By Kimberly Johnson
Students and faculty at Chaffey College have been exposed to what would seem like any institution’s fair share of allegations, insinuations and confusion. The school has recently geared away from normative activities to become an institution making headlines for infringements relating to freedom of speech.
The ordeal began circulating when the college’s student newspaper, The Breeze, released an Oct. 14 article describing a public clash between Student Body President Kevin Coduto and Superintendent Dr. Henry Shannon.
Shannon expressed disdain for Coduto’s recent endorsement of governing board candidate Zafar Inam, and proceeded to share his displeasure with all in attendance at an Associated Students of Chaffey College (ASCC) meeting that took place on Oct. 7.
Referencing Coduto’s recent robo-call (pre-recorded messages that commonly auto-dial households) endorsing Inam—received by roughly 25,000 homes in the county—Shannon felt that by endorsing a candidate, Coduto was speaking on behalf of the ASCC. “I just want you to know that it’s not appropriate,” remarked Shannon during the ASCC meeting where the clash occured.
Coduto later spoke to The Breeze, stating that he believed Shannon’s actions were “disrespectful and innapropiate.”
“I witnessed, firsthand, the meeting in which President Shannon made inappropriate comments to ASCC and Kevin Coduto prior to his removal,” stated local student Madiha Khan to The Breeze in a letter to the editor.
“[Shannon] had come under the pretense of discussing a way to aid students, but to everyone’s surprise, began addressing Coduto’s recent behavior,” Khan continued. “He manipulated his words to make the actions of our former president seem extremely inappropriate, even though he had committed no crime. For those spectating, it was obvious that his presence at the meeting was not to inform or caution, but to threaten. As a student observer, I felt that this was an unfair attack that could have been handled in a more professional manner.”
An email sent by Adviser John Machado after a closed door meeting on Oct. 17 was disclosed, stating that “if [Coduto] refuses or does not complete the [following] requests, the Campus Council will vote on his removal from office.” These requests include a public apology for Coduto’s initial quote pertaining to Shannon’s actions during the Oct. 7 meeting. On Oct. 21, Coduto was removed from office by a 2 to 3 majority vote by his ASCC peers during a closed door session.
In response to the robo-call released, Coduto stated, “The president of the college coming in to our meeting and publically [displaying], what I felt was harassment, was a form of retaliation against my freedom of speech. I said something that was well within my rights, and I was criticized and chastised for it by certainly, a very large authority figure.”
On Friday, Oct. 26, the tone of the situation took a drastic change. Coduto received a packet compiled by the Chaffey College legal department stating that the ASCC is in fact bound by The Brown Act, noting that the act was clearly violated and any actions taken under closed session are null and void—Coduto’s presidency has been restored.
However, the scenario doesn’t end there; Coduto wants accountability. The newly reinstated ASCC President has recently filed a formal Brown Act violation with legally permissible requests for Superintendent Shannon to supply a written statement admitting his faults, and calls for the removal of ASCC Adviser Machado from his position—seemingly due to the lackluster job he has executed in advising lawful guidance pertaining to the ASCC’s recent missteps. If these requests, among others, are not accommodated by Nov. 9, Coduto is then within rights to file a formal lawsuit.
The reoccurring theme expressed by students on this issue has continued to be confusion. Answers illustrating why a team of college representatives and professionals who felt it necessary to reprimand a democratically chosen student body president with the initial attempt—and subsequent success—of impeachment, would not disclose specifics of his violations as support for their claims, is still unclear. As concerned students and faculty of Chaffey continue to pose these very questions, a clear resolution is sure to ensue.