On Tuesday, Oct. 27, NOCCCD Board of Trustees President Ryan Bent appeared at a Fullerton College Associated Students meeting. His appearance was in response to the development of a letter to be read out at the Board of Trustees meeting later that day by Fullerton College Student Trustee Chloe Reyes.
The meeting on Tuesday was a meeting to finalize the letter to be read to the board with nothing else on the agenda. The letter detailed disappointment in the board for the results of a formal investigation into Bent in June pertaining to his comments on Black Lives Matter, and posts to his Board President RYAN BENT Facebook page. Fullerton AS hoped to get the meeting done quickly in order to finish drafting their letter for the board.
As there was a call for public comments, Bent raised his hand and spoke about resources for students affected by the fires in Southern California such as housing on a temporary basis.
President of Student Senate David Robles then read the letter to be finalized at the senate. After the letter was read, Bent began questioning the students.
“After reading it, Ryan Bent asks the question: ‘Well, what did I say?’ He goes, ‘Were you there at the meeting? Did you watch the meeting?’ And like myself, everyone was just as shocked with his sort of aggressiveness, asking these questions,” Reyes said.
Three out of all the students in attendance raised their hands in response to Bent, causing Bent to question the students further. This questioning began obstructing the process of finalizing the letter, so Robles muted Bent in five separate instances over the course of the meeting.
Eventually, Bent’s video was turned off, but not by him. This caused Bent to raise his voice, demanding they turn his video back on, and called the actions of Robles ‘thuggish’. Robles believed this to be a microaggression against him as he is Hispanic.
In the argument, Reyes spoke about why they were writing the letter.
“Chloe bravely stood her ground and said: ‘Again, this is about a pattern of behavior that you’re displaying currently right now.’ And [Bent] said: ‘Oh, well, if this is about performance and behavior. I have a lot to say about yours. But we can have that discussion at another time’,” Robles commented.
The meeting was adjourned after 30 minutes of arguing, resulting in an unfinished letter being read in front of the senate. Along with the letter still being read to the board by Reyes, students submitted many comments to be read for public comment speaking against Bent’s actions.
Bent saw the meeting as in violation of the Brown Act, an act that allows the public to participate in the local legislature.
Bent joined the meeting in order to defend himself and found it to be unethical that he wasn’t invited. He also sees it as a political move, since the elections were exactly one week from the meeting.
“They want a person to be considered guilty without giving them a chance to prove themself innocent and then when they are found to be innocent, they want them to still be guilty, but that is not how our country works. I didn’t know exactly what the meeting was going to be about because it was hidden, but I attended because I wanted to witness what goes on in an AS meeting and what better time than when I learn they have scheduled an emergency meeting to attack me for political reasons,” Bent said.
According to Robles, the letter that was read to the Board of Trustees began because of a request by Reyes.
“For the record, and to be clear, the student body moved on this in response to Chloe’s request. Chloe, as a student trustee has been reporting for months, the behavior of Ryan Bent and how troubling it is and talking about ways we may get involved. At the conclusion of the investigation, we felt it unsatisfactory the action the board took and that is where our letter came from”, Robles said.
Bent noted at the Board of Trustees meeting that he was told that United Faculty Orange County recruited the students to write this letter, which he said could or could not be true. UF Orange County denies its participation in the creation of this letter.
“The students did whatever they did on their own. The statement that they read was their own statement,” United Faculty Orange County President Christie Diep noted.
Fullerton College AS is bringing proposals to what they are going to do in response to Bent’s behavior in their next meeting. Some of the proposals include, but are not limited to: demanding a public apology from Bent, demanding Bent’s resignation if an apology is not given, and demanding anti-harassment provisions be created for the Board of Trustees.
“Microaggressions don’t reflect on a person’s character. This isn’t a witch hunt, and this isn’t a persecution. This is about education and the better understanding of how to respect each other’s cultural values and identities,” Robles said.
Fullerton College AS’ next meeting will be on Zoom on Nov. 3, 2020, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and they have invited all of the public to join. Their agenda as well as the Zoom link can be found here.
The full Board of Trustees meeting that took place after the Fullerton College AS meeting can be viewed here.