Behind the Curtain: Students voice their safety and well-being concerns at ASMC forum


Moorpark College students Isa Rojas (Left) and Olivia Vazquez (Right) console each other while listening to public comments at the ASMC Title IX meeting on Dec. 12, 2022. Photo credit: Shahbano Raza

By Shahbano Raza and Sarah Graue

With the intention of composing a response to recent Title IX complaints, the Associated Students of Moorpark College Board of Directors hosted an open forum on Monday, Dec. 12, during which attendees publicly commented on the ongoing sexual misconduct accusations impacting the campus community.

The meeting commenced nearly two hours after Moorpark College President Julius Sokenu emailed a statement regarding the sexual misconduct allegations to Moorpark College students and faculty. While Sokenu was not present at the forum, Dean of Student Life Monica Garcia, Dean of Student Support Khushnur Dadabhoy and Moorpark College Vice President of Academic Affairs John Forbes did attend.

Prior to students and community members voicing their concerns, ASMC President Karina Arteaga clarified the student government’s objectives for the forum.

“Before we get started, I did want to acknowledge that everyone in the blue shirts, we’re your representatives for our campus student government, and our goal is to hear your voices and echo them to the administration,” Arteaga said.

ASMC board members and student attendees listen to Ella Boring’s public statement made at the ASMC Title IX meeting on Dec. 12, 2022. Photo credit: Shahbano Raza

Arteaga then opened the floor to any present members of the public–attending in person or through Zoom–wishing to make a statement.

Theater student Olivia Vazquez was the first to make a public comment about her experience in the program. Vasquez was among those who filed a Title IX against the 26-year-old male student who several have reported for inappropriate touching, stalking and even sexual assault. Vasquez explained that discourse surrounding the accused student was well-known to other actors.

“It was a constant conversation everyday at rehearsal that he creeped the girls out and made them very uncomfortable,” Vazquez said. ”When he finally was kicked out of the musical, I felt happy and thought it was the end. I was wrong, he was still able to perform, take classes and direct at Moorpark College.”

Vazquez noted that the accused individual violated her Title IX by showing up unannounced to her classes, and made it known that he was staring at her. He faced a short suspension prior to directing “Student One Acts” in the spring. For Vazquez and several others sharing their story, communication with administrators has been minimal.

“After everything started online, Isa Rojas was contacted by the vice president of the school.” Vazquez explained. “I would like to know as a woman that has a Title IX against this man, why I wasn’t notified about any updates about him. Why was I not important enough to be given a courtesy call or email?”

Joshua Delman also shared his experience as a former scene partner of the accused theater student. After hearing first-hand recollections from impacted students, Delman was brought to tears.

“I worked with [the accused], he was in my One Acts,” Delman said. “I thought he was a nice person. I thought I could trust him.”

Delman added, “And it just hurts so much because all the stories I’m hearing and hearing from you guys talk about, it’s just, what he did is despicable and unacceptable.”

After a brief recess following public comments, second-year Moorpark College student and theater arts major Isa Rojas addressed the room. Rojas has been instrumental in students’ efforts to raise awareness for the sexual misconduct accusations and subsequent Title IX violations.

Second-year Moorpark College student Isa Rojas presents her remarks on the college’s sexual misconduct accusations at the ASMC Title IX meeting on Dec. 12, 2022. Through social media, Rojas had been leading the student movement for Title IX reform. Photo credit: Shahbano Raza

“What about our safety and protection?” Rojas asked present and absent administrators. “The most we have been offered is for campus police to walk us to our cars. Why do we have to take action and look out for ourselves?”

“We are done feeling unsafe, having predators like him and others of past and present roam campus with multiple Title IX’s which is the root issue of this whole disaster.”

By using her social media platform to inform students of upcoming protests, meetings and updated information regarding the future of several Title IX cases, Rojas has accumulated widespread support for urging administrators to enact changes to protect students.

“We will not stop using our voices, nor our social media platforms to spread awareness of the injustices and lack of safety we feel everyday from you, and your lack of action,” Rojas said.

“Most importantly, we demand that victims feel safe, protected, and are heard and given justice,” she added.

Rojas concluded her remarks by enumerating the detrimental impact of any level of sexual misconduct.

“When a woman experiences sexual harassment, assault, and/or abuse, her whole life is changed,” Rojas attested. “She looks at herself in the mirror differently. She thinks differently.

Rojas continued, “She acts, speaks, walks, and goes about life differently. Her eating habits change. Her sleeping patterns change. She wears her clothes differently.”

Shortly after, ASMC board members discussed and reviewed an official statement to be dispersed to administrators. After securing unanimous approval for the statement, the group adjourned the meeting and released their official statement on social media and through Canvas.

“The Moorpark College Associated Student Board of Directors, as a whole, stand in solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct, formally recognize this issue, and do not condone any form of sexual abuse, assault, or violence in any form,” the statement read.

To further inform students of the Ventura County Community College District’s protections against sexual misconduct, Moorpark College hosted two Title IX town hall meetings on Dec. 13 in the campus EATM auditorium. During the town halls, students expressed their safety concerns in person or through zoom.

*Behind the Curtain is a series following the sexual misconduct accusations that broke at Moorpark College early December of this year. The previous story can be found here.