Roark: “With each meeting I don’t feel as though much changes.”

Student Trustee talks lawsuits, the board and next semester

Kelly Wynne, News Editor

Student Trustee Gloria Roark has corresponded with the Courier throughout the semester. She has talked with us about everything from Former President Breuder to student ideas and on-campus events. Roark made time to answer questions via email for one last time this semester.

Courier: The College responded to the HLC report. What do you think of the response? What do you expect the HLC to say in response?

Gloria Roark: I guess I am mainly concerned with the way the college responded to the HLC’s critique of the way the trustees interacted. In the response it says that the Board took action to resolve these issues by implementing a retreat and more training, but I don’t think that is going to necessarily solve the personal issues between some of the trustees. We could clearly see at the last board meeting (Nov. 19) there was disharmony among many of the board members. I am scared that the HLC will watch that meeting and respond to us in a negative way; simply because the trustees are still bickering and bantering each other for past issues. Which is still frustrating for me as I still feel that I am stuck in the middle of it all.

C:  What are your opinions on the current lawsuits against the college? Jaclyn Pazera claiming excessive force used during arrest, Thomas Glaser and Lynn Sapyta claiming wrongful termination, Thomas Simandl claiming gender discrimination?

G: I think many of us have seen the video from last December which involves Jaclyn Pazera and some of our campus police officers. Quite frankly, even if the story is left out of that situation, those police officers handled her in a very aggressive and overly forceful manner. However, I did read an article which went into detail about the events that took place, and I can see how the story unfolded, but that still doesn’t justify the way those police officers handled her. It was very hard to watch that video and it was shocking to see it because it happened right on our campus and I had never heard about it until almost a year later. It is a little unclear to me as to why she decided to do this now, rather than then, but either way I agree with the fact that the officers did use excessive force. I really have nothing to say about Thomas Glaser and Lynn Sapyta, mostly because I think they were wrong for what they did and claiming wrongful termination, in my opinion, isn’t going to get them anywhere. There is way too much evidence pointing at them and trying to flip the case on the college, in my opinion, isn’t going to get them very far. In regards to Thomas Simandl, I have to be quite honest, I haven’t heard very much about it. I do understand that the had to take time off because he was placed in an environment where he was being discriminated against by a woman who, according to the article in the Daily Herald, didn’t trust men. Simandl is requesting compensation for the loss of wages during his time off and that’s about all I know. If that is true, I think it’s very sad. I guess I have an understanding of what it’s like to be forced into an environment that causes anxiety to become worse. . . And I truly do feel for the guy if that is what happened. I am hoping all of these legal issues can be resolved, especially the ones involving Jaclyn Pazera and Thomas Simandl.

C:  Do you think people are taking advantage of the college’s current state by filing lawsuits for a wide variety of reasons or do you feel each holds validity?

GR: Like I said, there are only two that hold validity in my opinion. And I am questioning why these things are taking place now, which of course makes me question the motive behind each. But as of right now all I can do is base my opinion on the stories I have read, seen and heard. And as of right now they seem valid. I am hoping there is more light shed on the previous two cases that I said above.

C: How do you expect the board to handle the lawsuits?

GR: Considering I haven’t heard much from the board or gotten any information about these from the board, I have absolutely no idea. I don’t think the board will be too worried about the Glaser and Sapyta lawsuit. I think they should worry about the other two, but that’s my opinion. Honestly, the board is so divided it’s hard to tell what will happen. Your guess is probably as good as mine.

C: Overall, how do you feel about the board’s accomplishments this semester?

GR: I think I would feel better about the board’s accomplishments if I knew that the accomplishments happened because all of the members wanted them to. I would feel better if we could meet on even ground, but I don’t see that happening in the near future. Honestly, with each meeting I don’t feel as though much changes. It’s the same thing, over stating opinions, accusations, bickering and disharmony. I am happy that the board has taken action to put the students and education back into focus, though. I think we are all looking on the brighter side of things now that the board has taken action, especially with the start of the presidential search! I am so excited that it’s happening. I feel as though things are finally looking up for us!

C: What do you see happening in the college’s progression? Is there anything you hope to see happen next semester?

GR: Switching the focus back to students and education, definitely. I hope we continue on this path. I am looking forward to hearing from the presidential search committee as well as the firm we have hired. I seriously can’t wait to hear about the candidates. This is such an amazing time for the college, a time for real change and real growth, you know?

C:  The COD police department has been conducting active shooter drills. As a student, how do you feel about this?

GR: This is one of the things that we discussed at ICCB-SAC (Illinois Community College Board – Student Advisory Committee). I, along with Stephanie Torres (ICCB student representative), are both part of this committee. At our meeting in November, we broke out into our subcommittee’s and Stephanie and I both go to the local issues subcommittee. One of the focuses in November was campus safety and someone at the subcommittee meeting mentioned that there should be presentations on what to do if an active shooter is in fact on campus. I just received an email today that indicated that police officers and campus safety would be going through with training, which I was happy about. It is good to know that the people here to protect us from incidences like that are going to be able to do so. However, at ICCB-SAC we talked about having presentations for the college as a whole on what to do if there is an active shooter. I would love to see that from our campus safety, but I am not sure what a presentation like that would consist of. I think it would be beneficial though, especially given the current rate of college campus shootings/threats for those to occur.

C: Is there anything you’d like to talk about? Feel free to add anything. I know you usually have some topics you’d like to cover, so add as much as you feel!

GR: So I am just going to talk a bit about what we discussed at ICCB-SAC some more because it’s important for me to update students. As many people know the state of Illinois hasn’t approved a budget and that has affected students who receive MAP grants. One of the initiatives that we decided to take on as ICCB-SAC was writing letters to Governor Rauner and other representatives discussing why MAP grants are important to students. The Student Leadership Council revised and edited a letter that Joe Stahl (President of SLC) wrote and we plan on sending this to the representatives in Springfield. At our last SLC meeting we thought it would be nice to have other students do the same, so I would like to encourage students to do so. We welcome any students who would like to take part in this initiative to come to the SLC office and ask about it! I know at our last meeting we discussed having a “skeleton” letter for students to use and then send to their representatives, which I am hoping we follow through with. The plan is to basically bombard Springfield with letters from college students who need this funding in order to receive an education. The more letters they receive, the more pressed they will feel to approve the budget.
I would also just like to say good luck to students on their finals and happy holidays (: I have appreciated being able to update students on what’s going on with the college and I am looking forward to another semester. With that being said I also need recommendations for Board presentations and if anyone has ideas, please let me know! You can email me ([email protected]) or drop by the SLC office and talk to me or leave a note on my desk if I’m not there.