A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

Campus disappointed after Mt. SAC President’s forum on safety

Many questions left unanswered
With+minutes+before+the+administrative+safety+panel+spoke%2C+the+auditorium+was+filled+with+scores+of+students.
Andres Munoz
With minutes before the administrative safety panel spoke, the auditorium was filled with scores of students.

Many attendees left Wednesday’s campus safety forum dissatisfied with the responses of the college’s officials and the limited time to address concerns.

At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, attendees filled the seats within building 13’s auditorium for the Mt. SAC President’s Forum on Campus Safety, which was touted as following the recent series of assaults on campus.

The highly anticipated forum was scheduled for an hour and 15 minutes.

The forum included two moderators, Director of Marketing and Communications Uyen Mai and Vice President of Administrative Services Morris Rodrigue, and a panel featuring six speakers including Police and Campus Safety Chief Mike Williams and Associate Vice President of Administrative Services Shannon Carter among others.

Mt. SAC President Martha Garcia was not in attendance at the meeting but participated via Zoom. “I am sorry for not being with you, as you can probably defer [sic], I am not feeling well,” Garcia said.

Garcia discussed wanting to improve safety and assured the college that the administration cares about the overall well-being of Mt. SAC students, staff and faculty. She concluded her remarks apologizing again for not being in-person at the forum. “I will be participating virtually through the entire forum so I am there with you virtually and in spirit.”

However, Garcia did not contribute anything further in the forum after her initial statements.

Garcia the next day disclosed that she still was not feeling well. “I was feeling worse yesterday than I did today and I don’t know if that was evident during my message because frankly, I was not feeling well.”

 

Virtually present, Mt. SAC President Martha Garcia gives her opening statement at the campus safety forum. (Adam Young)

 

The forum focused on the questions submitted by the campus prior to the event. Mai said that there were around 150 online submissions with some inquiries including as many as 12 in-depth questions.

Attendees were assured that campus safety would answer all questions posed to them throughout the week and post responses online.

A majority of the initial discussion was headed by Williams who focused on the stabbing incident that occurred Sept. 20. Williams admitted that there were some failings within the response of campus safety and that they “are working on that.” He added, however, that campus safety officers did respond in a timely manner–arriving on the scene within four minutes though he himself was not present on the day of the incident. This and several other details of the incident conflict with eyewitness reports.

In a post-forum interview with Chara Powell, a psychology professor who was on the scene of the incident, she said that she was the one who called Public Safety.

“I’m the one who called 911,” Powell said. “I’m the one who called public safety, but you’re gonna go on record to say that I didn’t say there was a stabbing, I didn’t say there was a knife. I absolutely did say those things.”

An additional point of contention was the response from authorities regarding treatment for the traumatized bystanders, particularly those who were involved in helping the victim.

“That’s very important to us, but that is not our first priority,” Williams said, “Our first focus is always going to be safety, threat and getting medical attention to that injured party.”

Williams also explained that protocol following events like this involves a debrief, but no one who was directly involved in the situation, like staff who made the call or treated the victim, was asked to meet to discuss what happened. It was not until the following week that professors Shiloh Blacksher and Powell requested a meeting with campus safety to recount their experiences.

An additional effort the school will make to boost safety is increased foot patrols across campus. According to Rodrigue, the school has offered overtime for current staff to improve coverage and asked patrols to spend more time on foot rather than in their vehicles.

In an interview with Public Safety, Sergeant Brian Owens confirmed that public safety will increase patrolling on foot. “Right now, as the chief said in the forum, we are having them go out 50% of the time on foot now,” Owens said.

When asked what the policy for patrolling on foot was before this decision Owens said, “We didn’t have any policy on that.”

Following a question from an audience member, Williams revealed that there are usually four officers during the day and five during the night to secure over 420 acres of Mt. SAC property.

After the forum, Powell commented that four public safety officers would not be sufficient to cover the acres of land Mt. SAC students traverse throughout a given day.

Chapter 262 President Rosa Asencio, who was also on the panel, acknowledged the shortcomings in staffing. “We understand that our staff is understaffed in public safety,” Asencio said. “At least for the 262 side, we are trying to work on increasing the staff of public safety.”

Both Williams and Carter noted that Mt. SAC is also in the process of hiring unaffiliated temporary security to monitor the campus as soon as Oct. 12 and the school is accepting applications. While they cannot control who applies, they are hoping more women apply to fill security roles.

According to Rodrigue, Mt. SAC will increase the amount of time public safety will be patrolling the campus on foot instead of in their vehicles, offer overtime for public safety so they can be present on campus more and hire temporary staff for more public safety.

Adding cameras across campus was also discussed during the forum. According to officials, the newer buildings, like the Student Center and parking structure have cameras and the buildings under construction will be outfitted with cameras, but elsewhere there are no CCTVs.

Williams attributed this to a lack of funding but that the school is looking into adding cameras to some areas. However, cameras cannot be installed in areas where there are reasonable expectations for privacy, like restrooms. His advice for the time being was to use “the buddy system.”

Additionally, Williams explained that unlike municipal or county police departments, campus officers cannot legally wear body cameras. Mt. SAC currently has three sworn officers, who are also armed with guns. The other 11 peace officers carry batons and mace deployed only to defend themselves.

In an attempt to consolidate time, the forum categorized the 150 questions submitted into related topics, leaving only 18 minutes to take questions from the audience. Only four people could ask questions out of the 13 in line waiting to comment.

Professors Shiloh Blacksher and Chara Powell were the first to ask questions during the public comment section of the forum.

Both Professor Powell and Blacksher, who witnessed the stabbing, were the first to go on the mic during the public comment section.

Powell was unhappy with the lack of transparency and cohesion in the information-gathering process and called into question the legitimacy of the reports the school releases. She voiced her frustration about how Mt. SAC inaccurately portrayed accounts of the incident: the time it took for EMS and Campus Safety and Police to arrive on the scene and who gave the school the information regarding the incident.

Powell also noted that if it weren’t for her and her colleagues’ initiative, President Garcia wouldn’t have had accurate information regarding the incident.

The panel was asked about measures to protect female students from sexual assaults following the two sexual battery cases that happened recently. “Will we be having new security measures for bathrooms?” a female student asked. “Will we have more female officers patrolling or other staff members around these locations?”

It was during this time that Williams suggested using the buddy system for bathroom use.

“We don’t have the resources to post somebody on that floor all day and all night but we are increasing our patrols there,” Williams added.

“I think it is highly impossible for all students to use a buddy system for class,” the student said. The crowd erupted in applause as time ran out and moderators wrapped up the forum while she continued her comments up to the final seconds.

After the forum ended, Associate Student Trustee César Tlatoāni Alvarado, 24, a political science and world language major said he thought the forum was not long enough. “I am disappointed and frustrated that we didn’t get through all the public comments,” Alvarado said. “I think the forum should have been extended and we should have another forum.”

He said that he plans to release a survey soon for Mt. SAC students to share comments, concerns or suggestions to improve public safety on this campus.

Mt. SAC CSA President George Gutierrez who appeared on the panel during the forum was also disappointed about the length of the forum. “I think it needs to be longer,” Gutierrez said, “I think a lot of people left upset because they had an opportunity to nail it but they let it slip by.”

Gutierrez added that the questions posed to the main panelists were not the ones many wanted answered. “The questions they were asking were more like PR questions,” Gutierrez said. “It wasn’t heartfelt questions from the people that were concerned or were actually there from the scene.”

Powell echoed these sentiments. “The chief got up there and said ‘We fucked up. We did a terrible job,’” Powell said. “Faculty and students are like, ‘OK, how specifically? What were the failures? What were the protocols?’ I don’t feel like a lot of questions were actually answered. A lot of questions were beating around the bush.”

Gutierrez left the forum feeling sympathetic to Mt. SAC students. “[Students] shouldn’t have to worry about that,” he said. “All they should be worried about is sitting in class, learning and graduating.”

During her office hours, Garcia spoke with SAC Media to follow up with concerns and questions about yesterday’s forum.

Among her sentiments shared, she acknowledged the blatant need for more time to continue the campus safety discussion, but in the meantime wants students to understand they can be proactive while the changes are implemented.

“It’s better that we overreport than not report and then that leads to an incident,” Garcia said. “This campus safety we have a responsibility, the administration does, but it’s something that we could all contribute to.”

Garcia was unsure of when a potential follow-up campus safety forum would take place but assured students when she returned to her office as soon as Tuesday, Oct. 17, it would be the first priority communicated to her administrative staff.

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About the Contributors
Robbie Doctor, Managing Editor
Robbie Doctor is the Managing Editor.
Adam Young, Editor in Chief
Adam Young is the Editor in Chief. He can be reached at [email protected].
Andres Munoz, Staff Reporter
Andres Munoz is a Staff Reporter.

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