More allegations haunt embattled MPC counselor.
Thursday, January 1, 1998
The Monterey Peninsula College counselor who is facing charges of threatening a female student he counseled is also the subject of long-standing complaints from a department colleague and from three other female students who petitioned MPC''s grievance committee this month to hear their complaints about a class he taught last spring.
David Alexander Piper, a nine-year veteran of MPC''s Extended Opportunity Program Services (EOPS) program for low-income and educationally disadvantaged students, is scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 26 in Monterey County Superior court on charges that he threatened a student who spurned his sexual advances.
Piper, who is on paid sabbatical this year, could not be reached for comment. Repeated requests by Coast Weekly for an interview with Piper through his attorney Richard Rosen, went unanswered. But a student, who asked not to be named, told Coast Weekly that she and two other female students had brought a formal grievance against Piper, asking for redress for what the student described as "a bad experience"-so bad that she and the two other students filing the grievance "ended up dropping" Piper''s class-Ethnic Studies 10.
In a May 1 letter to Gary Jepson, chair of MPC''s Social Sciences division, the three students-one white, one African-American and one Asian-American-stated that they were currently enrolled in Ethnic Studies 10, a course described in a fall 1995 syllabus prepared by Piper-who is African-American-as "an interdisciplinary study of the diverse racial and ethnic aspects of the stratified and pluralistic American Society." In their letter, the students also state that they were "desperately afraid," having encountered "prejudicial attitudes and discrimination from our instructor."
In their letter, the students contend that Piper told them in class "that if a student gave him, Mr. Piper, any type of problem he was going to give that person a failing grade." The students went on to say that "the three of us" have experienced "numerous negative encounters with Mr. Piper" and "have been informed that no matter how hard we try or what we do we will not do well in this class."
One of the three students, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Coast Weekly that the case had been presented to a grievance committee made up of faculty members and administrators earlier this month. She said that her experiences in the class included being "physically assaulted" in class by another student who "practically ran into me and knocked me to the floor." She says her assailant was then patted on the back and told "good job" by Piper.
Repeated calls by CW to MPC''s public relations officer Rich Montori went unanswered. But Sig Thorsen, MPC''s director of human resources, told Coast Weekly that she could not comment on the grievance proceeding or even confirm that it had taken place. "It''s a personnel matter and we can''t discuss it," says Thorsen.
Meanwhile, internal documents from MPC''s personnel department obtained by Coast Weekly also reveal that Piper has been the subject of a long-standing grievance with a colleague, another EOPS counselor who also has an office in MPC''s EOPS center. The counselor-a woman, who spoke with CW on condition of anonymity-has documented what she contends are examples of Piper demonstrating behavior she maintains has "created a hostile and offensive and stressful work environment." In a 1996 discrimination complaint form filed with MPC, the woman alleges what she says are specific incidents of sexual harrassment carried out by Piper against her. Those include:
&bul; That Piper in 1995 made an "obscene gesture" when he was asked if he would like to accompany colleagues taking the woman counselor out for lunch;
&bul; That on several occasions, Piper returned documents to the woman counselor "with sarcastic or insulting comments" including, in one instance, the words "check this folder carefully and then apologize on your knees"-a remark the woman took to be "derogatory and degrading;"
&bul; That in January of 1996 Piper used the woman counselor''s computer "without my permission."
&bul; That, in 1996 after turning off Piper''s computer during an absence, the woman counselor found a Post-It note on Piper''s computer that read. "Do not put your hand on this switch or I will cut you."
Thorsen said she could not comment on any conflict between Piper and his colleagues or even confirm if such a conflict exists.
"It would be a confidential personnel matter," says Thorsen, "and each employee has a right to privacy."
Nevertheless, an April 4, 1997 memo from Thorsen obtained by CW failed to find evidence of sexual harassment in any of the women''s claims. However, the woman says she met last week with an investigator assigned by the state chancellor''s office of the California Community Colleges, to follow up on her allegations.
According to court transcripts of the case slated to be heard in Superior Court on Jan. 26, a female MPC student-20-year-old Zoudenish Northam-testified at a preliminary hearing in August that Piper on June 17 told her she could use a computer at his apartment off campus, then-upon escorting her to the apartment-allegedly told her "...I''m at that time in my life where I want to fuck, and I want to fuck you."
Northam also testified that Piper told her "he was lucky to have his job and so if anybody reported him that he would hurt them and the people around him." She said Piper asked her if she was afraid of guns and then took out a black leather bag later found by Monterey police to contain a loaded semi-automatic handgun.