Day 2 of the Raghu Mathur “discrimination” trial. (See previous post: DAY 1.)
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to watch this trial unfold without noticing the trail of disrupted and damaged lives left in the wake of Raghu P. Mathur's pursuit of administrative advancement. You know all the names.
—But, no, you don't know all the names. During lunch today, I spoke with (plaintiff) Cely Mora's attorney, Carol, and with various other friends and colleagues. One colleague had a look of sadness on his face as he described the unhappiness of one of the unsung victims of Mathur's profoundly unfortunate 2001 hiring of Rodney Poindexter as Dean of PE, Health Sciences, and Athletics: a non-academic employee who had simply tried to do her job, a quiet job, she thought. But, then, suddenly, she found herself in something big and ugly and incomprehensible. I listened with horror and surprise.
"She just hasn't been able to get past it," explained the colleague.
As he spoke, I looked up and spotted Mathur at the other end of the cafeteria, next to a vending machine, speaking on the phone. He was only a few feet away from his table. There sat his very expensive lawyers—paid for, naturally, by the district. They're good.
Mathur seemed confident. He smiled.
WHAT'S YOUR NAME?
Proceedings started just after 9:00 a.m. Ted W of PE was on the witness stand. He detailed his experiences as a member of the “dean search” that yielded the hire of Rodney Poindexter as Dean of PE, Health Sciences, and Athletics—thanks to the decision by Mathur (then President of Irvine Valley College) to hire that inexperienced White Guy from Virginia instead of the celebrated and experienced and tried-and-true Latina (Aracely Mora) who is now suing his ass.
Well, when that went south and the school ended up with Dean Poindexter, the faculty made a real effort to work with the guy. (I've been impressed by the manifest magnanimity of some of these witnesses.) But, from Day 1, the new dean was a mega-disaster. Ted related several incidents. He described the infamous episode in which Poindexter ran after and screamed at secretary Suzi F. There were other episodes, all involving women, never men. Poindexter messed with their teaching schedules, adopted menacing postures, routinely became angry at them. He didn’t do that to the men.
Eventually, Judge Matz called for a break. (During the break, Mathur’s lawyer, Dennis W, walked up to me and asked if I minded telling him my name. “Yes, I do mind,” I said. Creep.)
Later, we heard about one female instructor’s attempt to secure tennis shoes for her athletes. For that, she had to meet with her dean—Poindexter. That was the standing order: if you want anything, you must meet personally with the dean. But the meeting (according to one witness) yielded another Poindexterian eruption of frustration and anger and bizarre sudden exits. The instructor was reduced to cowering.
Knowing of these incidents, Ted, the chair of his department, complained to administrator Glenn R, who said: give Rod a chance. Plus: you people are exaggerating.
No we’re not, said Ted.
Under cross, Mathur’s lawyer pursued a favored defense motif: Here, again, someone is testifying for Cely—but isn’t he a close personal friend of hers, Hmmm?
SCORING ISSUES, NAIVETE:
At about noon, Judge A. Howard Matz—a prickly and demanding fellow—sent the jury out to lunch, but he kept the two opposing attorneys back to spank ‘em for a while. The jury is “utterly befuddled,” he declared. You need a chronology! Charts!
After lunch, Mathur’s attorney was all over the fact that Ted had given Poindexter a pretty good score after the first-level interview. Plus Ted had joined with the rest of the committee in a decision to send Poindexter’s name along with Mora’s to the next level—to be interviewed by President Mathur.
If Poindexter was so damned unqualified, why were you people sending up his name?
Ted explained that this particular dean search was the second go-round, and if the committee didn’t send up three names, Mathur would shut the process down, and the whole damn thing would start from scratch again. He really thought that Mathur would hire the candidate who was plainly the most qualified.
“I was naïve,” said Ted.
Mathur's attorney unveiled another motif: you faculty didn't want to start the process over, cuz then you might not get on the committee next time! Isn't that it!
DO THE RIGHT THING:
Next up on the witness stand was Ted’s colleague Martin M, who also served on the Dean hiring committee. He told very similar tales. No, he definitely didn’t want to send Poindexter’s name up to the next level, but he hoped that Mathur would “do the right thing” by choosing the best candidate.
Mathur’s lawyer again pounced all over the “friendship” that existed between Martin and Mora at the time of the dean search. Wasn’t she a close friend of yours? —Sure, said Martin, but everyone in the School is a close personal friend. That just happens when your work together with people.
Martin described Poindexter’s meltdowns. It was pretty gruesome.
I’ve got to say: that Poindexter fella was SERIOUSLY MESSED UP. Worse than I ever knew.
BECAUSE OF HER ETHNICITY:
The next witness, Priscilla R, was the chair of a hiring committee for a biology instructor. This was back in 1997. She explained how the committee had judged that one candidate, Maala A (a female of Sri Lankan ethnicity), was stellar, but the remaining candidates were far less impressive. Once again, they faced the likelihood that Mathur, the spanking-new interim President of IVC, would shut down the whole process—forcing a time-consuming restart—were the committee to send up only one name, Maala’s. And so, especially since previous presidents generally went along with search committees' recommendations, this committee sent up the name of the next best candidate, too—a white male who was judged to be minimally qualified. (All others of those interviewed were judged to be unqualified.)
As per custom, Priscilla, as chair of the committee, informed the second level group (Mathur and two Vice Presidents) that, though the committee was sending forward two names, Maala was the unanimous and clear preference of the committee.
To their horror, the hiring committee soon discovered that Mathur had chosen the “minimally qualified” candidate.
The committee then instructed Priscilla to discuss the matter with Mathur. Mathur met with her and explained why he had not selected Maala. Ready?
He had not selected Maala owing to her ethnicity.
Turns out, he didn’t want to be accused of choosing someone of his own ethnicity (Mathur hails from India, which is a stone’s throw from Sri Lanka).
In Raghu's world, it's always about him.
THE STAFF DIVERSITY OFFICER:
The last witness of the day, history professor Frank M, was the “Staff Diversity” Officer at the time of the controversial biology hire. One of Mathur’s VPs (Bob L) had expressed concerns about the biology hire (to Frank?), and so Frank met with President Mathur. He asked Mathur to explain his choice, his failure to hire Maala.
According to Frank, Mathur then asserted that the white male was a “better fit for the job.”
Further, Mathur didn’t want to be accused of reverse discrimination.
As I write this, I think again about the damage that this ruthless man, Raghu Mathur, has done and continues to do. There are so many victims: some big, some small.
The instructor that Mathur hired in 1997, too, is a victim. He heard about a job, and so he applied for it. He interviewed. He got the job. He did nothing wrong. Plus he's a good guy.
But then there's all this.
More tomorrow. (It'll be an abbreviated session in court). --CW
(For background, see Mathur and women.)