By Crystal Olmedo
Correction: It was previously reported that ASRCC had potentially violated the Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act. However, the Romero Act only regulates California State Universities.
Several students stood silently outside the Charles A. Kane building at Riverside City College Aug. 16, after being denied entrance to a retreat hosted by Riverside Community College District student government.
Viewpoints reporters were also not permitted admittance to the meeting as a direct order from RCC administrators, according to Deborah Hall, Student Activities Coordinator.
Hall said that had arrangements been made beforehand reporters may have been admitted into the meeting.
The students were there in opposition to District Compliance Officer Lorraine Jones’ presenting training on sexual harassment and assault to members of student government and their advisers.
The retreat was held for the student government of the three RCCD campuses to receive information and participate in workshops and be made aware of resources available related to emergency preparedness, sexual assault and how to compassionately assist other students in such situations according to ASRCC Interclub Council Representative Grace Peterson.
Peterson said she had very little knowledge of Jones’s history, but had read fliers that had been passed out by protesters at previous occasions.
“Regardless of her (Jones) giving the information, the information was sound … It wasn’t really her personal experience. She wasn’t the only one giving information so it wasn’t biased,” Peterson said.
Protesters included RCC graduate Jose Venegas, former Mt. SAC student Aisha Siddiqui, current Mt. SAC student Jessica Mathis and her co-worker Chris Daylo who were there in support of Aarefah Mosavi.
Mosavi, who was not permitted to attend the meeting, gave speeches regarding her current lawsuit against Jones for allegedly mishandling her rape case in previous months.
“I want my voice to be heard,” Mosavi said. “I do not want to be silenced. I understand that RCC student government, I guess, didn’t want a protest. They didn’t want us to draw attention to the issue. (This is) essentially a silencing scheme and I am absolutely outraged that RCC student government would even advocate that.”
Mosavi addressed students in the courtyard outside of the Kane building recounting her opposition to Jones’ competency to provide training on the subject of sexual assault and harassment because of her alleged uncooperative manner of handling Mosavi’s rape claim.
Accompanying Jones at the training session was Georgina Villaseñor, Diversity and HR Analyst for the district’s department of Diversity, Equity and Compliance and C.J. Baca, Institution Advocate/Educator for the Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center.
ASRCC President Nigel Item said that it may have benefited students at the retreat to hear first hand information from someone who claimed to be raped.
“You can take cases from last semester; things that came up with the Board. The power of students being involved is a trend that should be continuing upwards and I think that we should be encouraging students to do so. At the end of the day students have the largest stake hold in our district.”
Item said he sympathized with the protesters, but upheld instructions he received from RCC administrators.
“Although I understand their frustration, from my perspective – I’m speaking on my behalf. I’m not representing ASRCC or anything – I understand their frustration. I really do,” Item said. “Unfortunately in a systematic institution there are policies that are in place and often times this policy may not make sense to the outsiders. But today the district really felt like it was a training session that was very important for the student leaders and although as they (protesters) stated they had no intention of stopping the training, it’s still a policy that the schools and institution want to hold to.”
As student leaders exited the building at approximately 3:30 p.m. many of them declined to comment on Jones’ presentation and the presence of student protesters.
“I don’t know what their circumstances were about declining to comment, Venegas said. “I don’t know why they were told that. But what i do know is that I asked them for a minute of their time. They are our representatives and I felt like they should have stayed here and listened to our side of the story. They can’t go in the meeting and say, ‘we are here for the students and we represent the students when they can’t even hear a student’s concern about the event that was going on today and about the training that they received … I didn’t want them to comment I just wanted them to listen to us.”
Jones spoke to Viewpoints after the protest and retreat had ended.
“I have a job to do that I am committed to and capable of and passionate about,” Jones said. “I was selected by a committee of members of the district that selected me out of the pool of applicants. I cannot speak to what they are protesting about.”
Jones and Villaseñor said that they are excited to extend informational meetings and possibly workshops to the general population of RCCD students with a target date of the Fall semester.
According to Jones there is a 12-14 week implementation period. She also said they are looking into bringing back self-defense classes to RCCD campuses.
Laura Tapia contributed to this report.