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Chancellor of College District Agrees to Resign

January 08, 1986|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

After two years of efforts by a teachers union to oust him, Saddleback Community College District Chancellor Larry Stevens has agreed to resign, effective Jan. 31.

Agreement on the resignation was reached Monday night during a closed meeting of the college district's board of trustees, which governs Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and Irvine Valley College in Irvine.

Stevens, 49, a Marine Corps Reserve colonel who has been the college district's chief executive since July 30, 1982, had been attacked by faculty union leaders for being "dictatorial and militaristic." His departure was widely expected after three new trustees on the seven-member board were elected Nov. 5 with support from the teachers union.

Under the terms of the agreement, the district will buy out the remaining 18 months of Stevens' contract, a move that will cost the district $104,000, based on a $70,525 annual salary. The district will also guarantee Stevens' health insurance coverage during the 18-month period, pay him $5,251 for unused vacation and put a $6,494 payment into his retirement annuity.

Stevens' supporters, including former Trustee Bill Watts of Tustin, have said that the chancellor was simply a strong leader who had sparked bitter criticism from some teachers by asking faculty members to spend more days teaching per week and cracking down on overtime pay.

Watts, who was president of the board and had been a trustee for eight years until being defeated Nov. 5, strongly defended Stevens, saying the chancellor had been interested in academic issues as well as developing the college district.

As for faculty complaints about Stevens, Watts said: "I think their biggest complaint is that Larry Stevens expected them to work five days a week."

No 'Negative Comments'

Stevens declined to comment Tuesday on his resignation. One of the terms of the resignation agreement worked out Monday was that neither the trustees nor Stevens would issue any "negative comments" about each other.

However, Sharon MacMillan, past president of the Saddleback Faculty Assn. and a leader in the initial moves two years ago to oust Stevens, said Tuesday she was pleased by his resignation.

"I think there will be a great deal more peace and academic environment now," she said. MacMillan said that Stevens was "very authoritarian" and "too interested in expanding administrative offices rather than academics."

MacMillan said faculty members had always worked long and hard, noting that Stevens had tried to imply that teachers were greedy "to try to justify himself." The former chancellor "was just not a good administrator," she added.

Stevens, who was president of Tacoma (Wash.) Community College for seven years before coming to Saddleback, went on leave of absence Tuesday, pending his Jan. 31 resignation.

David Habura, executive vice chancellor of the district, will serve as acting chancellor for the rest of this month. Donna Hatchett, college district director of community relations, said that "by the end of the month, the board expects to have selected an interim chancellor who will head the district during the search for a new chancellor."

Looking back on Stevens' tenure, Watts and other supporters said the chancellor had brought the college district through some financially difficult years without having to lay off any faculty members.

Watts predicted that the new board of trustees would, in future months, be firing or forcing out more district administrators who are disliked by the teachers union. "This is sad, but this is just the beginning," he said.

Faculty opposed to Stevens last year sought to recall three trustees who had consistently supported him, including Watts. The recall effort failed to get enough signatures, but in the following November election the union was able to oust incumbents and elect three new trustees it had strongly supported.

Similar Events in '83

The events in the Saddleback district were similar to the 1983 political turbulence in Coast Community College District, which governs Orange Coast College, Golden West College and Coastline Community College.

Faculty in the Coast Community College District, after failing at a recall, succeeded in electing three union-endorsed trustees, who became the new board majority. The incumbent chancellor, whom the union opposed, resigned a week after those elections.

New presidents subsequently were installed at all three colleges in Coast Community College District. Ironically, one of the ousted presidents in that district was Lee Stevens of Golden West College and a brother of outgoing Chancellor Larry Stevens.

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