Written by Crystal Olmedo | Updated: March 10, 2016 at 11:11 a.m.
Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees appointed a compliance officer at the Feb. 16 meeting and the hire has been a cause of concern within the RCCD Faculty Association.
According to Dariush Haghighat, the president of Riverside City College’s Faculty Association, the union expressed concern about the Board’s appointment of Lorraine Jones to the position, because there was not a member of the faculty association on the hiring committee.
“The association is shocked, dismayed and frustrated that the hiring was done without their knowledge,” Haghighat said.
Jones was previously the director of equal opportunity employment and diversity and the Title IX coordinator for Mount San Antonio College until 2015.
While she is no longer an employee at Mount San Antonio College, she is still in the middle of a civil lawsuit in which she is accused of covering up a rape by former students of the college.
Due to a lack of public contact information available on the district website for the new hire, Viewpoints was unable to reach Jones in a timely manner.
“The faculty association condemns any indifference toward rape on a campus and any allegations and takes them seriously,” Haghighat said. “We expect our district to do their due diligence.”
Although the association is concerned about the issue, according to Haghighat they are not passing judgement on the allegations.
“It is clearly important to separate allegations from proven fact. The faculty association does not wish to jump to any conclusion,” Haghighat said. “We don’t want anyone rushed into judgement, but we expect the board to give us a definite conclusion to this cloud that is hanging over our heads … (Jones) is innocent until proven guilty.”
Haghighat said that the faculty association will be submitting a report to the Board addressing the violation of a “gentleman’s agreement” held between Michael Burke, chancellor of RCCD, and the faculty association and suggested an investigation into this matter. This agreement was arranged because of past issues the association had encountered with former District Compliance Officers.
“There have been some issues with that position (Director of Compliance) which is exactly why we want to develop a board policy,” Board of Trustees President Virginia Blumenthal said. “That way everybody knows.“
Haghighat said the faculty association did a Google search and found out about the lawsuit, giving them more reason for worry on the matter. After learning about the lawsuit, they contacted Burke, Human Resources and Riverside City College President Wolde-Ab Isaac.
“Because of this incident and what was done the word of the chancellor cannot be trusted,” Haghighat said. “So we need an agreement in writing in the board policy.”
According to Haghighat, the Faculty Association believes the board needs to clearly outline the hiring process with no ambiguity that “all stakeholders to be involved in the hiring process of key administrative positions,”
Blumenthal said she is “not at all”concerned that Jones is holding the same position she served in at Mt. SAC.
“Anybody can get sued. It does not mean (you) have committed any wrongdoing,” Blumenthal said. “We’re not involved in that.”
Burke apologized at the March 1, Board of Trustees meeting for not involving members of the Faculty Association in the decision to hire a new District compliance officer.
“First of all, the recent compliance officer recruitment hiring that we did, brought attention and serious concern around how we engage with involved faculty or hiring committees,” Burke said at the meeting. “We did not follow our past practice, this is my oversight. I own that mistake. I’m sorry for the oversight and I want to share that it was not intentional.”
RCCD Student Trustee Ryan Rudolph said he was unaware of the lawsuit that has been filed against Jones. He said he remembers Burke apologizing for an action he had taken, but it was unclear what exactly Burke was referring to.
“Let’s have an open dialogue so we can … ensure campus safety,” Rudolph said.
The board policy is scheduled to be presented at the April 5 Board of Trustees regular/committee meeting at the District Office Boardroom in Centennial Plaza.
Diego Dee Garcia contributed to this article.