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By Brian Hews and Brian Hews
(Norwalk) In an unprecedented rant during the April 3 Board of Trustees meeting, a Cerritos College Faculty Senate President referred to the Norwalk-based campus as being a “homophobic institution.”
The allegation caused a swift response from the college’s only openly gay elected official.
Bob Chester, who has been head of the faculty group since 1998, made the comment after he spent nearly 35 minutes speaking in the third person about “concerns he was getting from faculty members about a certain Trustee.”
The trustee he was likely referring to is John Paul Drayer, who is openly gay, and represents District Three that covers Bellflower and parts of Cerritos.
Chester never mentioned Trustee John Paul Drayer by name, but took swipes at him in a 35 minute report, that at times included a rambling dialogue about how “this Trustee was digging around campus trying to get dirt on people.”
Drayer, a popular community leader and educator from Bellflower was overwhelmingly elected over Appointed Incumbent Jean McHatton of Cerritos in last fall’s very first campaign in which trustees were elected via districts instead of at-large. Drayer was a leading advocate of the movement that forced college officials to change the five decade old election policy.
Chester went on, “people were surprised of the amount of ‘pomp and circumstance’ regarding the arrival of the new Trustees. I was being asked over and over again what was going on with the Trustees?”
“In my one face-to-face meeting with that Trustee (Drayer), I told him you need know who you can trust around this campus, and who you cannot,” Chester said.
“People have asked me questions about what is going on? There have been faculty members saying that a certain board member (Drayer) is looking to cause trouble around here,” Chester told Trustee Carmen Avalos.
“ I have only had negative comments about only one Trustee, and that is the purpose of my report tonight,” Chester said.
Marissa Perez, Board President told Chester, “let’s be honest your comments are directed to one particular Trustee (Drayer), let’s make that clear. Your comments reflect poorly on this entire board. At the end of the day, what are you for, and what improvements can be made to move this Board forward?” Perez said.
“I did report to the Faculty Senate leadership this past week that if they are unhappy with my performance, I will resign but I will serve until they tell me so. Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I needed to be in my attempts to be diplomatic,” Chester said.
Drayer, in an interview with Los Cerritos Community Newspaper on Thursday afternoon said, “In politics people come with different opinions. We need to move forward. I wanted to find out what the Faculty Senate was doing, and I wrote letters to find out what is happening, that is part of my responsibility as an elected representative of the community,” Drayer commented.
“I want to reach out and be positive,” he continued. “I believe in free speech. We need team building here at Cerritos College. We need to talk openly with each other,” Drayer said.
“Most of the people I have spoken to have been supportive of me. I am a very hands on person, and I am not going to sit back and just be an observer from the side lines or from the board table,” Drayer said.
Drayer, when asked by Los Cerritos Community Newspaper if Chester should be removed by faculty senate members responded, “It is up to the Faculty Senate if he should resign or be replaced. I am not going to weigh in to that decision.”
“It was hard to sleep last night. I am trying to let this matter role off my back,” Drayer said about the comments hurled at him by Chester.
“I want to be a great representative to my community of Bellflower, and for every voter who supported me, and to those voters who do not,” Drayer said.
“I am and what I am, and I am willing to fight for what I believe is right and just. I like to turn lemons into lemonade,” Drayer said.
“I am a civil rights leader here in my community and I have been recognized nationally for my leadership abilities in fighting against discrimination. I almost died once from heart surgery due to a family hereditary heart condition. Lots of great things are happening to me. I hope we can all get to know each other, and to learn from this situation,” he concluded.
One veteran member of the faculty, who did not want to be identified, told this newspaper in an interview on Friday that “it was sickening to sit and watch these take place in our board room. We cannot tolerate discrimination or hatred on this campus. We need some serious soul searching.”
Los Cerritos Community Newspaper was able to contact Chester at his Cerritos College office via the telephone on Thursday afternoon to get his reaction.
“This is utter nonsense. I am not going to talk to you. I stand by my comments. Listen to the tape of the meeting. I am going to hang up on you, goodbye,” Chester said.
Board Secretary Sandra Salazar, a key ally of Drayer told LCCN in a statement late Friday afternoon: “the strength of Cerritos College lies in our diversity and difference. Our students, community and faculty are very excited at the composition of the new board of trustees and our shared commitment to critically re- think and re-imagine the design and delivery of a quality community college education curriculum and career pathways. It is unfortunate that there are individuals apparently attempting to undermine our collective work plan and practice of shared governance. Change and transparency are here to stay.”
Copyright. Los Cerritos Community Newspaper. All Rights Reserved. Reprinting allowed by proper attribution. 2013. Hews Media Group
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