VP finalists have background of sexual assault


Howard Irvin (right) and LeRodrick Terry (left) are two of the finalists for vice president.

By Michael Santone, Editor-In-Chief

It wasn’t long after the names of the five finalists for the vice president of student services position were announced that the campus community sank into silent outrage fueled by the courage of women in the #MeToo movement.
The nationwide search, which was conducted by the Contra Costa College President’s Office, rendered five VP final hopefuls.
However, two of those five candidates carry with them backgrounds of domestic violence and sexual harassment.
CCC President Katrina VanderWoude told The Advocate last week, “I am not at liberty to discuss specific details about the process or individual candidates (their biographies have been shared), as personnel matters are confidential.
“Once all interviews and reference checks are completed, there will be an announcement regarding the outcome.”
That outcome could become the hiring of Dr. Howard Irvin or Dr. LeRodrick Terry as CCC’s new vice president of student services.
Many of the incidents surrounding Dr. Terry and Dr. Irvin are identical to those that sparked the #MeToo movement.
This movement spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media attempting to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment against women — especially in the workplace.
Irvin, who is currently the vice president of student services at Los Angeles Southwest College, was added as the fifth candidate for the CCC VP position shortly after the initial four finalists held their public forums on campus from Oct. 23-26.
According to an October 1997 Los Angeles Times article, while Irvin was a sergeant at the Los Angeles Police Department during the mid-90s he was the subject of at least three internal investigations into domestic violence.
Of the three cases that took place from 1994 to 1997, two involved female LAPD officers.
Reports and interviews released to the LA Times document each case of arrest and re-arrest in which Irvin plead guilty to one felony count of stalking, one felony count of making terrorist threats and two misdemeanor counts of violating a restraining order.
After his on-campus forum Oct. 30 Irvin told an Advocate reporter, “There were some things, what, 20-something years ago. But all that stuff has been cleared and things of that nature have been adjudicated and a major settlement was won.
“With the invention of computers and things of that nature, (moving forward) is very difficult because these things (criminal records) can be brought up and are left open in your life.”
Irvin said he’s continued to strive to change the perception people have of him when they find out about his record.
“That’s why I’m still here — to stand and tell students that there is always opportunity and second chances,” he said.
This optimism, however, is not shared by an already on-edge CCC community. A week earlier, faculty, staff and students were shocked when they looked online at the background of VP finalist Terry.
Previously, the vice president of student affairs at Rio Salado College in Tempe, Arizona, Terry resigned effective June 30 after a Maricopa Community College District investigation substantiated claims by several women of sexual harassment in the workplace.
As reported by The Arizona Republic, from 2015 to 2017, an unclear number of accusers throughout the district made complaints including inappropriate touching, inappropriate remarks and continuous staring.
In an Arizona Republic article, one woman alleged Terry squeezed the side of her breast while taking a group photo in December 2015.
On another occasion, in July 2016, a woman alleged Terry pulled her close to him during a photo shoot and slid his hand over her buttocks.
Terry denies all the allegations against him and claims race was a motivating factor in the complaints.
Last week, right after his on-campus forum, Terry was asked by an Advocate reporter to respond to the allegations made against him at Rio Salado College. He declined comment.
For faculty, staff and students interested in gaining a better insight into the potential VP contenders, a campuswide email sent from the President’s Office on Oct. 30 announcing Irvin’s last minute on-campus forum includes biographies and personal statements from all five finalists.
However, in those biographies and statements there is no mention of Terry’s tenure at Rio Salado College or Irvin’s career as an LAPD sergeant.
This lack of transparency, which includes limited access to information needed to make informed decisions about candidates, has added adversity to a campus that was adjusting to an administrative overhaul.
CCC’s academic population is overwhelmingly female.
Currently, 59 percent of the student body is comprised of women, according to the 2017-18 Datamart statistics provided by the state Chancellor’s Office.
In fact, when asking a large number of female faculty and staff members for their comments on vice presidential finalists Terry and Irvin, they each insisted on remaining anonymous due to fear of being ostracized on campus or retaliated against in some way.
However, one female student didn’t hesitate to speak out.
Associated Student Union Director of External Affairs Laciee Brown said she was mortified when she learned of the two finalists’ backgrounds involving sexual harassment and domestic violence.
“I think all information that can be collected on these people should be found,” she said. “And not just gathered, but released to students. Faculty are not as impacted by the vice president choice as students are,” Brown said. “Candidates who have a background of sexual abuse or domestic violence should not hold power on a campus where students are dependent on them for guidance and safety.”
Brown made it a point to stop by Irvin’s public forum on Oct. 30 in GE-225 to leave a question on a 3×5-inch index card provided for those in attendance to ask anonymous questions of the finalist.
Although the forum was extended 15 minutes from its original 45-minute runtime, Brown said the questions she posed were not asked of the candidate.
Instead, the forum followed a schedule of predetermined questions moderated by CCC Dean of Students Dennis Franco.
“They completely disregarded my question,” Brown said after the forum. “I have a huge complaint about the way they have handled this entire process. You would think that during the (#MeToo) times we are living in and all that’s going on that things would have been taken more seriously.”
The hiring process of anyone at a public college, for the most part, remains confidential, and Contra Costa Community College District policies must be followed exactly to hire any employee.
For full-time hires, including administrators, that process consists of first making the job opening public and accepting applications. Applicants then go through a vetting process to ensure that all minimum qualifications are met.
Following that stage, a paper screening committee looks at the resumés and application submittals and ranks each applicant.

A few of them, usually three or four, are forwarded to the next level, an interview committee.
No screenings or web searches into the background of the applicants are done before finalists are selected.

Those finalists go through another round of interviews and a public forum where the college community gets to ask questions and review qualifications.
But many on campus believe this inadequacy, with the lack of filtering and vetting candidates early on, taints the entire hiring process.

By failing to do early screenings, candidates who may have tainted backgrounds can slip through.

This loophole may exclude a more qualified person from being a finalist and jeopardizes the guarantee that students are accurately represented.
Contra Costa Community College District Director of Communication Tim Leong said, “In general, it’s hard to try to take in additional information after (a hiring) process has begun and insert it into the process and allow that to be considered.
“If a college president decides that, for whatever reason, including if new information about a particular candidate is found, she on her own could take that person out of the mix at that point and let the process continue. That is a possibility.”
Leong said in the 11 years he has been with the district, he’s never seen a college president or chancellor remove a candidate from the hiring process.
“As we do with every high level search, they (human resources) have to do a follow up summary of what it is we have done to determine this terrible flaw in the process and why aren’t we fixing it?” Leong said.
“I think those conversations, very well, could be taking place — particularly after our experience with (the Contra Costa) vice president search.”
CCC counselor Norma Valdez-Jimenez said, “What the vice president of student services hiring process reveals is that the district is in need of updating hiring policies that will (sort out) candidates, for any position, on the front end so that individuals with a history of perpetrating sexual harassment, assault or domestic abuse are not advanced as finalists.”
The position of VP of student services, when searched on CCC’s website, is described as overseeing student affairs and support service programs for the college.
The start date for this position is Dec. 1 or sooner.