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O.C. Chancellor Selection Called Best Choice, Sham

The Region

Education: New Orange County college chief had earlier received two 'no-confidence' votes from faculty and was the fourth or fifth choice of a selection committee.

February 02, 2002|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Trustees of the South Orange County Community College District on Friday appointed as chancellor a controversial college president who has sued the district and who twice has received "no-confidence" votes from faculty.

The appointment of Raghu P. Mathur, president of Irvine Valley College, by the conservative-controlled board of trustees had been widely expected. Many faculty members on Friday called the selection process a sham.

Mathur, 53, was ranked fourth or fifth among the five candidates the selection committee forwarded to trustees, said Lee Haggerty, who, as president of the teachers union, sat on the panel. The committee was made up of professors, administrators and staff from Irvine Valley and Saddleback colleges, which make up the South County district.

"He was going to be their man from the beginning," Haggerty said.

Don Wagner, president of the board, said trustees did not look at the selection committee's rankings. He called Mathur "the best candidate who came forward after a nationwide search."

Wagner said trustees were aware of the "no-confidence" votes by Irvine Valley faculty, but they were not discussed. District trustees have been at odds with faculty at both campuses over employment and governance issues.

The vote was 5-2, with David Lang and Marcia Milchiker voting against Mathur's appointment.

"My feeling was the pool was inadequate and I felt we probably ought to make certain we were looking at the best possible candidates," Lang said of his vote. Trustee Dorothy Fortune said the board interviewed four candidates and the fifth dropped out. She said Mathur "has done exceptionally well in a situation full of problems he did not make, going back 20 years."

She said faculty criticism was directed against him because he was following the board's direction.

Mathur will be paid $170,000 to $180,000 a year, with details of his contract still to be negotiated, Wagner said.

Mathur is expected to take over Monday.

The board decided in January 2001 not to renew the contract of the previous chancellor, Cedric Sampson, who was on sick leave when the board acted. During Mathur's term as president at Irvine Valley, many administrators left, and faculty complained about his authoritarian manner.

Mathur acknowledged there had been divisions at Irvine Valley but said that things have improved.

Controversy has followed Mathur since the board voted 4-3 to appoint him interim president of Irvine Valley in April 1997, promoting him from chairman of the school of physical sciences.

Five months later, a judge ruled that the board had violated the state open-meetings law in making the appointment.

Faculty members said he lacked administrative experience and was too closely aligned with trustees.

In 1998, 75% of faculty at Irvine Valley voted "no confidence" in him, and a year later, the faculty senate called for his removal.

In 1999, 90% of the faculty said they had no confidence in Mathur.

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