Monday, August 1, 2005

Dissent's very short history of the district's troubles

This post is now superseded by THE SOCCCD STORY

NOTE: periodic UPDATES can be found at the end.

First, the super-brief account:

The district started in 1967 with Saddleback College, just north of San Juan Capistrano—a community of John Birchers and rednecks in those days. "North campus" was built in 1979, and by the mid-80s it had become "Irvine Valley College." Things were pretty cool until the mid-nineties, when the then-corrupt faculty union made a deal with some right-wing wacko trustee candidates: the union would pay for the candidates' campaigns if the trustees would keep voting for high faculty salaries. Relying on deception and homophobia, the campaign (in 1996) was a blazing success. That was the beginning of the end. What followed was a wacky and/or dismal parade of lawsuits, accreditation difficulties, "open meeting law" violations, First Amendment rights violations, Holocaust denying, fiscal mismanagement, illegal hires, right-wing lunacy, illiterate Chancellors, and so on. In 2000, the Holocaust denier resigned and was replaced by the crafty and ruthless Tom Fuentes, long-time chair of the right-wing of the local GOP.
Good grief.

1. IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS RONALD REAGAN. In the late 60s, a community college district was established in ultraconservative southern Orange County, CA. Then-governor Ronald Reagan was on hand for the dedication ceremony in 1967. I'm surprised they haven't built a shrine at that spot. Maybe there's a restroom there are something. Could be.

The Saddleback Community College District at first comprised only Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, near San Juan Capistrano. Its “north” campus opened in Irvine in 1979 and later (1985) became Irvine Valley College (IVC).

The two-college district eventually changed its name to the South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD).

The district grew and experienced the usual ups and downs and internal conflicts. Nothing too out of the ordinary, really. It had a pretty good reputation, I guess. Some called it the "jewel" of the CC system or something.


2. UNACCOUNTABLE UNION LEADERSHIP: THE OLD GUARD. By the mid-90s, a small crew of variously disgruntled, greedy, or ambitious faculty controlled the Faculty Association (the union) and its substantial war chest. Operating informally and in secret, the union leadership seemed to follow no rules; it neglected to adopt valid bylaws; indeed, the FA wasn’t properly registered with CTA (the parent union) until 1997, when reform-minded faculty started to ask questions about their union. (See Time for Pie)

The union of this era was stunningly corrupt; its leadership was utterly unaccountable.

Some in this group saw themselves as thwarted and oppressed by real or imagined cabals at Saddleback or Irvine Valley colleges. Others sought specifically to maintain the district’s then-high salaries, especially for senior faculty, apparently at any cost. Others seemed interested in settling old scores against administrators and colleagues. A few had administrative ambitions. (Chemistry instructor Raghu Mathur was among this group. For a glimpse at his pre-administrative years, see Mathur is Censured for Lying) Some had committed remarkably unprofessional deeds and needed a powerful and corrupt union to protect them. (See The Character of the Opposition)

Toward securing such ends, the “Old Guard,” as it came to be known (at least among Dissenters), concentrated on a single objective: to control the seven-member, elected Board of Trustees (BOT) , a body which itself directly or indirectly controlled virtually every aspect of the district and its colleges. (Today, the BOT oversees the expenditure of about $150-200 million in taxpayer dollars each year.)

3. THE 1996 TRUSTEES RACE: "ANYTHING GOES." In 1996, owing to its decision to print and distribute a deceptive—and homophobic—campaign flier (the now-infamous Same-Sex Flier), the Old Guard secured its objective. Dorothy Fortune (a right-leaning Democrat) won a seat, and John Williams and Steven Frogue were reelected. The union now controlled four of the seven trustees (Teddi Lorch, who was up for reelection in ’98, was the fourth trustee; she had been recruited by the union to replace a trustee who had died).

And thus it was that, starting in December of ’96, the era of the conservative “Board Majority” began.

The Board Majority, or “Board Four,” were conservative Republicans (Fortune left the Democrats) who, it appears, pursued the Old Guard’s narrow agenda (salaries, promotions, payback) in exchange for timely campaign support. While the “Board Minority” (Milchiker, Lang, and Hueter) watched in horror, the Board Four rammed through a series of changes that reflected predictable Old Guard desiderata plus their own benighted interests and agendas.

4. GOVERNANCE UNSHARED, LAW UNOBSERVED. From the beginning, the Board Four pursued an assault on “shared governance” —a legislatively mandated upgrading of especially faculty involvement in governance. Key Old Guardsters, including notoriously conniving and ambitious chemistry instructor Raghu Mathur of IVC, were promoted. Despite lacking full-time administrative experience, Mathur was appointed IVC’s interim President in April of 1997. The move was justified on the basis of a thin anonymous petition that Mathur himself circulated. The Old Guard’s Mike Runyan and Ken Woodward were also given administrative roles, despite the Old Guard’s favored ad hominem against its critics—that they were administrative wannabes who “didn’t want to teach."


5. THE BROWN ACT? HA! From the start, the Board Majority brazenly flouted the law, especially as it concerned shared governance—by law, the board must delegate authority to faculty (the academic senate) in ten specified areas—and “open government.” California’s open meetings law, usually called the “Brown Act,” requires that all board discussion topics be publicly agendized in advance of board sessions and that closed sessions be restricted to a narrow range of allowable topics. Mathur’s closed session appointment to the interim IVC Presidency in April of ’97 had not been agendized.

IVC had adopted a governance structure—the so-called "chair model"—that gave to faculty (on a rotating basis) administrative responsibilities similar to those of deans. With the arrival of the Board Majority—and especially “President” Mathur—rumors began to fly that Mathur and the Board Four planned to abandon the chair model in favor of a dean model.

Deans, unlike faculty with tenure, lived from contract to contract. They were easily controlled or eliiminated. To the Board Majority, "loyalty" to superiors was a paramount virtue. Some chairs at IVC had, in their view, displayed disloyalty.

6. THE INFAMOUS "REORG." IVC faculty brought their concerns about the rumors to Mathur, who responded by assuring faculty that no such change would be contemplated, at least until faculty returned after the summer holidays. (This assurance was expressed in writing.)

In fact, when Mathur offered these assurances, he had already instructed his Vice President of Instruction (VPI), Terry Burgess, to design a district reorganization that would eliminate chairs in favor of deans. (Source: signed legal declarations.)

Then, in mid-July, to the surprise of many, the Board Majority met in closed session and reorganized the district, eliminating faculty chairs at IVC and replacing them with Old Guard-targeted deans from Saddleback College. The reorganization closely followed the plan designed by Burgess under Mathur's direction.

The “Reorg” eventually proved to be unworkable and expensive, requiring periodic restructuring, adding to a general sense of administrative instability. The situation was made worse by the low quality of many new administrative hires, some of whom managed to generate public relations nightmares, as when Dean Poindexter was involved in fracases and Dean Gensler was revealed to be pursuing an absurd $800 million complex, complete with Hilton Hotel, at IVC.

The July 1997 Reorg, which occurred in closed session, again ran afoul of the Brown Act, which does not include “reorganization” as among allowable closed session topics.

A few months later, in yet another violation of the Brown Act, Mathur was appointed permanent President of Irvine Valley College. In the days leading up to that action, Trustee Williams attempted to broker a deal with Trustee Lang and the rest of the Board Minority—a clear and extreme violation of the open meetings law, which forbids secret deals.

During this period, two “Brown Act” lawsuits were filed by IVC philosophy instructor Roy Bauer, et al. One judge spoke of the Board's "persistent and defiant misconduct." The district lost these suits and then lost the appeals.

7. REFORMING THE UNION: SHELL GAME. Naturally, by mid-1997, many faculty were alarmed by the Board Majority's actions and its anti-faculty stance. It was clear to many that the Old Guard's control over the Faculty Association had to come to an end.

The reform effort started eight months earlier, with a December ’96 letter to the California Teachers Association (CTA) that expressed alarm at the local's actions during the trustees race and the failure of union leadership to be accountable to anyone. More than 100 full-time instructors signed that appeal for assistance.

CTA sent a "leadership team" to the district that eventually produced a report. With understated language, that report cited many of the local’s deficiencies and outrages. Even so, possibly owing to concerns over legal liability, the state union was disinclined to take strong actions against the existing leadership of one of its locals.

District faculty persisted in their efforts to wrest their union and its war chest from the secretive and unprincipled Old Guard. Reformers demanded copies of the union’s bylaws. The union leadership (Sherry Miller-White, et al.) refused to provide a copy, repeatedly explaining that the bylaws were undergoing editing or "clean-up." Reformers were elected by the members of their schools or divisions to serve as Reps. The union leadership refused to acknowledge the validity of those elections. Reform efforts were stymied.

At one point, the union held an election, which yielded the victory of a crucial number of reformers. The union leadership responded by declaring the election void, owing to alleged violations of election rules that it had itself committed.

After about two years of frustrating effort, reformers prevailed, but not before Old Guard leadership had expended union funds to secure the election victory of trustee candidates Don Wagner and Nancy Padberg—two Christian Right Republicans who were manifestly hostile to unionism and that were members of an organization that authored a notoriously anti-union ballot proposition. (See The board’s unlikely secret allies.)


8. THE ZANY FROGUE YEARS. One of the Old Guard’s trustees, Steven Frogue, had weathered controversy in 1995. Numerous unassociated former students of Frogue's High School history classes alleged that he had denied the Holocaust and made racially insensitive remarks. (See Frogue defends himself/student declarations)

Further, Frogue was an ardent fan of dubious conspiracy theories, and, in 1995, he used his trustee position as a platform to rail against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish civil rights organization that Frogue believed was involved in the assassination of JFK.

At one point, Frogue praised the publications of a notorious Holocaust denial organization, the Institute For Historical Review, based in Orange County. (IHR had been founded by the notorious anti-Semite Willis Carto.) Throughout these controversies, the union stuck by their man.

By the fall of 1997, Frogue, then President of the Board, organized a "forum" at Saddleback College about the Warren Commission (i.e., the JFK assassination). The event involved inviting four speakers, some with ties to the anti-Semitic “Liberty Lobby.” Despite warnings from a local ADL official that the forum’s guest speakers were unsavory characters or crackpots, the Board Four was defiant and heedless as always. They voted to approve the forum and its guests.

A few days later, the board's action was reported in the L.A. Times. Soon, throughout the country, people learned about the California community college that was providing a forum for conspiracy nuts and anti-Semites. Though Frogue eventually cancelled the forum, the fiasco revived concerns that he was anti-Semitic, and he soon became the target of a recall effort. (The lengthy recall effort ultimately failed, despite collecting a record-breaking number of petition signatories.) (See Hangin' with Bigwig Republicans)

Naturally, this controversy harmed the reputation of the district and its two colleges. Frogue's actions didn't help. When groups of white supremacists and Holocaust deniers showed up at Board meetings to speak in Frogue's defense, Frogue did nothing to repudiate them or their views. (See Night of the Nazi and Nazis vs. JDL Thugs)

9. PERSISTENT AND DEFIANT MISCONDUCT. The Board Majority were contemptuous of faculty and administrative warnings and advice, even with regard to the district's finances. Despite warnings from faculty, the Board allowed the district's reserves to fall below the required level. The State Chancellor's Office sent auditors to the district to examine its finances. Some board members responded by attempting to bully or intimidate them, resulting in further negative publicity.

Ultimately, the State Chancellor's Office placed the district on its fiscal "watch list"—yet another source of notoriety.

At IVC, President Mathur illegally appointed a crony to edit the college’s accreditation self-study, a crucial part of the accreditation process. The resulting white-wash was so obvious that it attracted embarrassing media attention (in the Times, the Register).

Ultimately, the Accrediting agency saw through the attempted deceptions and dinged the district/colleges for administrative instability, the Board's violation of its own policies (in the case of administrative hires), and for trustee “micromanagement.”

As in the case of the State Chancellor’s office and its efforts to audit the district, the Board Four seemed to respond to the Accrediting agency's efforts to evaluate the colleges and the district with defiance and hostility. At one point, the board enlisted the help of the Department of Education in going after the Accrediting agency. This effort at intimidation was successful.

LATE 1990s

10. 1ST AMENDMENT LAWSUITS A-PLENTY. During this period, students at Irvine Valley College organized to dramatize their concern about college and district leadership and the threat that leadership posed to the institution’s accreditation. In response, Mathur and the Board severely restricted student protests. This led to a series of First Amendment lawsuits, which again attracted unwanted media attention. The district lost those lawsuits over the course of several years.

Late in 1998, IVC philosophy instructor Roy Bauer, the petitioner in the successful Brown Act lawsuits—and the editor of an Old Guard/Board Majority-bashing district newsletter called “Dissent”—was called into the Chancellor’s office and advised that, based on the content of the newsletter, he had violated the district’s “workplace violence” and “discrimination” policies. Bauer was ordered to seek “anger management” counseling.

(For an account of this episdode, see District goes after Bauer. The Board Four/Old Guard era has many parallels with the current Bush Administration, doncha think? See also "The Unabauer Manifesto" in OC Weekly, April 1999.))

Clearly, the action was the first step in an effort to fire the instructor.

The charges against Bauer were patently absurd. Represented by attorney Carol Sobel (who also represented the students), Bauer filed a lawsuit in Federal Court. The first judge to handle the case described the district’s action against Bauer as “Orwellian.” Eventually, the case came before Judge Feess, who ruled heavily in favor of Bauer. The district appealed, but, in the end, Bauer prevailed. (See One gadfly, one gadfly swatter)

(Regarding student 1st Amendment lawsuits, see Students sue district)

(For another instance of Mathur/Board going after a perceived faculty critic, read Mathur goes after Jeff for naming a greenhouse)

(For an article concerning the Old Guard’s brief attempt to counter Dissent with it’s own publication: The Anti-Dissent.)

11. MISCALLENEOUS FIASCOS, CRONYISM, ETC. The controversies did not end there. Mathur and the Board Four attracted a good deal of further adverse publicity, owing to various absurd actions and policies. At one point, Mathur (through one of his underlings, who achieved infamy for independent reasons later on) ordered faculty to remove all signs and graphics from their office doors and windows. The move was justified on aesthetic grounds, but it was clear that Mathur objected to signage that was critical of his leadership and the leadership of the BOT.

At the start of the Iraq war, an IVC administrator (VPI Dennis White) ordered faculty to cease discussing the conflict in the classroom. In a memo to deans, he wrote:

It has come to my attention that several faculty members have been discussing the current war within … their classrooms. We need to be sure that faculty do not explore this activity within … their classroom unless it can be demonstrated, to the satisfaction of this office, that such discussions are directly related to the approved instructional requirements … associated with those classes … College personnel are … encouraged to explore their views … outside … the classroom. Again, however, the exploration of those reviews [sic] within … the classroom is professionally inappropriate…

This action attracted national attention and caused considerable embarrassment. For the whole ridiculous story, see IVC FACULTY PROHIBITED FROM DISCUSSING THE WAR


Bauer’s newsletter reported Mathur’s various misdeeds, including his violation of a student’s privacy rights in the mid-90s. Mathur responded by suing Bauer and Mathur’s one-time VPI for violating Mathur’s privacy by reporting his misdeeds! Appealing to California’s anti-SLAPP legislation (which is designed to protect whistle-blowers and the like from deep-pocketed entities who have the capacity to burden critics with endless litigation), Bauer counter-sued and prevailed. Mathur was required to pay out $35,000 in attorney fees for Bauer and the former administrator.

Mathur then sued the district on the grounds that it failed to protect him. The district awarded Mathur money to cover much of his legal expenses.

Teddi Lorch retired from the board in 1998 amidst rumors that she coveted the district’s chief Human Relations job. She later applied for that job but was not hired. She sued the district for discrimination. The district settled by awarding her the job. She has it still.


12. ENTER FUENTES, STAGE FAR RIGHT. By 2000, it appeared that Frogue might not win reelection, and so he resigned from the board. That provided the Board Majority (which, at that time, included John Williams, Don Wagner, Nancy Padberg, and Dorothy Fortune) an opportunity to hand-pick Frogue’s replacement. To the surprise of many, the board chose Tom Fuentes, the long-time chair of Orange County's Republican Party, and the controversial leader of its ultra-conservative element. Several Old Guard unionists came to board meetings to speak in support of Fuentes candidacy, despite Fuentes’ politics, which were manifestly hostile to unionism, especially unionism in the public schools.

There are indications that, during the prior May, Mathur had met with Fuentes. Mathur and Fuentes share a reputation for wily machinations.

13. PENNY-PINCHING CONSERVATISM ARRIVES. Naturally, as an incumbent, Fuentes sailed to victory during the 2000 election, and thus the Board Majority, five members strong, settled into an even more conservative era, one that was characterized by a hostility to generous faculty contracts.

Fuentes and Wagner emerged as the dominant figures on the board, and they made no secret of their anti-union politics. At one point, during a TV interview, Trustee Fuentes falsely asserted that faculty have a "36-hour workweek" and are paid on average "$100,000" per year. He expressed the need for vigilance against faculty unions.

By 2002, President Mathur had experienced two faculty votes of “no confidence,” the last one involving 90% of voting full-time faculty. When the Chancellorship became vacant, Mathur got the job, despite his having sued the district.

Faculty at IVC were horrified, but they also knew that, eventually, Saddleback faculty (and staff) would recognize Mathur’s ruthlessness, his incompetence, and his willingness to do anything that his “bosses” ordered him to do.


14. MATHUR'S ILLEGAL FACULTY HIRING POLICY. In 2003, Mathur pursued development of a new faculty hiring policy. He did so without informing the faculty, despite the law, which clearly states that faculty hiring policies must be agreed upon mutually by the district (i.e., Mathur and the Board) and faculty (i.e., the academic senates). The resulting policy, which was approved by the board over vociferous faculty objections, meant a radical increase in administrative power during the hiring process. Further, it included provisions that allowed administration to punish faculty search committee members for unusual scoring of applicants.

This particular outrage caused the district’s two academic senates to strongly unify. In an unprecedented step, the senates sued the district. Unsurprisingly, Judge Clay Smith ruled that the district had violated the law when it failed to include faculty in the development of the hiring policy.

When, at the instruction of Judge Smith, Mathur started the development process anew, this time with faculty representation, the result was yet another faculty-unfriendly policy, which was again adopted by the board over strenuous faculty objections. This time, Smith ruled that the policy was indeed mutually agreed upon, since faculty were on the committee that produced it.

The faculty senates appealed the decision. In the meantime, district instructors held a vote of confidence/no confidence in Mathur (in 2004), which resulted in 93.5% no confidence. It was clear that virtually no faculty were willing to be “led” by Mathur.

In 2005, the appellate trio made its decision regarding the “hiring policy” case. It unanimously and strongly sided with faculty, and so the hiring policy was again voided. The district pursued its remaining avenues, but these were unsuccessful.

15. FORTUNE BLOWS TOWN, JAY TAKES A SEAT, PADBERG WISES UP. In 2003, rumors flew that Trustee Fortune no longer resided in Orange County. Faced with increasing scrutiny, she resigned from the Board. The Board Majority then attempted what it had achieved in 2000—handpicking a replacement. This time, faculty, especially the reformed union leadership, employed the law to force a special election. The controversy concerning the Board’s political gamesmanship drove away the Majority’s choice, and thus it was that Bill Jay, the union’s candidate, became Fortune’s trustee replacement.

That meant that the Majority was back to four members. But, by this time, it was no longer clear that Nancy Padberg was aligned with the other three. It became increasingly clear that she disapproved of Mathur. As a decision concerning the renewal of Mathur's contract neared, it appeared that Mathur had only three trustees in his corner (Williams, Wagner, and Fuentes).


16. THE ACCREDS: WHO DO THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE? The district’s two colleges underwent yet another Accreditation process that ended in 2004. In January of 2005, the Accrediting agency reaccredited the two colleges, but it did so in the least favorable terms (the lowest of four possible). According to the Accreditors, the colleges suffered from administrative chaos, trustee micromanagement, and a “plague of despair.” SC was also dinged for the district's executive hiring policy, which, as usual, left constituency groups such as faculty out in the cold. The two colleges were required to produce a “progress report” within a year.

Both colleges seemed to make a good faith effort to respond to the Accrediting team’s recommendations, but, at the district level, it was difficult to see how Mathur and the Board were responding to the agency’s recommendations.

By late 2005, the colleges submitted their progress reports to the Accrediting agency. The IVC report referred to the despair engendered by the Board’s action, in mid-2005, not only to renew Mathur’s contract, but to grant him a raise. Mathur now enjoys a salary of close to a quarter million dollars a year. It came as a shock to many of his faculty supporters that Lang had switched sides and supported Mathur.

At time of writing, the two colleges await the Accrediting agency’s response to the progress reports. Reportedly, Board President Lang is pessimistic about the Agency’s pending response….


Among the more entertaining of the numerous episodes of district folly was Trustee Fuentes' early 2005 action (with support from his conservative colleagues) not to approve Saddleback College's highly popular summer Study Abroad program to Santander, Spain.

By why? Explained Fuentes:

"Many of our students in this college, and of its sister college Saddleback and Irvine, past and future today, fight on the battlefield of Iraq under the flag that is behind us. Spain has abandoned our fighting men and women, withdrawing their support. I see no reason to send the students of our colleges to Spain at this moment in history." (February 2005 meeting of BOT)

I videotaped these remarks. The next morning, I brought the video to the Register, which made it available on its website, accompanying a story about Fuentes' bizaarre action.

To make a long story short (for the whole story, see Trustee Fuentes’ Spanish Adventure), Fuentes' action (plus rationale) was widely ridiculed and condemned—it was briefly a national and even an international story, inspiring commentary even by Spanish officials—and yet another embarrassing chapter of the troubled SOCCCD was born.

As the story mushroomed, Fuentes soon backpedaled, claiming, implausibly, that his "abandoning us" rationale for nixing the study-abroad program was a minor consideration among several. (Read his comments again.) (To be fair, none of his colleagues who supported non-approval mentioned Spain's withdrawal from Iraq; only Fuentes had made that point, though, clearly, it was an important point for Fuentes. See the video.)

In the end, the board reversed its decision, and the Study Abroad trip occurred without incident.


(4/06): The Accreditors smacked the two colleges but good, especially with regard to trustee micromanagement and the climate of "despair" at the two colleges.

In the early months of 2006, some trustees—most obviously Tom Fuentes—were defiant re the Accreditors' recommendations. At board meetings, Mr. Fuentes opined that the problem with the district was not so much trustee micromanagement as faculty "macromanagement."

Further, in private conversation, Fuentes has stated that he regards the Accreditors' reports as in reality authored by the district faculty. Evidently, Mr. Fuentes, like Mr. Frogue whom he replaced, is a fan of daft conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, trustee Wagner, who is politically ambitious (he has run for a seat in the California Assembly), has pursued an agenda as trustee that seems designed to please the right wing, as when he sought (successfully) to cease the two colleges' memberships in the liberal American Library Association, calling the organization a bunch of "liberal busybodies."

Chancellor Mathur for a time seemed to make a real effort to turn a new leaf and respect faculty and other constituency groups. By April, however, he seemed suddenly to return to the old Raghu, blaming others for the district's problems.

EARLY 2007

UPDATE (2/07): Each college recently heard from the Accreds. Each has once again been directed to prepare a progress report on the same unmet recommendations (including board micromanagement). Each report is due in October.

Surprisingly, the action by ACCJC re Saddleback College was harsher, for submission of that report will be followed by a site visit.

The IVC report was generally very favorable as far as the college operations and climate are concerned. The problem: essentially, the usual trustee/Chancellor issues.

The problem, of course, is that the colleges are in no position to cease board and chancellor micromanagement. It's a flaw in the Accred system.

The Saddleback College report seemed to go out of its way to ding the faculty leadership for fostering a culture of discord. In the end, though, the Accred team left the buck sitting on the trustees' desk. (See conclusion re rec. 6.)

One wonders whether these colleges will be writing progress reports ad infinitum. Well, that's one solution, I guess, though it's just gonna piss off faculty, who have to write the damned things. —CW, Trabuco Canyon


UPDATE, 7/07:

Let's see. The Board and Raghu seem to have settled into a period of relative indifference to the Accrediting agency's concerns. They are aware, of course, that the Accreds are too whimpy really to spank the colleges hard, for as long as the fundamentals are sound.

Mathur has increased his micromanaging—butting his nose into each college president's business, apparently on a near-daily basis. The presidents have been pushing back, and so they both appear to be doomed. But who knows.

In the Spring, Cely Mora's long-awaited "discrimination" trial occurred, and, in the end, Mathur prevailed. Mathur petitioned to have Mora pay for his defense (which was provided by the taxpayer), but the judge turned that down. Nothing unusual there.

In the course of the trial, it was revealed just how unprofessional and dishonest Raghu can be, at least in the case of administrative hires. (See Stunning testimony.) In the hire of Rodney Poindexter (who was eventually fired amid accusations of violence on his part), Mathur disregarded the search committee's judgment and brought Poindexter into the final interviews. None of the letters justified the notion that Poindexter was sufficiently experienced--although, according to Mathur, there was a further reference that did offer that evidence, only it has somehow been lost. (See Reference Check.)

The jury didn't look like much. One juror slept through much of the trial (saw that with my own eyes more than once). Two jurors (apparently) wrote to this blog, revealing qualities that were, well, worrisome, especially for jurors.

As I write (July), the board is poised to renew and extend Mathur's contract yet again.


7/23/07: Yup, that's just what it did. On a 4 to 2 vote (with Milchiker absent), the board (Williams, Fuentes, Lang, Wagner) approved a 4-year contract with COLAs. Padberg and Jay dissented. The matter had evidently been decided during the previous Thursday's "special" meeting, which concerned an ongoing evaluation of the Chancellor.


AUGUST, 2007:

With the seven trustees, Chancellor's Mathur's stock appears to be lower than it's been for a long time. Everybody's got his number, it seems, but three or four trustees continue to have a reason to retain him as Chancellor—including this daffy one: maintaining stability during a period in which major changes on the board are expected.

During the summer, Mathur's contract was extended for four years, although he can be canned at any time (with 45 days notice?), with a six month buy-out. The qualification is important, I think. Paying out half his yearly pay to get rid of him could easily seem like a sweet deal, were the IQ wattage of the board to move slightly upward.

During the August board meeting, the majority (i.e., Wagner, Fuentes, Lang, Williams) produced an ugly accusatory Accred Response (poorly documented to boot) at the eleventh hour. Mathur declared that it is to be "incorporated" into the existing drafts of the reports that are owed to the Accrediting commission in October. The move causes confusion and consternation. In truth, the existing reports (composed as per regulations and completed) are designed to get the Accreds off our backs. The inclusion of these new elements, if that ultimately occurs, will likely inspire the Accreds to require yet another progress report, after October.

The Board Majority don't care. They're flipping the finger at the Accreds and at faculty. Meanwhile, our colleges' accreditation is in no real jeopardy.

Rumors abound that the board will undergo many changes between now and December (or later?). Is Trustee Fuentes too ill to continue? Are Trustees Jay and Lang sick and tired of the gig?

Could be. Lang, Jay, Fuentes, and Williams will be up for reelection in one year. But watch for the ol' "resignation and temporary appointment" ploy. It worked well for the majority in the summer of 2000 (Fuentes replaced Frogue). It did not work so well when they replaced Dot "Don't live here no mo'" Fortune (the board got caught breaking the rules, and we ended up with union-pal Bill Jay).

Looks like it's up to the FA (union) to strategize effectively to counter Board Majority machinations.



Late September, '07:

On the board, things hit a new low at the Sept. meeting of the BOT. Mathur is manifestly partisan in favor of the Board Majority (Lang, Williams, Wagner, Fuentes) and is now obviously doing their bidding by, among other things, taking steps to keep the Minority (Milchiker, Padberg, Jay) out of the loop in board projects.

Indeed, at that meeting, Milchiker reveals that, in February, Mathur acted to undo the mechanism whereby college emails are sent to the trustees, effectively keeping some trustees "in the dark," as Marcia puts it, about important college meetings.

More importantly, at this meeting, the Majority pushes through revisions of the two colleges' Accreditation Midterm Reports that weave the Majority's inflammatory and incompetent "response" into the colleges' drafts--in essence, changing those drafts. They approve the revisions on a 4/3 vote. Expect faculty writers of these reports to refuse to sign off on the grounds that their writings have essentially been changed.

It's an ungodly mess created largely by Mathur's ruthlessness and Lang's incompetence. It seems likely that everyone would have been happy had the district response simply been inserted in the report as the Board Majority's perspective.

UPDATE (October 13, 2007):

WHENCE RESPONSE? Good grief. Mathur managed to turn the Focused Midterm Reports episode into an absurd drama that will only make him and his patrons look bad. After enduring endless feints and other shenanigans, the college Accred writers were allowed to insert factual language, explaining how the Chancellor/District "response" was inserted into the Reports. They even included links to the district website and its board meeting video.

At the last minute, Mathur tried to delete that (the Commissioners mustn't look at what board discussions are really like!). But the Senate leaders drew a line in the sand. Mathur even tried to impose a bit of revisionism: he wanted the college writers' Whence Response? to say that the college presidents, not Goo, instructed the colleges to incorporate the response.

The man is unbelievable. What a liar!

So, now, the reports are sent, and God only knows what the Commissioners will do. They meet in January. My guess is that they'll spank us hard. If the colleges/faculty had been allowed to turn in their original drafts (pre-Response insertion), then we'd be whistling a happy tune, Accredwise.

But no.

THE 50% LAW. The district has been forced to cough up the data, and the data make clear that Mathur was lying when he said that the dip below 50% was only discovered "last month." In fact, the percentage has been steadily declining for years, and, each year, the district must sign a document with the "instructional percentage" figure clearly indicated.

God, he's a liar!

But it gets worse. Turns out that Mathur's efforts to build his Mt. Rushmore in Tustin--lavishing big bucks on ATEP, almost all of it spent on the non-instrucitonal--means that, for 2007-08, the district will be at about 46%! (This is the district's projection, not mine.)

It is already clear that Mathur will try to pin this problem on faculty and on such bugaboos as "reassigned time." But the data suggest that RT has nothing to do with this. The problem is that Mathur threw money at ATEP without being mindful of the 50% Law. The cost of RT is chump change compared to the $5 million he's spending on ATEP this year (only 5% of it instructional!).

One more thing: I keep hearing that the City of Tustin is unhappy with Mathur's grand plans for ATEP--i.e., the "Camelot" version of ATEP. If the city is unhappy, then, boy are we screwed. If they don't sign off--well, heads will roll.

Mathur's turning out to be quite the disaster. Why don't they fire him?

Now doubt, they'll give him cash prizes.

UPDATE (February '08): the Dept. of Education has placed great pressure on WASC (and thus ACCJC) to mean business with their standards and to stick to the period of correction (of problems) of two years. And so, in the Accred letters sent late January, each college was told that, unless it finally overcomes the long-standing problems (trustee micromanagement, a plague of despair, administrative instability, etc.), its accreditation would be pulled.


UPDATE (June '08):

.....Saddleback College has been oddly quiet (complacent?) re their accreditation problem (its report to the Accreds is due in October). I'm told that their Accreditation task force, which includes trustee Dave Lang, doesn't even have faculty representation. Good grief.
.....Meanwhile, IVC has approached its parallel accreditation issue with great seriousness and industry. Its focus group, which includes a cooperative Don Wagner (President of the Board), meets every two weeks or so. It has wide representation (faculty participate in a manner that honors the existing "work to contract"). The group even gave a fine (and well-attended) presentation of its work at an all-college meeting at the end of April.
.....It appears that the ACCJC has brought it about that someone will visit our colleges/district to scope things out. Mathur is insisting on calling this person a "consultant," but that's just obfuscation. The visitor is liable to finally arrive (the original guy was delayed by an emergency) some time this summer, which is unfortunate, since the colleges are virtual ghost towns.

.....Re our looming and inevitable violation of the 50% Law: we've heard almost nothing about it for some time. (I'm told that a delegation went up to the state to plead for leniency and whatnot, but that profited them nothing.)

.....Late in the Spring, the Faculty Association, unhappy with the district's failure to bargain the contract in good faith, called for a "work to contract," which ended up affecting the massive (and absurd) effort to hire 35 or 40 new full-time faculty (a ploy to bring instructional costs up to the 50% mark). But, owing to the usual union SNAFU, the WTC affected IVC much more than Saddleback and thus caused tensions among faculty. We seem to be getting past that now though. (Essentially, owing to fortuities, the hires turned out OK, even at IVC.)
.....No contract yet. There is no way, of course, to approve a contract during summer anyway, owing to the usual faculty diaspora. Our 50% situation clearly calls for serious salary increases (our salaries do not compare well with those of faculty at contiguous districts), but this board just will not go there.

.....There's been quite an administrative exodus of late, adding no doubt to "administrative instability"—one of the Accreds' worries. VC Andreea Serban bolted for the President job back in Santa Barbara (she'd only been on the job for two years). ATEP Provost Bob Kopecky was essentially canned—no doubt made a scapegoat by the wily Mathur. (He'll return as faculty in the Fall.) VC Bob King left for greener pastures. Several IVC deans left in the course of the Fall and Spring (Feldhus, Cooper, Corum, et al.).
.....Essentially, IVC is experiencing deanlessness. It's amazing.
.....No doubt I've left somebody out. Whatever.

.....Board President Don Wagner really stepped in it at the recent Saddleback College "scholarship" event, where, in the minds of many observers (including some doners), he "politicized" the occasion by lecturing in defense of prayer. Evidently, he had received a missive from a "church/state separation" organization suggesting that prayer at college/district events is inappropriate, and so he felt the need to rebut.
.....Don seems to lack self-control.
.....Someone posted Don's scholarship remarks on YouTube, and then the shit hit the fan. At the May board meeting, Nancy Padberg opined that Don should apologize; she challenged him to make up the loss in moola after the exodus of doners. (Don't know how many, if any, doners are actually bolting.) Lots of community members came to carp at 'im. He responded with defiance. Wrong move, Don.
.....Don doesn't apologize. He doesn't recognize his mistakes. Still, I like 'im.

.....Trustee Tom Fuentes, who has liver cancer, received a liver transplant—which surprised everyone, since he was quite obviously a poor candidate (owing to his age, diabetes, etc.). People have muttered their suspicions in the hallway, but that's all. But I don't buy it. I'm sure the Lord intervened on Tom's behalf, owing to the fellow's manifest goodness.

.....The Faculty Association (union) is gearing up for the November election, at which time they hope to unseat Lang and Fuentes (Bill Jay is a friend, and John Williams has supported faculty with regard to the contract). Late in Spring, the FA held a lunch at the Spectrum at which time its candidates spoke and spoke well.

.....Amazingly, the board continues to support Mathur, despite the ample reasons to can him. Mathur, of course, committed the massive "50%" blunder and is heavily implicated in our accreditation woes (which are grave). It is by no means obvious that both colleges will have their accreditation renewed in early 2009. If you suppose otherwise, you're just not paying attention.

.....Leaving aside IVC's Wendy Gabriella and her crew, faculty leadership seems to be disintegrating--no big deal: faculty effectiveness historically waxes and wanes. It seems that, at Saddleback College, faculty have collapsed into consternation and despair. Am I wrong?

.....On the up side: the weather's been nice, and some of us our flourishing. I sense no great despair at IVC, though it may exist in buckets at the administrative level.

.....Dissent the Blog is flourishing and growing in stature. Trivia, I know, but true nonetheless.

UPDATE, August 31, 2008:

The IVC Accreditation focus group has done great work. Meanwhile, Saddleback's focus group has done virtually nothing. When Saddleback College's new Academic Senate President, Bob Cosgrove, returned from a vacation in late July, he found a disaster in the making, and hair was immediately set on fire. Consequently, Saddlebackians have made a huge effort to finally get their act together. SLOs have been written, etc. Everybody down there is starting to seem terribly pleased with themselves.

We're all beginning to relax about this accreditation crisis. Whew!

Meanwhile, Mathur seems to be more despised than ever. Administrators barely hide their contempt for the fellow. Things seem so bad that his Chancellorhood seems almost titular, ceremonial--yet pungently sulfurous. Ghastly.

Meanwhile, enrollments and FTES are way up, especially at IVC. Why? That's hard to say. We don't yet know how widespread the phenomenon is.

Tom Fuentes, still recovering from liver transplant surgery and a bile top-off, has been making a great show of his regained health and vitality. He's held another Balboa Bay Club fundraiser, with the usual dark and moneyed suspects. What's he need all that money for? He's an incumbent, for Chrissake.

Well, you know Tom. He's planning to destroy someone.

The other day, a well-known county Democrat called me to ask about this and that. At one point, she commented on Fuentes' poor health. I told her, "Fuentes is the kind of guy who's kept alive by evil." She thought that was awfully funny.

But I wasn't kidding.

UPDATE: December, 2008:

Hmmm, doesn't look too good. The faculty union bit off more than it could chew and came away with nothing in the trustee election of 2008. Jay and Williams, as essentially unchallenged incumbents, were reelected handily. The union's candidate came close to unseating Lang, and Bliss did surprisingly well against Fuentes. But Lang and Fuentes are with us for another four years.


Early in December, the board held its annual "organizational meeting" and rolled over the existing leadership (i.e., Wagner continues as board President, etc.).

Gosh, what else has happened? Both colleges seem to be sailing toward Accreditation success in January, but who knows. The board is pissed at faculty right now owing to union leadership's demands (contract negotiations) and the Academic Senate's push for much more reassigned time. This has made Mathur look good to the board again.

By November, Mathur had returned to his old habit of wagging his finger at people--mostly faculty, it seems. He commenced his new practice of insisting that the future looks bleak and things need to change. He says this as though he were correcting and warning recalcitrant children.

Observers are, of course, appalled.

Morale seems to be at a new low. Mathur seems to have no allies, aside from four board members, all of whom--save Fuentes--probably detest him.

UPDATE: 1/23/09

During a closed board session in December, trustees took some sort of preliminary vote of the Faculty Association's contract proposal and, evidently, a majority voted affirmatively. Fuentes then decided to obliterate the situation by sliming Williams and Padberg with demagoguery: he got his pal Steve Greenhut (OC Punch) to complain that Williams is no conservative what with his pro-union vote; then he went after Padberg, too. Eventually, the OC Reg editorialized to that effect. Next thing we knew, the union was pursuing damage control by asking that the "contract" item for the Jan. 20 board meeting be pulled, and that's what happened.

UPDATE, 1/31/09:

The Accred letters were supposed to be faxed Friday morning (yesterday), but, somehow, that didn't happen. The ACCJC evidently explained to the college(s) that the letter(s) will be faxed to campus on Monday.

What's that all about?

Lots of rumors re the letters' content, but none to be taken seriously, I think.

Still no word on the faculty contract. At this point, especially given the economic downturn, many faculty (or at least some--those with whom I speak) would be happy to get the 5% COLA and kiss the rest goodbye. But who knows what the union leadership is thinking or doing.

Mathur continues to act like an asshole.

We're moving closer to the "big day" for ATEP--that is, the City of Tustin's imminent rejection of our performance and direction (this concerns the "conveyance document" or some such thing). Naturally, Mathur acts as though it's smooth sailing. Meanwhile, he seems to be doing everything possible to build up ATEP simplex--so that we can say, "See, we're really moving along out  here! There's so much momentum!"

No doubt we'll be singing that tune to a judge by summer.

Who knows what Monday will bring. Good news, I think, for the colleges.


Anonymous said...

Can any of this really be true?

Anonymous said...

It be true all right.

Anonymous said...

This is all made up, right?

Anonymous said...

Ragu Mathur looks hot. Especially with his head on Elvis' body.
hubba hubba

Anonymous said...

Ray Chandos is a lump. Does he actually teach anyone anything?
I mean, besides how much an old VW with a DMV waiver pollutes our canyon air.

Anonymous said...

Gawd, I'm glad the wifey-poo took early retirement and got outta there......
Sometimes OC reminds me of Mohave County, AZ
They won't spell their county out there with a "j", that would be too Injun Joe. You remember him; he almost got Becky in the cave while Tom was whitewashing his fence or something.

Anonymous said...

I like this anonymous stuff; no one has a clue who is posting my stupid comments.
I had to spell "ernudht" to post this. I looked it up - there is no such word.......
Maybe it's Swahili.

Anonymous said...

Our long history, so it goes... according to Roy's (CW) views of course. Whitewashing the truth, tweaking photos, trying to sneak stuff by, exaggerating the little stuff, blowing it way out of proportion to create issues and trying to dupe our community into believing all this nonsense. You have become quite the propaganda minister (step aside Joseph Goebbels!) CW – the anti-PIO! Chunk, I bet it really hurt you deep down inside that the PAC materialized, was celebrated, people (RM included) were awarded, It was the product of this administration, etc. and all your criticism fell by the wayside. For all you readers out there, see all of Chunk’s criticism of the PAC. It’s all documented right here on his blog! You should be ashamed of yourself Chunk. This blog in a nutshell; the sad world of a lonely guy and his cat who live in the canyon, canyon, canyon… (simulated echo effect)

Anonymous said...

So, 4:08, let me see if I have this right: all the dedicated people who worked their asses off at IVC for years (and always hoped they would spend the rest of their working careers there because they so loved the school) but felt it necessary at some point to leave the screwball SOCCCD administration behind just to have some sanity and continuity in their lives are.......
and it's all Roy's fault because he DUPED them !


gee, I didn't realize what a sorry bunch of low IQ gooseberries we all are, thanks for setting me straight on that
: )

Anonymous said...

"....exaggerating the little stuff, blowing it way out of proportion"

Yeah, the "little stuff" like homophobia, anti-semitism, repeated violations of California state law, misogyny, conspiracy to deprive teachers of their pay, their benefits and their professional status.

Only a Krankenstein administration and its patsys would see that as "little stuff" in a higher education setting.

smog tester said...

I smell a dirty VW.

Anonymous said...

We just love to hate, don't we?

Anonymous said...

4:46, I believe 4:08 is referring to attempts to dupe the community, not the employees. The community however it seems has not been duped by all your nonsense otherwise they would've voted out the trustees by now, wouldn’t ya thunk?

Anonymous said...

Ya doity rat!

Anonymous said...

My God, can any of this be true?

No Will

George Will, Having Left Republican Party, Urges Conservatives to Vote Against Donald Trump (Fortune)      George Will, a longtime pol...