TUESDAY: It’s been another long day, and I don’t have time to report everything that happened at the RAGHU MATHUR discrimination trial today, but I did want to report the first half of Cely Mora’s testimony. It’s pretty riveting:
Here’s the story that emerged from Carol Sobel’s questioning of Cely on the witness stand today (for background, see Discrimination trial: opening statements):
It was not until she witnessed Chancellor Raghu Mathur’s deposition (given in 2003) that she discovered that (so he said) he had decided against hiring her, and in favor of hiring Rodney Poindexter, in part because of her efforts to develop a baseball program and install a baseball field. “I was shocked,” she testified.
Had Mathur ever mentioned to her that there was a problem with her handling of the baseball program/field? No, never. Mathur “never expressed to me” any dissatisfaction with that.
Back in 1997 (when Mathur ascended to the Presidency of Irvine Valley College, thanks to a series of illegal board actions), he had asked Dean Greg Bishopp and Athletic Director Cely to make a presentation about the Athletics Program before the Exchange Club (a local organization of which Mathur [along with Owen Kreza, et al.] was a member). Already then, the development of baseball and the building of a baseball field was part of the grand plan, and so it became a part of the presentation. After the presentation, Cely received a “thank you” letter from Mathur. The jury examined it.
Cely described other aspects of the development of the baseball program—things about which Mathur was clearly apprised or involved. “You need approval [from Mathur] about everything,” she said.
In the spring of 2000, there was a meeting of various persons (including former Angels manager Buck Rodgers) to organize fundraising for the baseball field. Mathur certainly did not indicate disapproval of her efforts at that time.
By the summer of ’02, both colleges received a one-time lump sum, earmarked for athletic facilities. Mathur asked Mora to make a presentation before the board of trustees, requesting the funds specifically for the baseball field.
During his deposition, Mathur had also indicated that Mora had created/pursued a track & field program without his approval, but Mora again testified that all aspects of the development of track & field occurred with Mathur’s full cooperation and approval.
Had Mathur ever communicated to her that her school was expanding sports programs too rapidly? No. On the contrary. He seemed very pleased with the sports programs and the things that were being done to develop them.
Also during the 2003 deposition, Mathur cited his desire to pursue Health Sciences and distance education as a reason for his decision to hire Poindexter and not Mora. But, testified Cely, you can’t teach most of her School’s courses using “distance ed.” That would be like teaching the cutting of hair online. It’s “just not practical.”
Plus there were state restrictions concerning the development of Heath Sciences courses using distance education. Still, she was in fact developing distance ed courses where feasible. For instance, she was exploring a TV course on self-defense to be offered on a “trial basis.”
What did Cely think when, during his depo, she heard Mathur’s "reasons" for not hiring her (and hiring Poindexter)? Well, said Cely, he was trying to justify hiring a white male with minimal qualifications and no experience as an administrator.
That is, he had invented an after-the-fact rationale. He was making all of this up.
When Cely returned to IVC in the Fall of 2001, she had very limited contact with Dean Poindexter, she testified.
The first thing he did was to move her out of her office, even though it was not the dean’s office, but a smallish faculty office, distant from his assistant. He seemed to be “establishing his power and control,” she said. So she decided to stay away from him. At first, she was moved to another office in the PE building. Then, after a month, she moved to the B300 building (one building over).
At one point, Suzie F (Poindexter’s secretary) came to her to explain that they were moving Cely’s computer. Cely was perplexed. “He didn’t tell you”? asked Suzie. Evidently, Poindexter had requested the move.
Naturally, Cely felt disrespected, inconvenienced, and harassed. She emailed Poindexter and tried to phone him, but he did not respond. She went to his office three times, but he was not there.
During the 3rd week of the fall (2001) semester, she discovered that one of her classes had been cancelled. She wanted to know why it was cancelled so late. Also, she now needed a new assignment to replace the cancelled class. She tried to telephone and email Poindexter, but he didn’t respond to her communications.
She didn’t want to bump a part-timer from a class, so she decided to work her hours (to replace the cancelled course) in the fitness center.
In October, she had a surprise encounter with Suzie F, the secretary. Suzie was running down the hall, crying. Cely asked what was the matter. Suzie blurted out that she “wasn’t going to take it any more,” that he “couldn’t yell at her like that” and “treat her like that.”
Who was doing that? It was Dr. Poindexter, she said.
Until then, Cely had thought that Poindexter had a problem with Cely in particular. Now she began to realize that “this guy has some issues about dealing with women.”
She got calls from two other female instructors, who complained about disrespectful treatment they had endured in dealing with Poindexter. They, too, experienced course cancellations.
THE OCTOBER MEETING:
In October, she attended her first faculty meeting of the semester. Department chair Ted W had explained to her that Poindexter was threatening to “write her up” for not attending the meetings. Besides, Martin M needed her support on some issue. All of the full-time faculty (about 12) were in attendance.
At one point, they discussed a “massage therapy” program (which they had been developing). Cely noted what needed to happen with regard to course development. Poindexter suddenly exploded. “You’re wrong!” he shouted. His face turned red, his body moved forward. He was angry, agitated.
“I was blown away,” said Cely. She had never seen any supervisor behave like that.
Kent M and Martin M made remarks much like Cely’s, but Poindexter didn’t seem to have a problem with them. It was as though, in Poindexter’s mind, a switch would go on and off. He would be yelling and agitated, and then he’d suddenly behave normally—when speaking with the men.
During the meeting, several male faculty offered views concerning who should represent the department at the Orange Empire Conference meeting. Poindexter could handle that. But when Kathryn M offered her view, Poindexter’s switch went off again, only his agitation was worse than before. His body-language was even more aggressive. He would repeat a comment or question as though he were a broken record: “What do you coach! What do you coach! What do you coach!” He moved his head closer to her.
“I was stunned,” said Cely. At that point, she said nothing. She remained silent. She was very frightened. Poindexter seemed to be out of control.
After that, Cely decided to keep an even lower profile. She stayed out of the building. She didn’t attend the next staff meeting. It seemed to her that Poindexter just couldn’t handle women with anything to say.
But it became impossible to avoid contact with Poindexter. There were issues concerns the summer and spring schedules. At first, she tried to discuss those issues via email and phone, but he simply would not respond, so she had to go to his office.
THE “MUSIC” EPISODE; THE JULIE EPISODE:
In January (of 2002), she did just that, accompanied by Kathy S, a union representative. Cely normally taught summer courses, but Poindexter had not honored any of her requests for summer classes. In the course of the discussion, his face again became red and he started yelling. That switch had gone off again.
Then he did something very odd. He turned on some music. He yelled even louder to be heard over it.
Cely decided to leave. She didn’t want to wait to see what was going to happen next.
About a week or two later, she visited Poindexter again, this time with Kathy and Julie H (Cely, Julie, and Kathryn were the only full-time female faculty in their department). They had come to offer a compromise with regard to summer teaching. Julie, too, had had none of her summer requests honored. She was afraid of Poindexter, but she figured that there was safety in numbers.
Again, at the point that a difference of opinion arose, Poindexter became agitated, his face became red, and he started to yell. Julie slouched and became withdrawn. The women left.
In February, there was another department meeting. The summer issues had not yet been resolved, and Poindexter had now cancelled another course of Cely's. All of the women had had classes cancelled (and possibly Ted had one of his courses cancelled). At this meeting, Poindexter’s behavior and demeanor were different. In the small conference room, everyone sat around a table. Poindexter sat at the head. At some point, he became agitated again, only this time he shifted his body toward Kathryn, who was sitting near him. She kept moving her chair away from him, but he kept moving toward her. She was plainly frightened. Cely said that she saw Kathryn start to panic. Kathryn became pale.
The next day, Kathryn called Cely at home. She was crying. She said that she hadn’t slept. She explained that, after the meeting, Poindexter had come up to her and said, “Kathryn, don’t resist me. It’s not in your interests to resist me.”
THE FIRST COMPLAINT:
That’s when they contacted Human Resources. They spoke with Ettie Graham of the HR office. By then, Suzie F had already filed a complaint, which had initiated an investigation. And John Lowe, who had been on the dean hiring committee, had by then spoken with Mathur about Poindexter. The women by then wouldn’t walk to their cars unless accompanied by male colleagues.
FITNESS CENTER EPISODES; OFFICE EPISODES:
Also in the Spring of 2002, Poindexter showed up a couple of times at the fitness center while Cely worked there. He just walked in and stared at her. Then he’d leave. It was unnerving. She reported the incidents to Ettie Graham, among others.
Poindexter would suddenly show up at her office unannounced. He would just come in, stop, look at her—then leave, having said nothing.
A campus cop suggested that she keep a baseball bat in her office, so she did that.
The complaint seemed to produce nothing. So she called Ettie at HR. “We need some help,” she said. “Can you help us?” That’s when Ettie suggested a formal complaint.
Eventually, Poindexter produced a Fall schedule. Unsurprisingly, Cely was given a 5:30-7:00 p.m. tennis class followed by a 7:00-10:00 Health class. That meant that she would have no opportunity to shower and change between classes.
Also, Cely was saddled with classes that had been cancelled previously owing to low enrollment. Cely calculated that 55% of her schedule would be cancelled, and so she informed the Acting Vice President for Instruction (Susan Cooper) and Poindexter.
Today, Cely was asked why only five faculty signed the formal “discrimination and sexual harassment” complaint. She explained that non-tenured faculty were very vulnerable and didn’t sign for that reason. All tenured faculty signed it.
The formal complaint yielded an investigation, which included interviews with an investigator. The report was not finished until November or December of 2002, 7-8 months after the investigation had begun. During that entire period, Poindexter continued as her dean.
Cely was very disappointed with the report. Some of its information was incomplete or inaccurate. The report stated that Cely was concerned about her physical safety, but Cely had said a great deal more than that about her safety concerns.
In May (after she had been interviewed for the investigation), Cely was working at her desk at the fitness center. She seemed to sense something and so she looked up. She was startled to find Poindexter leaning over the front desk counter. His face was red, sweaty. “What do you want, Rod?” asked Cely. Poindexter mumbled unintelligibly. She repeated her question, and he continued to mumble. Cely was terrified.
Cely mentioned the incident to the investigator, but, in the report, it was described in a manner that diminished it, failing to convey the menace of his behavior and her abject terror.
She told the investigator about all of these incidents. She urged HR to move Poindexter away from her and the other women.
In July of 2002, testified Cely, she just couldn’t take it anymore. (At this point in her testimony, she struggled with tears.) She couldn’t bear to go to work. She couldn’t bear to see the concern on her parents’ faces. Her colleagues would come to her for help, but she couldn’t help them. She couldn’t believe that she had to keep a bat in her office. She couldn’t get anyone to help her and to help the other women. Not Mathur, not anyone.
When she left Irvine Valley College—in July of 2002—Rodney Poindexter was still her dean.
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