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Trustees Plan Further Evaluation of Reynolds

May 18, 1987|WILLIAM TROMBLEY | Times Staff Writer

Although California State University Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds received a qualified endorsement from the Cal State Board of Trustees at last Tuesday's turbulent meeting in Long Beach, it has become clear since then that her troubles are far from over.

Reynolds said the board's brief statement that her performance as chancellor has been "noteworthy"--issued after a heated 3 1/2-hour closed-door session--puts an end to the controversy over her stewardship of the 19-campus, 335,000-student system.

"That is done," she said after the meeting. "The discussion is over."

A substantial number of trustees interviewed after the meeting disagreed, however. They are determined to pursue the evaluation of Reynolds at a special meeting tentatively set for June 1.

These trustees are irked because Tuesday's executive session provided little opportunity to discuss the chancellor's strengths and weaknesses, described in a confidential report by Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co., an accounting and management consulting firm.

'Negatives' in Report

The report was generally favorable to Reynolds but contained "quite a few negatives," according to a trustee who asked not to be identified.

"There was so much chaos (during the meeting) that, really, no attention was paid to the content of the report," another trustee said. "Much of the time was spent discussing how we would release the report."

Several trustees expressed resentment at the key roles played by three statewide officeholders--Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy and state schools Supt. Bill Honig--ex officio trustees who seldom attend meetings but showed up Tuesday to support Reynolds.

"I'm very angry," said Trustee Lynne Wasserman. "Willie Brown shows up for this when he hasn't attended another meeting since he became Speaker. . . . He didn't even show up for the selection of a new chancellor."

Not only did Brown attend but, according to several accounts of the meeting, he and Honig dominated the discussion and led the effort to pass a resolution praising Reynolds.

McCarthy said little but proposed the resolution that finally passed, taking language directly from the Peat Marwick evaluation.

'Won't Happen Again'

"Here were three professional politicians who came to a meeting in an unprecedented fashion," one trustee said. "The board had never been confronted with anything like this before. Out of respect for their elected positions and some form of inability to know how to deal with them, the board went along. . . . It won't happen again."

Another trustee said, "Nobody knew how to handle them, nobody knew how to shut them up."

A spokeswoman for Brown said the Speaker would not comment about the meeting. Honig said it was "not a fair characterization" to say he dominated the discussion.

"Everybody had their say," Honig said. "I spoke four or five times, but some people spoke more often than that. I didn't see any shrinking violets there.

"I showed up to give support to Ann," he continued. "I think she's doing a very good job. I've had very good working relations with her and I didn't hear anything at that meeting to make me think otherwise."

As a result of the political byplay, several trustees said, the board was prevented from considering the substance of the report.

"I don't think a majority wants to fire the chancellor," faculty Trustee Robert D. Kully said, "but I do think a majority wants to have a good honest discussion and then draw up a bill of particulars" about her administration.

'Good Stiff Warning'

"The votes are there to give her a good stiff warning," another trustee said.

Wasserman and several other trustees expressed annoyance that Reynolds remained in the room throughout the meeting, and Wasserman said she thinks that the chancellor should not be present at the meeting in June, when trustees assess her performance.

Although a spokesman for Reynolds said, "I think it's fairly customary for the chancellor to sit in," Wasserman noted that campus presidents and system vice chancellors are not in the room when their evaluations are being discussed by the trustees.

"I assume we will continue the discussion of her evaluation in detail and in private," Wasserman said, "just as we do with the presidents and the vice chancellors."

Several of Reynolds' supporters on the board said the June meeting will be devoted only to setting "goals and priorities" for the coming year and to discussing governance, the complex relationships among the trustees, the chancellor and the campus presidents.

"That's all we're supposed to talk about," a Reynolds backer said, "but God knows what will happen when we get there."

It is not known if the chancellor voted for the resolution calling her performance "noteworthy," because it was a secret ballot. The vote in favor of the resolution was 17 to 5, with one abstention. One trustee--Gov. George Deukmejian--missed the meeting.

Kully, Wasserman and Theodore A. Bruinsma were among eight trustees who signed a petition asking for the June meeting.

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