obvious.

Q Now, you said that you were surprised by the characterization of a colleague as “menacing”?

A Yes.

Q And what colleague were you referring to?

A In the deposition, the chancellor mentioned a bearded man in his fifties, I believe.

Q Okay. Who did you understand him to be referring to?
A At first, I assumed it was biology teacher and later I revised my…assumption to…the art history professor.

Q Was Mr. Bauer involved in this gathering?

A Mr. Bauer was in attendance at the gathering.

Q And did Mr. Bauer say anything or do anything that you noticed?
MR. MYERS: What is the relevance of inquiring into people’s political activities at a political event?

Q This was a public gathering, correct?

A It…was a public gathering, political in nature.

Q …Your understanding was the purpose of the gathering was to communicate something to the chancellor?

A Not necessarily to the chancellor, no. I believe the chancellor happened to be in the college president’s office at the time. It is my recollection that people were surprised to have discovered that Dr. Sampson was in the college president’s office at the time we gathered at the clock tower.

MS. SOBEL: Counsel, I’m going to object to inquiry about my client’s [i.e., Roy Bauer’s] political activities. I don’t believe this gathering is in any way the basis of any of the charges the district made against Professor Bauer regarding discrimination, harassment, or violent overtones in his writings.
Q Did Professor Bauer say anything at this gathering?

MR. MYERS: Objection on the basis that you’re inquiring into areas that are clearly outside the scope of the litigation and designed to inquire into the political activities of a professor at Irvine Valley College. And it’s inappropriate and I instruct the witness not to answer.
MS. SOBEL: …the chancellor did not observe anything done by Roy Bauer at that event…the district has absolutely no contentions that…anything Professor Bauer did at that incident was in any way part of the charges against him.

MR. LARSEN [to Lisa]: Well, are you going to refuse to answer the question?

MR. MYERS: If you would like to ask a question that’s related to her observations of any conduct that might be within the scope of your lawsuit, I’m certainly going to allow her to respond to that question. But these open-ended questions that inquire into political beliefs don’t seem to be narrowly tailored to getting at the information that you need. Since the First Amendment is at stake, it seems to me that you have some duty to narrowly tailor your inquiries to get at the information you need without trampling [on] Professor Alvarez’s First Amendment rights.
Q What do you recall Professor Bauer doing at this gathering?

A Standing around.

Q Was he in any way close to the window?

A Not to my recollection, no.

Q Do you recall anything that he said at this gathering?

A I believe I noticed he said nothing.

MR. LARSEN: That wasn’t so bad, was it?

MS. SOBEL: But it took you a long time to get to a direct question.

MR. MYERS: [To Larsen:] If you ask the narrow questions, we’ll try to accommodate you.

[I’ve included section 4—just for fun. The district was attempting to blame me for all of our accreditation woes.]

4. The Accrediting Team’s report:

Q Have you ever read the evaluation report [of the accrediting team or commission]?

A I’ve read sections of the evaluation report…I recall reading the cover letter….
Q Did you agree with it?

MR. MYERS: Hold on a second. What is the relevance of whether or not a faculty member agrees with the evaluation report of an outside entity to this litigation?

MR. LARSEN: Well, Counsel, it’s an exhibit in these proceedings. She’s a witness—potential witness—in these proceedings. I’m entitled to know if she’s read [the Accrediting report]. Are you going to instruct her not to answer?

MR. MYERS: You need to do a little better than that, Mr. Larsen…Professor Alvarez is not a party to this litigation. The college, I don’t believe, has a right to use this deposition as an opportunity to find out what faculty members believe about the organization that they work for. So can you do a little better in explaining what the purpose of this inquiry is?…We’re trying to be fair and reasonable here. This is a professor of a college institution. You are representing her employer. You cannot use a deposition as a fishing expedition into Ms. Alvarez’s beliefs about matters unrelated to the litigation….
MR. LARSEN: [I want to ask Ms. Alvarez about] the summary of the evaluation report, which happens to consist of three and a half pages, which she testified she read. My question is, was there anything in the summary that she disagreed with?

MR. MYERS: The college has no right to know about her beliefs concerning the summary report.

MR. LARSEN: Are you going to instruct her not to answer, Counsel?

MR. MYERS: Yes, I am.

Q [To Lisa:] Are you going to take the advice of your counsel?

A Yes, I am.

Q Going to page 4 of the document, [it says] “Though the team was aware of the trouble[d] times.” Did you agree [with the Accreditation team] that there are divisions between factions of the faculty?

MR. MYERS: Objection…Until you provide a reasonable explanation as to why you want to subject a member of the college faculty to a general inquiry about her political beliefs and other opinions, …I will object.

MR. LARSEN: Well, this has nothing to do with political beliefs. It has to do with the comment and impact of the comment on the college, and if you’re going to instruct her not to answer—

MR. MYERS: Why don’t you take the deposition of the evaluation team if you’re interested about their opinions? [Lisa’s] opinions are irrelevant to this litigation. You couldn’t ask this in court. She’s not an expert witness. Ms. Sobel couldn’t ask her questions about this evaluation report. Nor can you, and particularly you can’t because [you represent] her employer. And to have her sit here and respond to these questions seems to be completely unreasonable and in violation of her constitutional rights.

So why don’t you move forward in the areas that might be relevant?

MR. LARSEN: I’ll ask more questions and we’ll let the judge decide [whether my questions are relevant].

MR. MYERS: Fine.

Q The last paragraph talks about divisions paralyzing governance, shattering collegiality, and adversely affecting students. Both current and future. Do you agree with that?

MR. MYERS: Once again, I object to the question.

MR. LARSEN: Are you going to instruct her not to answer?

MR. MYERS: She’s not going to be answering these questions.
Q Are you aware of any hate mail on the campus?

A Yes. I received one.

Q What’s your definition of “hate mail”?

A I actually don’t have a definition that I carry around with me.
Q I’m going to direct your attention to page 25 of Exhibit 5. Under “Recommendations,” item number 3, it says, “The team feels strongly that all players need to cease their negativism and focus on constructive steps toward building a future.” Do you see that?

A Uh-huh.

Q Do you agree with that?

MR. MYERS: Why is it relevant whether she agrees with it or not? Why do you need to know what her beliefs are concerning this report?

MS. SOBEL: I would object to its inquiring into political beliefs about the negativism of Mathur…, Sampson, and other public officials in the district.

MR. LARSEN: Well, Miss Alvarez, is there negativism at Irvine [Valley] College?

MR. MYERS: Once again, why is her opinion relevant to this litigation? And you have to have a compelling showing of relevance to overcome her First Amendment interests that are at stake.

I just don’t understand why you think you can have a deposition and call in a faculty member and start asking a faculty member about [her] opinions.

If you want to ask about observations, statements made by Mr. Bauer, things that might be relevant to this litigation, please do so. But to use this as part of the college’s strategy to harass faculty members seems to me to be inappropriate.
MS. SOBEL: We would disagree strongly that what you’ve asked are questions about what is at issue in these proceedings.

What is at issue in these proceedings is a letter issued by the district in December delineating six writings and graphics in [Bauer’s] newsletter that the district contended evinced discrimination and harassment by Professor Bauer as well as a violation of the district’s policy on workplace violence.

And what is at issue is whether the district then lawfully sought to discipline Professor Bauer and direct him to psychological counseling…That’s the scope of this lawsuit, whether they had a basis for doing that. Not whether any individual faculty member believes that there is negativism on the campus…It is not a field day for you to inquire about everyone Professor Bauer interacts with and what their views are of what’s going on [at] the campus based on your client’s narrow reading[]—the contention you’ve made to the court, which the courts have squarely objected [to], that Professor Bauer is single-handedly responsible for every problem identified in the accreditation review—which would, as I indicated earlier, include the financial irregularities of district officials, the factionalism of the board of trustees, the problems of the union at both campuses.

…Professor Bauer would probably love to believe that his newsletter is so extraordinarily forceful, but since many of the issues raised in the accreditation review predates his newsletter by five to six years, it is highly unlikely he has any relevance [to these issues], and many of them have not been covered in his newsletter…If you’re going to get to the newsletters, that’s fine. That’s what we’ve said all along. But you’re not asking about that, Counsel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I miss the clock tower!

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