Sanction withdrawn

Walker cleared during ’emotional’ process


Cathie Lawrence

Supporters of LMCAS President Gary Walker stand with picket signs during a meeting March 9 to discuss the sanction of the president.

The process of sanctioning the president of the Los Medanos College Associated Students came to an end Monday, March 9 in a standing-room only meeting filled with tension and emotion as the voting members of the LMCAS senate decided unanimously to withdraw the sanction item in favor of conflict mediation.

LMCAS President Gary Walker, who had been accused of unprofessionalism and misrepresentation of the senate at the Feb. 23 senate meeting, calmly accepted the news with a simple “thank you.”

It did not take long, however, until his relief rose to the surface and he choked up while transitioning to the next agenda item.

“A big weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” said Walker in an email. “It’s time for me to focus back on my college studies and advocating for student voices.”

Walker had been sent a letter, dated Feb. 20 signed by four members of the senate, informing him of their intent to request he be sanctioned Feb. 23 following the alleged violation of two LMCAS bylaws.

In the letter, the senators claimed “tone of voice, facial expressions given, or even rolling of the eyes have been noticed” from him, but they gave no indication as to the punishment sought for the alleged offenses.

At the March 9 meeting, however, LMCAS officers Diona Shelbourne and Sable Horton, two signatories of the letter, acknowledged removal from office was not their goal.

“We are not trying to remove President Walker,” said Shelbourne. “We’re trying to acknowledge that something happened.”

Horton agreed, adding, “We don’t want you off the board, we just want the unprofessional behavior to stop.”

Instead of further pursuing the sanction, the senate opted to work with a mediator to deal with personality conflicts that have plagued the senate since the fall.

The resolution came after Dean of Student Success Dave Belman, who attended the meeting, suggested the college could provide mediation services.

Although the request to sanction Walker was an action item scheduled on the agenda, the topic arose earlier in the public comment section in numerous statements by visitors, most of whom were there in support of Walker, some holding signs.

“We’ve got nothing but support from Gary,” said Shenanigans member Mario Castillo. “It was really shocking to hear about the sanction because of how involved he is with this school. From what I know of Gary and how he works, he is nothing but [professional].”

Citing paper-thin and vague accusations, Walker supporter Xavier Johnson suggested the sanction be dismissed.

“It’s ridiculous at this point,” he said. “If you are going to point fingers, you all have to look at yourselves. Sitting in this room for only an hour now I’ve seen so many of you on this board do exactly what you’ve accused him of.”

During public comment, Diablo Valley College AS board member Keith Montes, who had attended the previous sanction meeting, made comments critical of Demetria Lawrence’s role as LMCAS adviser.

While the comments did not involve the sanction itself, they did prompt Walker to acknowledge an ongoing conflict with Lawrence.

“I’m actually dealing with the adviser issue on a different level,” he said during the meeting. “There have been some personality conflicts that have been going on with my adviser and myself since September … it’s really snowballed into this.”

Montes suggested that if the senate decides to take action, then it also look further than the behavior of Walker.

“If we’re going to be looking at professionalism of this particular one member of the senate, I think we should also look at the professionalism of the actual adviser,” he said. Later in the meeting, Lawrence took time to address comments made by Montes.

“It’s actually really disappointing that this has come to hearsay … One of the things I have always tried to instill in the senate is that you have a right to disagree, to do it with integrity, to listen to both sides of the story,” said Lawrence in her defense. “What I’m seeing done here from members of the public, including those who spoke how they feel, is just the opposite.”

Shortly after her rebuttal, Lawrence left the meeting early and could not be reached for further comment as of press time.

“The whole process was extremely emotional. Tensions were running high the entire meeting and I could sense that people were having a hard time keeping their composure,” said former LMCAS President Brianna Klipp after the meeting ended.

During the saction discussion, LMCAS Senator Taima Miller explained her feelings after joining the senate earlier this semester.

“I know when I came on, it felt like you had to choose sides. I didn’t want to choose sides,” said Miller. “I found myself trying my hardest to stay neutral in this, but … the things that are said off the recording or around campus, it feels like we’re going to war, and I don’t want that.”

During the discussion, Shelbourne shed light on why the sanction was sought in the first place.

While to a recording of a meeting from the fall, Shelbourne said she noticed an outburst from Walker she deemed unprofessional, which allegedly caused a “disruption” in the meeting.

The incident, which Shelbourne said seemed “out of his character,” is what caused her to write the letter, call for a sanction and gather support from Horton, Miller and then Vice President Candice Tidwell, all of whom signed the letter to sanction Walker. According to Lawrence in her adviser’s report earlier in the meeting, Tidwell recently resigned so was not present.

“I was very direct, and I stuck up for myself. That is an issue between the adviser and me,” said Walker in defense of the incident.

Horton, who was also emotional during the tense meeting, explained what propelled her to sign the letter.

“We didn’t want all of this to happen,” she said, suggesting that a simple conversation is all that should’ve been needed. She choked up, apologized and continued, “I’m sorry, this whole process just really hurts.”

She then turned toward Walker’s supporters and addressed them. “I thank you all for your comments, but I do not see how it helps the situation, because the sanction is not about what he does outside of the school, it’s about how he treats us personally.”

Walker then offered a middle-ground solution, in an effort to conclude the discussion and move onto other important senate issues.

“Instead of the sanction, I’m willing to meet, have a moderated discussion … and see how we can, together, move forward and make this successful for the next seven [weeks],” he said.

He urged all senators, including the new members who had not yet received LMCAS binders that include bylaws and other important information, to reconsider the sanction, which they did following the suggestion of mediation from Belman.

“Some of my supporters have left the senate, but I think their voices are very loud and clear in here today,” said Walker in reference to many in the crowded room holding signs, some of whom spoke on his behalf.

The meeting was attended by more than 30 people including board members, members of various clubs on campus, such as Shenanigans and Allies, members of the Drama Department, the Veteran’s Club and members of the public. There were such a large number of visitors Lawrence had to turn people away at several points during the meeting because the capacity of the room had been reached.

Some members of the audience were not there primarily to support either side, but to instead advocate for funding requests for their clubs or departments, and frustration arose due to the lengthy amount of time spent on the sanction.

“They only accomplished about half of their agenda, which is disappointing and discouraging for the student events that still need to be processed,” said Klipp, who attended both to show support for Walker and to advocate for a debate team funding request.

The remaining nine items that were not discussed were postponed for the next LMCAS meeting March 16.

“A lot of conflict comes up,” with a college as large as LMC, said Belman, so a mediation firm that has been used by the college in the past for various things will be made available to the senate for a soon-to-be scheduled meeting to address the personality conflicts that have negatively impacted the senate’s productivity.

“They may plan to conduct the discussion in an open session meeting with the entire senate,” said Belman, “Additionally, LMCAS may also consider having a discussion with a smaller group of individuals more closely connected to the items discussed.”

“I hope that this never has to resort to a sanction ever again and that this acts as a lesson for everyone, including the adviser,” said Klipp, adding, “Proper communication goes a long way.”

Procedures to address any conflicts and concerns with staff members can be found at