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Straight From A Bruin’s Mouth: Firsthand Experiences of Misconduct under University Administration

In addition to the mismanaged funding detailed in this ongoing campaign, Antonio Sandoval and Thuy Huynh are the subjects of an open lawsuit alleging harassment and abuse during their tenures as CPO Director and Associate Director, respectively. Specific instances of misconduct have been reported against Sandoval, Huynh, and other high ranking administrative officials including purported instances of public degradation of Black students, abuse of power and privilege (i.e. barring Black students and workers from CPO offices), and retaliation against those who speak out against these practices. Sandoval’s and Huynh’s high-level positions create a conflict of interest for the Black Bruins who are expected to work under his command, and cannot be resolved without these administrator’s immediate dismissal from their positions. Below you will read a statement submitted by a former Bruin and plaintiff of the aforementioned lawsuit against the Regents of the University of CA Los Angeles, with first-hand experience of their distressing time under CPO.

Please Note:  

The following statement was submitted to the UCLA Staff Affirmative Action Office (SAAO) – March 2017 as the first step in addressing various concerns and treatment endured in UCLA’s Community Programs  Office (CPO). In place of writing a new statement of experience, the information outlined below provides  a solid overview of issues faced while working in CPO.  

As result of UCLA’s Staff Affirmative Action taking an extended amount of time to conduct the  investigation and not providing protection against continued retaliation and bias, I along with two co plaintiffs who experienced similar treatment as Black women staff members in CPO, filed suit against  Antonio Sandoval, Thuy Huynh, and the Regents of the University of California.  

Since my original hiring period of July 2016 to the present moment, what I endured as a staff member of  CPO has drastically affected my personal and professional life. It was a truly difficult time, especially with  fighting a legal case since 2017. Because the behavior of Antonio Sandoval and Thuy Huynh was/is fully  sanctioned by those they report directly to and they both remain in their positions, it continues to leave a  major residue on my hope for better treatment of students and select staff at UCLA.  

– Sherrae M. Mack, PhD 

March 2017 Statement to UCLA Staff Affirmative Action Office (as part of the formal Complaint  Investigation Process form): 

_________________________________ 

As Project Director of SHAPE, my concerns are not limited to the details outlined below. To  provide further information, I will yield to the complaint collection/investigation methods of the  entity/investigator assigned to this filing, once it is prepared for initial submission.  

Acronyms (used more than once): 

• CPO Community Programs Office 

• SIOC Student Initiated Outreach Committee/Student Initiated Outreach Center

• ASU Afrikan Student Union 

• SHAPE Students Heightening Academic Performance through Education 

Core Concerns: 

UCLA’s Community Programs Office (CPO) is operating under a system of  retaliation/bias that disproportionately affects project/programming success for certain projects.  

o Based on past relationships and histories between CPO and various student Mother  Organizations (The Afrikan Student Union [ASU], American Indian Student Association, Muslim Student Association, MEChA de UCLA, Pacific Islander Student Association,  Samahang Pilipino, and the Vietnamese Student Union), CPO seems to disproportionately engage in methods of supporting certain projects over others. 

o Questionable Actions: 

▪ Funding allocations year to year, in particular the last three academic years ▪ Protocol/procedures enforced more with certain projects/employees over others ▪ Departmental information released to select employees verbally, via text, and during closed meetings that can provide certain projects with an advantage over  others prior to formal distribution of departmental information 

▪ Opportunities for advancement, post-graduation employment, and fully-funded  annual conference travel based upon alignment with CPO’s leadership (specifically Antonio Sandoval – Director and Thuy Huynh – Associate Director) • CPO is a student-run/student-initiated campus department. However, it seems many student leaders, in particular those with paid and/or elected positions responsible for departmental operations as well as recent graduates holding core staff positions, are somehow informally directed to carry out the wishes and goals of CPO’s Director and Associate Director.  

• The following specific examples of questionable actions have been either brought to my  attention over the course of my current employment or I have witnessed/experienced these actions directly: 

o Formal allegations of “academic dishonesty and plagiarism” via a departmental,  university memo against SIOC Project Directors and our staff members post-submission  of each project’s 2016-2017 Academic Year Budget Proposal (AYBP) 

▪ I questioned these allegations via email, via our AYBP formal hearing, and in  separate meetings with both the Associate Director and Director and did not  received a detailed, outlined response of SHAPE’s alleged infractions.  

▪ I provided documentation during SHAPE’s formal AYBP hearing (September 20,  2016) and the subsequent roundtable requested by project directors to address  our concerns of past AYBP’s (September 27, 2016) and the repeated use of  necessary program components found on the department’s shared drive. I questioned during the roundtable that if “academic dishonesty and plagiarism”  were in fact an infraction, which I did not agree on because the AYBP is not an  academic document, then why was it not addressed the previous eight (8) years  documented in the CPO Share Drive. (Please note: At this time, many documents on the CPO Share Drive have been removed, included past AYBPs.) The Associate Director responded stating she was nervous because had she  known of this herself she would not have shared past AYBP’s with federal authorities when they were recently requested. However, this did not change her  position during the roundtable, as she informed us that we needed to fight for our  projects because other populations want our spaces in CPO. This statement was  troubling. She also did not change her position nor did the Director change his position when I met with them separately and asked why the project leadership is  taking 100% blame and none of the blame goes to CPO as a department for not  catching these issues close to a decade ago, if not more.  

o Disproportionate Surveillance of SHAPE by SIOC Quality Control Officer ▪ Twelve (12) site visits were conducted by the Quality Control Officer, Jazz Kiang.  (Please see additional information below regarding this position.) 

▪ Out of 12 site visits, for seven (7) SIOC projects, three visits were conducted for  SHAPE. 

• The formal report drafted by Jazz Kiang outlines site visits beginning in  October 25, 2016 and ending January 24, 2017, which includes fall quarter and the beginning of winter quarter. However, some sites did not  receive fall -and- winter visits.  

• Several portions of recorded data were inaccurately/falsely reported.  • This data will potentially inform/ground future programming allocation and  support.  

• During our most recent roundtable (February 28, 2017), I asked if general  feedback from visits conducted by the Quality Control Officer would be  made available to project directors and staff to review and use to further  develop our projects. The SIOC Chair said this information will be distributed to projects at the end of the academic year. Other SIOC committee members countered and revealed that there was report already available (referenced above). The SIOC Chair then said that we  can reach out to our access coordinators separately for feedback. The attempt to restrict this information from projects is troubling.  

o Student Initiated Outreach Committee (Funding Body of The Student Initiated  Outreach Center) – Ongoing Issues 

▪ Chair (Susan Martinez) – overall lack of experience with outreach/access work. ▪ Regularly canceled committee meetings. 

▪ Projects are informed of evaluation deadlines, hearings, and other required  project components with little prior notice. 

▪ SIOC committee members have been asked to turn in their phones during SIOC  meetings. 

▪ SIOC meetings are recorded, but at certain points members have requested that  the recording device be turned off so that information from that point forward is  off the record.  

▪ SIOC Roundtable minutes have only been distributed to project directors one  time out of three roundtables. (Summer Roundtable – September 6, 2016) 

o Positions created for former student leaders (2016-2017) – Assistant to the  Associate Director and Student Initiated Outreach Committee (SIOC) Quality Control  Officer 

▪ Lila Reyes – 2015-2016 Student Initiated Outreach Committee Chair and 2014- 2015 Campus Retention Committee Chair 

• Hired for Assistant to the Associate Director position  

▪ Justin “Jazz” Kiang – 2015-2016 Campus Retention Committee Chair • Hired for Student Initiated Outreach Committee (SIOC) Quality Control  Officer position  

• Specific Questionable Action: Justin’s position required a vote from the  Student Initiated Outreach Committee for approval, and I was informed  that CPO’s Director, Antonio Sandoval “Tony”, told the committee it did  not matter how they voted because Justin was already going to be hired.  This action seems to be very much against protocol/procedure. 

▪ Additional positions have been created in recent years (i.e. Transportation  Manager – Ruth Tesfai)  

o Fully-Funded Annual Conference Travel – only for staff members chosen by the  Director and Associate Director

▪ Fully-funded: air, hotel, select meals  

▪ Example: Select staff members attended the NASPA Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The conference was not announced to the department. “Departmental Professional Staff” (Director, Associate Director, Transportation  Manager, SIOC Fiscal Officer, Office Managers, etc.) attended the conference  along with only the two project directors from actual programming areas, HOPE  and SEA CLEAR, the two project directors sharing the same racial/ethnic  background as the Associate Director.  

Select Detailed Points of Concern – Specific to SHAPE 

Issue One:  

Prior to the submission of the Academic Year Budget Proposal (AYBP), due on September 13, 2016,  SHAPE, I asked the SIOC Advisor, Jose Leon, verbally during a check-in meeting: “For AYBP’s, are  projects allowed to ask for more than what the SIOC Committee has noted in their suggested  allocations?” (Please Note: Jose Leon resigned from UCLA/CPO as of 9/16/2017.) I noted that SHAPE  was in desperate need of more staff in order to successfully execute our duties as a project and that the  three staff included in the “suggested” allocation(s), in comparison to other projects with staff allocations  upwards of 6-8 staff members, would limit our output. Jose, who was technically my CPO supervisor,  replied that in years past, projects could ask for the exact allocations that were needed for their program  year, but currently if I were to choose to ask for more positions/funding than what was suggested for  SHAPE, that the Student Initiated Outreach Committee may “get angry” and actually give SHAPE less  than even the original suggested allocation.  

Prior to this check-in, I sent an email to Jose on 9/2/2016, with an Excel document from CPO’s Shared  Drive outlining the projected allocations for 2016-2017 for all projects. However, the original five (5)  positions allocated for SHAPE did not match the hiring memos I received early into my tenure as Project  Director only allocating three (3) positions. Via email, Jose replied and suggested that I work with Cinthia  Loera, SIOC Fiscal Officer, for questions regarding preparation for the 2016-2017 AYBP. Originally, I  scheduled a meeting on September 8, 2016 (cc’d Jose) and Cinthia responded with a request for my  questions in advance. Soon after receiving my questions, she called my office phone instead of replying  by email and mentioned to me by phone how the Excel document I originally sent to Jose was not  accurate, and that I should follow what has been most recently outlined. A few days later, Cinthia spoke  to me directly in the hallway of the CPO Fiscal Office and mentioned that she asked SIOC’s Chair, Susan  Martinez, to provide us with one more staff allocation, moving our budget from allocations for three (3)  staff members to four (4) staff members. Cinthia shared with me that she felt it was not fair or equitable  that SHAPE did not have an Assistant Director, which was the additional allocation asked Susan for.  Being under intense pressure, with the responsibility to hire five (5) staff members but only being provided  funding for three, I thanked her for unofficially assisting with this matter by speaking to Susan on her own.  Cinthia contacted me on my cell phone, after work hours on September 13, 2016 and confirmed that  Susan was going to allow SHAPE to have an additional allocation. She asked again that our conversation  remain confidential. Cinthia sent an email to me the next day (9/14/2016) with information for the new  allocation to include in SHAPE’s AYBP. 

As a new hire (start date 7/25/16), I was still being trained on AYBP protocol, much of which was on-the job training by taking it upon myself to review past documents on CPO’s Share Drive and better  familiarizing myself with protocol. Jose Leon’s comment as my advisor/supervisor that the Student  Initiated Outreach Committee may “get angry” and reduce SHAPE’s already limited funding was alarming  to me despite the AYBP process being new to me. This coupled with the exchange between Cinthia and  I, along with her efforts while helpful, became a red flag. Thus, I did express my concern with SHAPE’s 

limited number of staff, in writing in SHAPE’s AYBP as well as during our formal SIOC hearing (September 20, 2016), the final step before allocations were decided by SIOC for 2016-2017. My  concerned deepened when final allocations were awarded and SHAPE had the lowest number of staff members in comparison to the other six SIOC projects.  

Issue Two: 

Thuy Huynh, CPO Associate Director, began serving as the Interim SIOC Advisor upon Jose Leon’s  resignation. After an email exchange regarding a separate issue, Thuy and I scheduled an in-person  meeting. During the meeting, I asked if we could discuss the form(s) of communication that would work  best between us moving forward, especially considering several shifts were taking place in the  department. One of my concerns was that several changes to SIOC protocol were shared with project  directors beginning in September and continued consistently with new requirements almost every week 

Fall Quarter. These new requirements were only delivered via e-mail instead of an initial in-person  meeting. A detailed review of how project directors and our staff members should handle protocol shifts  with our partner schools/sites was not provided. I shared with Thuy that prior to Jose Leon’s resignation,  SIOC Project Directors met together weekly with Jose and had access to him for brief check-in’s  throughout the work week. I also shared that it is understandable that her leadership style may be different  from Jose’s, however I was a concerned that the speed at which protocol/procedures were changing  without much notice coupled with me being new to CPO and UCLA at large, that it would be great to be  able to have an in-person component to our communication as well. She said that I can schedule a  meeting with her via her assistant as needed or simply walk-in if she’s in her office. I appreciated this understanding between us regarding our general communication plans moving forward. 

I also used our meeting time to discuss my concerns with the formal allegations of “academic dishonesty  and plagiarism” noted above during the AYBP hearing and the subsequent roundtable requested by  project directors. As Interim SIOC Advisor, Thuy was present for the hearing and the roundtable. I felt  soon after that because I expressed my concerns professionally and openly and requested more  information I, and in turn SHAPE, was being treated differently, particularly by the SIOC Chair, Susan  Martinez. I shared that it seems as if crucial funding, protocol, and day-to-day operations decisions are  being based on past tension between CPO and a project’s mother organization (such as the Afrikan  Student Union in relationship to SHAPE). I also shared that it seems these tense timelines/histories have  been disproportionately shared with the SIOC Chair, in turn shaping her leadership, thus also affecting  various future decisions regarding the treatment of SHAPE.  

Thuy shared with me that the last three years of programming for SHAPE fell below SIOC’s standards  for the year, thus SIOC based this year’s funding decision on prior years. In particular, she specifically mentioned my immediate predecessor, Kalina Flores, did not successfully lead the program. She  referenced that in the AYBP hearing I should not have referenced that I saw 2016-2017 as a way of  continuing the legacy of the work done over the past two years while also still working to achieve even  more success for the project. Specifically, she said when I said/say I am continuing the legacy of SHAPE over the past two years of growth, I was essentially saying I am continuing Kalina’s legacy, and people  do not like Kalina, so that was going to rub people the wrong way. I responded that during training with  Jose Leon, former SIOC Advisor, and by reviewing the few past project documents I had access to,  including the 2015-2016 End-of-the-Year Evaluation, SHAPE met or exceeded many of its objectives and  also secured over $50,000 of external funding, after bouncing back from a one-year downturn. Thus, to  my understanding SHAPE was performing well. Thuy said that SHAPE did not meet the requirements to  keep the final year of funding for a multi-year external grant, and that this was one of the reasons SIOC  did not feel confident about the project’s work.  

With concern, I expressed that I had not been made aware of this information, and in order to effectively  carry out my role as Project Director, if there was any additional documentation and/or information that I 

should be made aware of then to please make it available to me. I shared that it in order for me to  successfully lead the project, I would need to access to past documentation/information the project may  be being judged by or evaluated on. Thuy agreed that she would send me any documentation/information  that she had. (However, the documentation, after having to follow-up via email more than once, was  simply a memo outlining that the grant had ended and did not provide detailed supplemental information.) 

Issue Three: 

On September 15, 2016, via email, I requested to meet with CPO’s Director Antonio Sandoval, to simply  introduce myself since I was a new hire and because we had not had a chance to formally meet since  my hire date – 7/25/16. I was told by his assistant, Russell Castro, that due to hiring for the internship  and leadership development programs that Tony’s time was limited but that he may have availability in a  few weeks. However, I did not receive a response in the weeks that followed. I was not able to secure a  meeting with Antonio (Tony) until December 2, 2016. This was only because of a separate funding/staff  hiring issue I wanted clarification on, and Cinthia Loera, SIOC’s Fiscal Officer, was able to secure a  meeting with him the same day.  

Since I was not sure if I would have a future opportunity to meet with Tony, I used the time to also discuss  my ongoing concerns. I expressed that I felt there were/are instances of retaliation and bias within the  department, and in particular with the SIOC Chair, Susan Martinez, after completing the AYBP Hearing  and the subsequent roundtable requested by Project Directors to express our concerns regarding the  departmental memo accusing projects of “plagiarism and academic dishonesty.” As I shared in the  meeting documented above with Thuy, I discussed with Tony that it seems as if SIOC funding decisions,  protocol/procedure(s), and day-to-day operations decisions are being based on past tension between  CPO and a project’s mother organization (such as the Afrikan Student Union in relationship to SHAPE).  I also shared that it seems these tense timelines/histories have been disproportionately shared with the  SIOC Chair, in turn shaping her leadership, and in turn influencing various decisions regarding the  treatment of SHAPE. 

Tony agreed that there are issues of tension but then shared a narrative with me that was similar to  Thuy’s response in November. He shared that the last three years of programming for SHAPE fell below  SIOC’s standards for the year because the leadership of the project was poor, in particular Kalina Flores  name was mentioned again as well as her predecessor, Eric Adams who resigned mid-year during his  tenure. As I explained to Thuy, I shared with Tony that during training with Jose Leon and review of past  departmental documents, SHAPE met or exceeded many of its objectives and also secured over $50,000  of external funding. Tony responded with the same reason for decreased support as Thuy did – the  external grant that was not renewed and the decreased SIOC support for SHAPE.  

As I did with Thuy, I expressed that I had not been made aware of this information, and in order to  effectively carry out my role as Project Director, if there was any additional documentation and/or  information that I should be made aware of then to please make it available to me. I shared that it in order  for me to successfully lead the project, I would need to access to past documentation/information the  project may be being judged by or evaluated on. I expressed that I requested the same  documentation/information from Thuy as well during our meeting in November. Tony said that there was  not any specific documentation/information to send to me, but that he was leading his own internal review  and information should be available Winter Quarter. That information has not been made available. Tony  then emphasized that past project directors did not attend departmental gatherings (i.e. holiday parties,  gift exchanges, etc.), and that doing so would be a great way for me to build stronger bonds. However,  I mentioned to him that I have been supportive and in attendance for each of the departmental gatherings  thus far and would continue to remain involved. I also shared that to my knowledge, I have a solid  professional rapport with my colleagues. We ended the meeting in a cordial, professional manner.  However, unfortunately I felt and still feel my concerns were not addressed.