It is often uncomfortable being a malcontent; however, the “Silence of the Lambs” is slowly killing us. About a year or so ago I wrote about the case of Ann Marie Catano in a blog titled “Say It Ain’t so Monte!” In it I criticized a longtime friend, Monte Perez, the president of Mission College. It was hard not only because I knew him but because we have fought so hard to get Chicanas/os into these jobs, and too often cannibalize each other.
So I proceeded with caution and spoke to many people about the denial of tenure to theatre instructor Guillermo Aviles Rodriguez. All of the facts suggested that Guillermo was highly qualified and the victim of an internal conspiracy. I wanted to know more about the case, but I was reluctant to become an advocate because it was a personnel matter, and I did not detect much movement or moral outrage from the Chicana/o Studies leadership on the Mission College campus. The protests were mostly from students.
However, I could no longer remain silent when I heard about the case of Ann Marie Catano, a spokesperson for the Student Empowerment group at L. A. Mission — it moved me. She was very vocal in protesting the termination of Professor Aviles Rodriguez. As a consequence, Ann Marie was suspended for the semester from attending Mission and any of the eight community colleges for speaking out in defense of her principles. This suspension prevented Ann Marie, a single mother, from completing her AA and transferring to Berkeley, which she had hoped to do in the fall.
Ann Marie Catano’s kids were removed from the campus day care by five Sheriff’s deputies. She received a signed letter from Monte telling her that she is banned. I found it to be excessive so in an open letter I asked Monte if it were true.
I did not expect the reaction from longtime friends who had historically been champions of student rights. Rosalio Muñoz and Al Juarez asked whether I had checked out the facts. Monte was a friend – part of the 1969 LA State palomia. I was disappointed because the silence allowed a whispering campaign that attacked Ann Marie’s character.
The silence allowed the injustice to compound itself.
Ann Marie is a special student. When I invited her to speak at California State University Northridge, Mary Pardo was impressed. Her spoken and written English was letter perfect. We all stereotype our own especially those from the barrios. She was clearly a fighter with a strong sense of justice.
Ann Marie was finally busted when four police jurisdictions descended on her car and allegedly found drugs in her car. (They were prescription drugs belonging to a friend who told police they were his). After that point, her case slowed to a crawl.
The other day I received this email:
“At that time I was the Vice President of Student Services. Monte directed me to do an investigation of Ann Marie Catano and the other student activist. He basically ordered me to find a way to find fault in her action. On February 20, 2014, a group of students, that included Ann Marie, interrupted a College Council Meeting. I was in attendance and this is when all of the next 20 months of activity began. Even though I was to initiate the investigation, I was targeted by several members of the faculty, one Board of Trustee member and a Professional Expert to be taken off campus. It took over sixteen months but they were successful. During the same period of time, six other Chicano/as were mistreated and falsely accused of things they did not do. Guillermo was denied tenure; Monica was offered an Interim Dean position but three days later it was rescinded by Monte; Darlene was an Interim Dean of Academic Affairs, applied for the full time position, was the number one choice of the committee but denied the full time position by Monte because his VP of Academic Affairs felt her not qualified even though she had done the job extremely well for over a year; Carlos was falsely accused of making racial remarks and without an investigation Monte put him on paid administrative leave until mid-October, when it was found that there was no cause; Ludi and Diana were pulled off a tenure committee because the person going through her last year of the process complained that they would not vote favorably for her tenure (which was not true).
Monte has become a Chicano/a obstacle. He has mistreated and hurt people in a way no other President or administrator has ever done in my almost 40 years of work experience. He has done all of this without concern for the community or students. He is at the beckon call of the faculty leadership, which has always disliked the idea of a Chicano/Latino campus and his Vice President of Academic Affairs.
Joe S. Ramirez
Former VP of Student Services at LAMC
I shared the email with Ann Marie who answered:
“I am at a loss for words. Last night I was telling a very good friend about this same exact story and all of these issues and I have been contemplating returning to the college simply to see what state it was in. I had no idea about Joe. That is a true loss for the students and the faculty. I was going through a very dark time recently and it was yesterday that I kind of just woke up and remembered who I am and what I am capable of accomplishing. And this message is a sure reassurance of all that I was thinking about. Thank you Rudy, I very much needed this. Please let me know what I can do to help. I am more than ready…
Joe Ramirez is the only vp that attempted to help me and any other students. He constantly donated to the cause and has my utmost respect, I know he was truly places between a hard place and a rock and we fought hard to ensure that no one retaliated against him while we were there. Monte is no Chicano, he’s a sellout…just as I told him to his face. He is a disservice to the students and to the Chicano community and has flat out forgot what his fight was for. I often wonder if his fall was because of power or greed or if he just flat out got bullied and spun his web into a giant tangle …”
What happened to Ann Marie and the mess in the community colleges is largely due to our silence, our silence permits this to happen, it gives it license. I wish Monte luck, I like him but his actions are hurting our progress. The Ann Maries are the hope of the future because they care and because they won’t be silenced. She needs no welcome back.
— by Rodolfo F. Acuña