By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
So just who is this ticking time bomb? "I consider myself the most nonviolent person I know," said the 43-year-old, bushy-bearded mountain of a man as he stretched his long frame into a cozy chair on a coffeehouse patio across the street from Irvine Valley College. "I'm a vegetarian because I don't want to hurt animals. I couldn't be further from a violent person. People who know me kid me about it. They regularly point out that I'm just a teddy bear. And I point that out, too. Unfortunately, it doesn't do a thing for the babes."
Bauer's 30-second history: born in British Columbia to German immigrants. Moved to Orange in 1960. U.S. citizenship five years later. His father for many years presided over the Santiago Canyon Water District board of directors. Eagle Scout in 1970. Attended Villa Park High School. Undergraduate and graduate studies at UC Irvine. Part-time teacher at Irvine Valley College before getting a full-time gig in 1986. Met the woman who would be his wife for 15 years in grad school. Divorced about a year ago. (Sampson alluded to the split as an indicator that Bauer could blow. Bauer counters that he and his ex, a University of Redlands philosophy professor, remain good friends; he even house-sat for her "and her fucking boyfriend" recently.)
Bauer became Irvine Valley College's sole full-time philosophy instructor in 1996. "My specialty is ethics and political philosophy," he said. "I love scholarship. I love philosophy. Teaching is, well, fun. I love the freedom of being a professor and being able to determine the shape of my week. I can read a philosophy book at home and bring it into class to read to students."
When he first arrived at Irvine Valley, the college had adopted "an innovative government model: the chair model." That system allowed faculty members to choose their respective departments' chairpeople from among their own. Those faculty leaders performed part-time administrative duties. In exchange, they were given time off from teaching.
"It was perceived by many people to be progressive," Bauer said. "We enjoyed that model until the summer of 1997, when-in closed session, illegally-the board simply eliminated it."
The new board majority-funded by the faculty union-decided that the chair model was too expensive. Too many chairpeople were earning full-time pay yet spending too little time in the classrooms, the trustees contended. In a recent conversation with the Weekly, Frogue alleged that faculty members were earning up to $150,000 per year while teaching only a few hours per week.
Chemistry professor Mathur was named interim president of Irvine Valley College, and one of his first orders of business was reorganization. Deans at Saddleback, which did not have a chair model, were brought in to take over the administrative duties Irvine's faculty members were performing. Teachers were sent back to their classrooms full-time (unless they were union leaders-those who got Frogue and his allies in office-who are still permitted to deduct the hours they spend on union business from their teaching loads).
Bauer sued the district because Mathur's appointment came without prior notice and behind closed doors-a violation of the state's open-meeting law. Bauer won, although the judge refused to unseat Mathur because the board had since gone back and re-appointed him in public. Later, Bauer sued over other open-meeting-law violations involving Mathur's permanent appointment as president, reorganization and other matters. He won that one, too, with the judge ordering the board to record all closed sessions for the next two years because of "persistent and defiant" violations. Experts of the state's open-meeting laws considered the ruling precedent-setting.
Bauer's critics contend that the professor is taking on the district out of petty personal interest. He was a department chairman when the chair model was torpedoed. Bauer pointed out that he had been appointed chairman just a month before the board's October surprise, and the job involved no financial windfall as far as he was concerned. "Being a chairperson was not a way of making more money," he said. "It was, rather, a way of having a time-consuming, odious job that no one wanted, even if we saw the need for it. It was my turn, that's all. Literally no one ran against me for chairperson."
Besides, he added, it's not as if the trustees' new system of governance actually works. A national accreditation committee blamed deep divisions between faculty and trustees on the new system and demanded radical reforms before they'll accredit the campuses.
The turmoil is a simple power struggle. Bauer and others like him believe faculty leaders chosen by their peers should have a major say in curriculum and staffing-and have the freedom to criticize administrators and the board if they're screwing things up. The board majority believes the trustees and their handpicked administrators should run the whole show-and that everyone must act as team players. The faculty union leadership position comes down to this: so long as teacher salaries remain among the highest in the state, we don't care who wins.
The union's tunnel vision is occasionally frightening. Besides funding the conservative board members' elections in 1996, they hired political consultant Pam Zanelli, who blanketed precincts with a gay-baiting flier to discredit the conservatives' opponents. (It alleged that challengers of the Frogue slate would mandate gay studies in classrooms.) Zanelli was later rewarded with a plum administrative job in the district. In '98, the union helped elect two more Christian Coalition-backed candidates to the board.