The search has been ongoing for a president of Fullerton College since former President Greg Schulz accepted a position as superintendent at Citrus College on June 15, 2021.
Conflicting concerns from the campus community about the search for president have drawn many attendees and speakers at Board of Trustees meetings in April, May and June. At the June 28 meeting, attendees were divided over Contreras’ future with Fullerton College. One side complained about a culture of mishandling sexual harassment while the other side charged the administration with having an anti-Latino workplace.
A non-agenda speaker at the June 14 NOCCCD board meeting, Rita Lopez, who identified herself as an undergraduate student who attended school with Contreras, claimed that when she was an 18-year-old student, Contreras “did not keep [her] safe.”
In a statement that Contreras said was provided to NOCCCD Chancellor Byron D. Clift Breland and the NOCCCD Board of Trustees, Contreras denied the claims made at the June 14 meeting. “I do not have any recollection of being in any situation where the speaker needed any protection that I did not provide,” Contreras said in the statement, which was provided to The Hornet. ”I unequivocally deny that I failed to protect the speaker or anybody else from third parties while I was a college student or any time thereafter. ”
On June 30, Fullerton College announced through its Instagram page, that Monte E. Perez, who recently retired from Los Angeles Mission College where he served as president from 2011 to 2021, would be appointed July 1 to serve as interim president while the national recruiting search continues. Breland sent an email to the campus on June 9, explaining that a consultant would replace Contreras from July 1 to December 31, 2022.
Contreras was one of the three final candidates that participated in an open forum on April 7, 2022. On April 16, it was announced that the president search would continue after no finalists were selected.
Contreras will continue his employment with Fullerton College as vice president of Student Services.
Ethnic Studies Professor Emerita Adela López voiced concerns regarding the end of Contreras’ interim president contract at the June 28 district board meeting.
“We Los Amigos of Orange County are requesting information on the termination of Dr. Gilbert Contreras,” said Lopez. “We are concerned about the abruptness of the resignation of the district director of diversity and compliance. His resignation and the demotion of Dr. Contreras give the appearance of a nascent anti-Latino trend in the district.”
Irma Ramos, the vice chancellor of human resources at NOCCCD, sent out an email on July 10 announcing that the board had accepted the resignation of Arturo Ocampo, district director of diversity and compliance.
Breland declined to respond to requests for comments about the allegations against Contreras or the anti-Latino allegations related to the presidential search. “The district is unable to comment on the specific reasons Dr. Contreras was not hired. Dr. Contreras interim contract ended on June 30, 2022,” Breland said in an email to The Hornet on July 1.
Ocampo declined to be interviewed for this story.
Cypress College counselor Therese Mosqueda-Ponce also voiced concerns at the June 28 meeting over the Board’s decision to end the interim president’s contract at the end of June.
“Despite numerous contributions to the Fullerton College community, Dr. Gilbert Contreras was not only dismissed as the selection for Fullerton College President, he was also summarily dismissed in his interim position even though a replacement had not been selected,” Mosqueda-Ponce said. “Furthermore, at the board meeting on June 14, 2022, slanderous remarks were made regarding a personal matter without the benefit of due process. Allegations were made that directly impugned his character.”
Others at the meeting voiced more concerns in-regards-to the public comment from Lopez on the June 14 board meeting. Fullerton College English Professor Katie King called for Contreras’ resignation at the June 28 meeting. “I’m calling on Gil to engage in the social justice he claims to support and resign to show that he takes accountability for his actions,” King said. “Gil himself left a sexual predator who attempted to rape a female student of color in my classroom to harass both me and the rest of the women in that space for the entirety of that course, because according to Gil, that predator was just ‘immature,’ quote unquote.”
According to King, in 2018, a male student in her course, attempted to rape a female student who took the same class. Once the female student shared this with King, she reported the assault through FC’s protocols on alleged sexual assault. As VP of Student Services at the time, the situation escalated to Contreras.
The overall request from King and the female student was to have the male student removed from that class for the remainder of the semester and placed into another class, so she would not have to see her alleged assaulter anymore. When speaking with Contreras, King said the student felt coerced into dropping the request, putting the blame onto her for the incident because she sent the assaulter photos of herself in active wear prior to the assault. As a result, the male student remained in the classroom for the rest of the semester. King said more female students were harassed by text messages and she was also cornered and yelled at on a separate occasion by the male student which created a hostile work environment.
King adopted a buddy system for reliable students to walk each other to and from class in an effort to keep her students safe in the only way she could at that time.
“I wish I had done more,” said King. “That’s why I’m sharing this now.”
The Hornet reached out to Contreras for a comment on King’s allegations but did not hear back.
Lopez, the speaker at the June 14 meeting who first raised allegations against Contreras, said she was intentionally vague in her speech because she understood the legal definitions of slander, defamation, and libel and that if she didn’t choose her words carefully, Contreras could get a legal judgment against her.
“When you act badly with women, what you do becomes your title. If you rape, you are a rapist. If you molest, you are a molester. Gilbert did not do those things but he has his own title, and the trustees and chancellor know it,” Lopez said. “They know that if this title comes out, the community will be horrified. So imagine if the community found out what he did to me and that title assigned diplomas, that title was MC to commencement ceremony and graduates.”
In his letter, read Contreras’ full letter here, denying the allegations, Contreras said: “I cannot and would not speak for the individual who made the public comment, as her feelings and recollections are her own. What I can say and what I want to make extremely clear is that I have never, nor would I ever intentionally harm anyone.”
Lopez also claimed that she was the reason Contreras did not receive a promotion.
“Gilbert did not get promoted because he failed his background check. He failed it because I told the background check company my MeToo story that Gilbert gave me when we were undergraduate students,” said Lopez.
Lopez said she was asked to speak publicly at the June 14 board meeting by an unknown source.
When asked about the process of background checks on Classified, Management, and Faculty from the district, a representative from the district confirmed in an email, “An offer is made to a candidate contingent upon the successful completion of the background check. Once the candidate accepts, they will be asked to complete the live scan service to initiate the criminal conviction Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) background check.”
In response to The Hornet’s public records request for background check paperwork on Contreras, Kai Stearns Moore, the district director of public and governmental affairs, said in an email on June 28, “We do not release personnel information on our employees so I cannot send you the paperwork on Dr. Contreras.”
At an April 26 board meeting, shortly after the district announced that it would continue the presidential search and declined to hire Contreras and two other finalists, faculty spoke out in support of Contreras and criticized the search process.
“Decisions need to be made on this campus and we cannot spend another year searching for a qualified candidate to take this job,” said Fullerton College men’s basketball coach Perry Webster at that meeting. “The qualified candidate is already here, and he is part of this community and has been for quite some time. He cares about the people on this campus. He is a perfect person of this campus and this community. Don’t let the complaints of a loud few affect our campus as a whole.”
Faculty Senate President Jennifer Coombs announced, “The Fullerton College Faculty Senate unanimously passed a motion with one extension asking that the current interim president, vice president, and our dean of student services remain in place until a permanent Fullerton College President gets started. We discussed how disruptive it would be to make changes to our administrative leadership team as we work on student and campus-wide re-engagement and community building.”
But another speaker at that meeting, who identified herself as a professor emeritus from another community college speaking on behalf Fullerton College faculty who prefer to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, called faculty senate decisions into question.
“Faculty Senate executives have turned it into a place for their administrator friends. During the last video-recorded Fullerton College Senate meeting, the Senate executives asked faculty to vote on issues that involve their managers while their managers and other administrators are watching them,” the speaker said. “With the well-known culture retaliation at Fullerton College, a number of faculty on the Senate have not been able to vote their truth.”
The speaker also questioned the district’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“Fullerton College’s administration purposely includes faculty of color that only agree with them and dissenting faculty of color are excluded and their expressions are restricted. We do not want diversity without inclusion,” the speaker said.