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Students At Mission College Remain Dissatisfied —President Monte Perez Will Take Trip to China PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez | Editor   
Thursday, 01 May 2014 06:32

Students at L.A. Mission College held campus protests last Thursday, Friday and Monday attempting to capture the attention of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) team to coincide with its onsite follow up visit.

The students were disappointed. The meeting was moved to a campus location a distance away from the student protest area, and with a strong warning from college administrators that the students could not place a toe outside of the “free speech area” to demonstrate or risk suspension. With the administration’s suspension of one student and the practice of calling in Sheriff ’s deputies, the students stayed confined to the designated space.

Last year the visiting accreditation team, within earshot of protesting students, met with them and learned of their concerns that included the lack of adequate counseling and the school’s failure to offer required courses which students believe have contributed to the college’s weak 6.4 transfer rate and equally poor graduation rates.

The students wanted to speak to the committee this time about the poor maintenance of the campus, unsanitary conditions in restrooms, “bullying” by campus administrators, and the denial of tenure of a much loved and the school’s sole Theater/Cinema professor.

They wanted to to tell the ACCJC visitors that conditions at the Sylmar-based campus haven’t improved.

Although kept on the other side of the campus, they held signs that read, “We are not Second Class Students.”

Drama students also held signs that read, “You Can Silence Our Teachers, But You Can’t Silence Us,” and wore their blue silk screened T-shirts that held the symbols of the ancient Greek muses, representing Thalia the muse of Comedy and Melpomene, the muse of tragedy. The back of their shirts read “Got Drama?”

The lack of college counselors is high up on all of the student’s list of concerns, and students at Mission often go to other college campuses to take required courses needed to transfer and graduate because the classes are just not offered here.

Professor Appeals To Union

Professor Guillermo Aviles- Rodriguez has appealed the administration’s decision to deny him tenure, but lost. In a final attempt to continue his work at Mission College, he has appealed to his union for support but has yet to receive an answer. The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol has called the union but has not received a response.

Aviles-Rodriguez was criticized for producing Latinocentric theater productions and for going outside of campus to produce community theater with the San Fernando Valley Historical Society using student members of the drama club, which he started.

While the production was praised as a community success, it was strongly criticized by Aviles-Rodriguez’ department chair, who did not attend the production. At issue was a dead chicken that was killed by a cat before the Dia de los Muertos production. The chicken was placed on an alter as part of the production. A variety of animals had been part of the production.

Another Twist

Amid the climate of strong student dissatisfaction, Mission College President Monte Perez is scheduled to leave for a trip to China, May 9 through May 16.

“He will be part of a delegation and they [China] are interested in learning more about our community colleges, “ said Public Affairs Director Steve Springer.

“I hope he's not there to recruit students,” noted one protesting student. “I’m sure he’ll be painting a great picture for them. The school enjoys having foreign students come to this campus because they pay a large tuition. But they take up a chair at the beginning of the semester when other students are trying to get in and then they don’t come back, which makes us think they are just here for a student visa.”

Springer said the trip is not for student recruiting.

“This campus has had trouble making ends meet, that’s why all needed classes aren’t offered,” said one longtime professor who asked not to be identified. “This is the newest campus but it is also the most expensive to run, we have bond money to keep building but not for more teachers and in order to survive here politically, you have to keep your head down.”

Student Arrested

In an unexpected turn, Ann Marie Catano, the student activist previously suspended from Mission College [and the other community colleges] was arrested by San Fernando Police Department on Wednesday, April 23.

Catano, a mother of three daughters, was due to graduated in June with plans to attend UC Berkeley. Mission College suspend her after she confronted a professor. The professor said felt threatened.

Catano, with a group of other students, had planned an overnight “Occupy Mission College” protest on the sidewalk outside of the campus on Eldridge Street. Students and professors after teaching night classes were gathered on the sidewalk area and spoke to the San Fernando Valley Sun/ El Sol about the accreditation committee’s next day visit and the state of the campus.

Protesters, included those who had been involved in the “Occupy L.A. Movement,” noted the Sheriff's and LAPD vehicles that frequently cruised by.

Catano left the night time protest to go to the Sylmar Food for Less and indicated she would “be right back.” Word traveled back to the protesters that Catano had been arrested by San Fernando police outside of the Sylmar store, located on the corner of Hubbard and Glenoaks.

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol was later told that San Fernando Police Department had transferred Catano and she was being charged with driving with a suspended license and for the possession of a controlled substance.

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol asked the San Fernando police department why Catano was arrested by their department outside of their jurisdiction. Lt. Nichole Hanchett said that that Hubbard borders San Fernando and is used as a thoroughfare for their department and the arrest was “lawful.”

Catano, a single mother of three daughters, was due to graduate in June with plans to attend UC Berkeley. Mission College suspended her after she confronted a professor. The professor said she felt threatened.

Catano told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that the police never showed her the drug which they said they removed from her car.

The arrest caused concern among some demonstrators who believe that Catano has been “targeted,” and referenced the strong surveillance during their late night protest, while other student demonstrators were concerned about the negative impact her arrest would have on their cause.

San Fernando police said that Catano was stopped for expired tags. Catano is scheduled to return to court on May 5th. "I told them to drug test me and they wouldn't. They told me that they were going to release me but sent me to Lynwood. I didn't do anything wrong and will continue to fight," she said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 17:28