Written by Crystal Olmedo
Protesters addressed the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees to speak out against the hiring of a new district compliance officer who is accused of negligently handling a student’s alleged rape at Mt. SAC.
Aarefah Mosavi, former Mt. SAC student, and a group of Riverside City College students including Sarah Amro and Jose Venegas attended the meeting to protest the hiring of Lorraine Jones.
Amro and Venegas had filled out requests to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting. They both attempted to give their time to Mosavi, but RCCD Board of Trustees President Virginia Blumenthal informed them that doing so is not a practice of the Board.
Mosavi addressed the Board in the public comments portion of the meeting, explaining her previous interaction with Jones at Mt. SAC. Mosavi said that Jones mishandled her claim that she had been raped by a Mt. SAC student employee.
“I am here today because this administration neglected the fact that Lorraine Jones is being sued by me as part of a federal lawsuit that aims to reclaim my dignity that was stripped from me,” Mosavi said. “Rape is a criminal felony. It is a crime against humanity. It is a form of genocide and it is absolutely sickening to see those in higher positions of authority willfully fail those whose rights have been unjustly stripped from them. The recognition, preservation and protection of our dignity is not an option it is an obligation. It is an inalienable human right.”
Mosavi said that she was sexually assaulted on December 12, 2013 by her Mt. SAC coworker Chester Brown on the campus’ farm and recounted her experience with Brown that night in detail.
Mosavi said she told Brown to stop and that she felt “trapped and was frozen the entire time.”She also said that Brown repeatedly asked her to remove her hijab or head covering that she wears, which she declined to do.
Mosavi said that she reported the incident to her supervisors at Mt. SAC, which directed her to Jones, who was the Title IX coordinator at the time.
“I was never a priority to the Title IX coordinator throughout this investigation,” Mosavi said. “Other meetings were constantly scheduled before me and in some cases Jones even cancelled important meetings with me, which ultimately resulted in a botched and incomplete investigation.”
Mosavi went on to explain that her alleged attacker was allowed to continue working in the same building she worked in without her knowledge.
Mosavi’s speech was cut short by Blumenthal after five minutes, as that is the time generally allotted for public comments, according to Administrative Procedure.
According to Board Policy 2345, which cites Robert’s Rules of Order, by consensus, the Board is allowed to extend or limit a speaker’s time. The board was not consulted at the time.
Shouts of protest erupted from the audience in support of Mosavi being allowed to finish her comments.
“Those policies are here for us,” RCC student Jose Venegas shouted from his seat while holding a sign. “I know they’re here to provide order, but they are also here to represent us (students), our needs. Our needs need to be met why can’t we let her finish?”
After Blumenthal said that five minutes was up and “enough time,” Venegas approached the Board and gave his comments addressing Blumenthal and Burke’s lack of action in the hiring of Jones.
Toward the end of the meeting, a consensus was reached by the board to allow Mosavi 10 additional minutes.
“I am extremely thankful and happy that President Blumenthal revisited her decision and asked the Board to reconsider to extend the time to Aarefah to finish her story,” RCCD Faculty Association President Dariush Haghighat said. “I think that was an extremely noble and right move. I am a father I would go to the end of the world to make sure that my daughter face justice.”
Nidia Perez and Guinevere Negrete, who are senators for the Associated Students of RCC, were in attendance to show their support for Mosavi and RCCD students at the meeting.
“I’m a feminist and stand for women’s rights and I think that the main concern here is accountability and transparency,” Perez said. “I represent students and I want her voice to be heard.”
Perez said she felt it was necessary to have students’ involvement in a hiring of a high ranking position that may be controversial.
RCCD Board of Trustees discussed a policy change, in response to concerns of the Academic Senate and Faculty Association in regards to the hiring of a new District Compliance officer, Lorraine Jones without the inclusion of a member of either group.
“I feel like we (students) should have been more involved in this,” Perez said. “Honestly I was not aware about any of this until two days ago. I do feel like I would have liked to know what was going on or who was being hired.”
Haghighat had expressed the Faculty Association’s discontent to RCCD Chancellor Michael Burke about not being involved in the hiring process of Jones. In response, Burke apologized at the March 1 board meeting for not upholding a “past practice,” which according to Haghighat, was a “gentleman’s agreement” between the association and the chancellor to include them in the hiring of a compliance officer due to issues with that position that had occurred in the past. Burke also agreed to amend board policy to include all stakeholders that would be affected by a hiring of such positions as district compliance officer.
“I think the policy that I would talk to Chancellor Burke about reviewing would be 7120a, in terms of what the Faculty Association and the Academic Senates need to work with the administration to come up with the sort of broad principles for hiring high level administrators who have oversight regarding academic policy, compliance, etc.,” said Mark Sellick, president of RCC Academic Senate.
“I think it was a really striking and very moving presentation from the students this evening about student safety and issues with women’s rights,” RCC Art Instructor Rhonda Taube said. “On my way here today, I was personally harassed by someone in the street and I think that just being a female just makes you a target at times and it’s just disappointing.”
Alexis Naucler contributed to this report.