Faculty gives their version of orientation controversy

Kelsey Matzen, Staff Writer

In the Nov. 17 issue, The Oak Leaf reported a story that took place Nov. 4 when Disability Resources Department (DRD) faculty called campus police on two Associated Student Senators at a DRD orientation for prospective students at the student activities center in Bertolini Hall.

At the time of the print the faculty members involved declined to give a statement about the incident, citing student confidentiality. For the original story, two students came forward with their side of the events. Now the DRD faculty members Tara Johnson, Laura Aspinall and Dianne Davis have all since decided to comment with their own version of events.

Campus police responded to a call at an event regarding President of Associated Students Joshua Pinaula and Vice President of Organizations Virginia Kerr alleging the two were being disruptive.

Johnson explained that after Kerr’s initial request to speak at the orientation, she felt it could be beneficial to the prospective students, but during the event explained that there wasn’t time in the schedule for Joshua Pinaula and her both to speak that night, though future opportunities would present themselves.

After initially leaving, Kerr and Pinaula soon came back as the orientation was beginning. They walked around and talked to students, disrupting the flow and organization of the event.

“Students sitting on the sides of the back wall and those in the back rows did notice this event,” Johnson said. “His behaviors were disruptive and his interaction was inappropriate. To interrupt an ongoing college event without knowing who or what is involved is unfitting for our student government leaders. They should know better.”

Aspinal said she chose to call District Police after Pinaula did not leave the orientation despite he and Kerr receiving a request to cease their disruptions. Instead, Pinaula grew louder and more agitated, pointed at Johnson, Aspinal, and Davis and told them that they were the problem.

Aspinal said it’s appropriate to involve the police when an individual continues to escalate their behavior. “Whether they are a student, faculty, staff member, is irrelevant,” she said. “The incident that occurred that night was purely one of poor conduct on the part of a student.”

In the SRJC Standards of Conduct, Section 1, Item M describes continued disruptive behavior, failure to comply with directions of college officials acting in the performance of their duties and continued disobedience as some of the categories of misconduct.

“Equally as upsetting as the misconduct that took place that night was the manner in which my colleagues and I were spoken to,” Aspinal said. “Never would I consider it appropriate, collegial, or productive to engage with another member of a shared governance body in such a way.”

Davis, who was also present at this event, said she believes Pinaula’s actions justified police intervention in this situation. “I found the behavior of these two students to be offensive, rude and combative,” she said. “They behaved like bullies. There is no question in my mind that [Pinaula] would have continued to escalate his behavior and would have disrupted the DRD student orientation event if Laura hadn’t called campus police.”

According to Pinaula and Kerr, they approached Tara Johnson to see if they could make a presentation at the orientation. When the faculty members declined their request, Pinaula and Kerr stayed at the orientation, observing and speaking to some students. They said they were not being disruptive, and believe the faculty members were unnecessarily harsh and disrespectful of their roles as student leaders.

Police advised Pinaula and Kerr stay away from the orientation for the rest of the night.

Pinaula, who is now facing student conduct violations, said he did not disturb the people in the audience.

“This whole thing was less than two minutes. It was a really short interaction,” Pinaula said. “There was never a situation that warranted a student conduct violation. I was doing my job. I was ready to leave, but they were the ones perpetuating the conversation.”

Pinaula said the faculty members are blowing the occurrence out of proportion, and disagrees with their decision to charge him with a student conduct violation.

Pinuala  also said he didn’t disturb the people in the audience.

“Even if they were distracted, they weren’t distracted enough to come forward with a complaint,” Pinaula said. “The students I talked to said they were really bored, and I assured them that the college wasn’t really this boring.”

Kerr felt they were being bullied after receiving threats to call the police and believes that it was far beyond necessary to happen.