Recently I was saddened to read two related opinion articles, “Harassment UnChecked at Fullerton College” (01/26/19) and “Fullerton College – Unsafe for Republicans” (02/08/19). Both of these articles made very concerning claims about the campus culture at Fullerton College. However, I am equally as concerned with the responses to ‘Anonymous’ by both Greg Schulz (Fullerton College President) and Joshua Kazarian (President of Associated Students).
As a former Fullerton College student for three semesters (AA-T in Political Science, 2016), and someone who is still in contact with multiple students and faculty at Fullerton College, I feel like it is my responsibility to weigh in on this matter. I think the claims made in both the anonymous articles are somewhat exaggerated, but their underlying point is very much valid—there is a toxic culture that is present and thriving at Fullerton College.
I can personally empathize with both anonymous articles. Specifically, I understand the complaints about instructors. I believe that it is unreasonable to expect instructors to remain completely neutral at all times; personal beliefs and biases often are visible during lectures and in writing, and often enhance the class. However, when these beliefs and biases influence grading, evaluating, or start to create a hostile environment, there is a problem. There were three such occasions at Fullerton College where I personally experienced or witnessed this first-hand.
The first instance was a grading bias. In Spring 2015, I was in a Psychology course. One of the assignments for the course was an Active Learning Assignment regarding sexual assault which I completed per the rubric and turned in on time. When the assignment was returned to me I could see that I had initially been awarded a 99%, but it was scribbled out and changed to an 89%. There was also a comment that said I got marked down on the section about recommendations that I would give to men and women to avoid sexual assault. The professor’s comment said that I lost points because the solutions I suggested were “inappropriate and insulting” even though they were based on facts and research. This is the only time I have ever experienced grading discrimination simply for holding beliefs that differ from the instructor’s.
The second instance occurred in my Political Science course during Fall 2015. During the course of the semester, the professor would regularly use vulgar language and say things highly offensive to women such as suggesting that they should immediately get an abortion if they ever get pregnant, and that a woman’s most powerful “tool” is her vagina. This clearly created a hostile environment and was very inappropriate to many in the class.
The third instance was while I was still a student at Fullerton College, the same professor responded to my comment on one of my friend’s Facebook posts. This started a discussion about various international relations theories. When I suggested that from a realist perspective, it does not make sense to piss off the United States at the global level, the professor responded with, “FUCK YOU.” I am not sure what the Fullerton College policy is, if any, regarding interactions between students and faculty that occur off campus, but this certainly was viewed by me as hostility directed at me from a member of the Fullerton College faculty.
I also share the disappointment in the general lack of professionalism by certain instructors at Fullerton College. I understand that in today’s world it is not required that instructors wear a coat and tie every day, however general academic decorum should be expected. Instructors regularly showing up to class late wearing sweaty gym clothes or showing up wearing a t-shirt that says, “Fuck Trump” should not be considered acceptable by Fullerton College administration.
I was happy to see responses to the “Harassment UnChecked at Fullerton College” article by the College President and the Associated Students President, but I was very disappointed by the content of those responses. I was particularly angered by the dismissive nature of Joshua Kazarian’s response. The claim by Joshua that, “[Anonymous] sent a letter that could easily apply to any campus in the country” is completely false. In addition to Fullerton College, I have also been a student at the United States Naval Academy, Cal Poly Pomona, and I am currently a PhD candidate at West Virginia University—this letter does not at all apply to these three institutions, it does however apply to Fullerton College. It was extremely admirable for Anonymous to write this article, on the other hand it is quite shameful for the President of Associated Students to bash the article calling it “unsubstantiated” and “unhelpful.” This dismissive and insincere attitude perpetuates the toxic culture described by Anonymous.
Dr. Schulz’s response, while polite and professional, was still disappointing to me. Specifically, I am disappointed by the statement: “unfortunately the letter is general in nature and does not identify a specific time, place person or instance that provides us with enough information to investigate.” Why must Anonymous risk backlash from providing specifics for Fullerton College to investigate an inappropriate and toxic culture? The author’s request to remain anonymous should be honored; an investigation should not be contingent on him/her revealing their identity to the College President. I hope that the above instances I have described might provide Dr. Schulz with enough information to investigate.
It is my wish that Fullerton College not only conducts a thorough investigation of the claims made in “Harassment UnChecked at Fullerton College” and “Fullerton College – Unsafe for Republicans,” but also publically announces what it will do to remedy the ongoing issues expressed in both articles.
While it is obvious that there is a need for significant change at Fulleton College, I was extremely impressed with the vast majority of instructors at Fullerton College. Jodi Balma, Jarvis Johnson, Jacob Shiba, Gregory Woll, and Craig Matthews are some of the best instructors I’ve ever had. Fullerton College helped me develop as a student and as a person. Sadly, certain negative aspects of the culture did not assist in this development.
Trevor G. Samaha, Former Hornet
PhD Candidate, West Virginia University