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Battles Grow, but Experts Accredit District's Colleges

February 01, 2000|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Irvine Valley College became entangled in yet more lawsuits between its president and faculty, the college and its sister school, Saddleback College, learned Monday that they have been accredited for another six years.

The Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges accreditation panel last year placed the South Orange County Community College District campuses on "warning" status and called the district "wracked by malfunction."

The community college district appealed the panel's move to the federal Department of Education, the first such action in the panel's 40-year history.

While the federal agency continues to investigate the complaint, said Pam Zanelli, the district's public affairs director, the panel reaccredited the schools.

Loss of accreditation can cause a school to lose federal grants and hurt students' ability to transfer credits to other schools.

Much of the accreditation panel's concern was the continuing battle at Irvine Valley between the administration and faculty.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Feess ruled Monday that the college district must pay $126,000 in attorney's fees and costs to Irvine Valley philosophy professor Roy Bauer. Feess ruled in October that district Chancellor Cedric Sampson acted unconstitutionally when he took disciplinary action against Bauer, who had criticized the administration in satirical newsletters.

Bauer won two other cases in which he accused the district of violating state law on secret meetings by government bodies. In another battle, a lawsuit filed Jan. 24 in Orange County Superior Court by Irvine Valley President Raghu P. Mathur accuses the philosophy professor and former college Vice President Terry Burgess of invasion of privacy.

Mathur did not return calls Monday. In a news release about the lawsuit, he said Burgess' wife, an anthropology professor at Irvine Valley, "has been waging a campaign to unseat Mathur and bring back Burgess as college president."

Michael Corfield, Mathur's attorney, said Burgess had friends pull confidential memos about a student transcript from the president's personnel file and that Bauer published them in his newsletter.

Burgess, who now is vice president of Chabot Community College in Hayward, called the allegations against him "unequivocally false. Personally, I think this is primarily focused on Mr. Bauer, and it's retaliation for his long-standing publication of a couple of newsletters critical of Mr. Mathur."

Bauer's attorney, Carol Sobel, said documents show that Mathur violated federal privacy laws when he gave the student's transcript to the faculty Senate, for which he was reprimanded.

A lawsuit filed Dec. 30 pits another faculty member against Mathur. In it, professor Jeff Kaufmann alleges that the college president disciplined him unfairly as a way to deny him tenure.

The feud started last year when the life sciences department built a greenhouse and named it after Burgess, the college's first botanist.

A college administrator informed the department that before a building could be named, district trustees must approve it.

The administrator said a garden could be named without approval, however, so the life sciences department put a sign on land near the greenhouse naming it the Terry Burgess Garden, Kaufmann said.

In October, Kaufmann said, he received a letter saying he was guilty of two acts of insubordination for putting up the signs.

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