By Kristie Iwamoto
Long Beach City College part-time union President Dr. Kashara Moore was fired for allegedly “elbowing” a student after the student took issue with her name being mispronounced during LBCC’s graduation ceremony on June 9th of this year (there is a YouTube video of the graduation – the alleged incident happens at the three hour and twenty-six minute mark). A Long Beach City College Board of Trustee member reportedly got involved as well. Moore was put on administrative leave, an investigation ensued, and in the end, the Board of Trustees upheld the district’s proposal of dismissal 3-2 at their September 14th meeting. One of the yes votes was cast by the very Board Member that some witnesses say contributed to and escalated the conflict.
According to an article in the Long Beach Post News, the college’s rationale for firing Dr. Moore was detailed as such: “Despite several witnesses on and around the stage saying they did not see physical contact, the report concluded it was intentional, but then went on to say that intent didn’t matter” (“LBCC professor fired over alleged elbow incident during graduation ceremony”). The actual legal documents prepared by the LBCC Human Resources Department, published in the Long Beach City College Viking News, state, “it is impossible to tell if direct physical contact was made,” even though the entire graduation is on video, and a camera is on Moore and the student during the time of the alleged incident (“Read the documents to the Kashara Moore case”).
Dr. Moore made a statement at the LBCC Board of Trustees meeting that there was no malicious intent in any of her actions. She remains steadfast that any contact between her and the student, if any was in fact made, was accidental, and that she apologized for mispronouncing the student’s name. For legal reasons, Dr. Moore could not comment directly in this article.
So why fire Moore instead of just not giving her a teaching assignment, which all districts in the state have freely done to part-time faculty for decades for a multitude of reasons (and non-reasons)? One could argue that the district feared a lawsuit from the student if they did not publicly act. However, AB 1690 established minimum standards for reemployment rights. Could an unintended consequence of this bill be that instead of quietly not rehiring a part-time faculty member, the district must now formally dismiss them, whether warranted or unwarranted? While this added layer of due process is by and large a step in the right direction for all, does a firing on one’s job history adversely affect one’s chances of being hired at another institution?
Let’s not forget that LBCC has already been the subject of a class action suit filed by their part-time faculty alleging minimum wage law violations. Does this action by the district regarding Dr. Moore not hamper the organization efforts of and serve to thoroughly intimidate the very faculty who will benefit from this lawsuit? What about the fact that Dr. Moore was also the principal witness for AB 1752 (Santiago), the Part-Time Parity bill, and testified for it at a hearing in front of the April 5th Assembly Higher Education Committee? She was also quoted in the CTA Educator, a statewide publication, advocating for AB 1752: “The time has come for California to make equal pay a reality for educators in the largest postsecondary education system in the world. During this climate of unprecedented economic uncertainty, nothing could be more important than ensuring that all workers receive equal pay for equal work” (“CCA Making Strides to Ensure Members are Heard in Sacramento”). Could the firing of Dr. Moore be case of district retaliation for a part-time faculty lawsuit and/or advocacy for a bill that would directly affect budget bottom lines?
Dr. Moore was the President of Long Beach City College Certificated Hourly Instructors (CHI), the part-time union. By firing Moore, LBCC has effectively “beheaded” their part-time union. The warning is not that if LBCC can do this to their part-time union President, they can do it to any part-time faculty member. We already knew that. The warning is that if LBCC can do this to their part-time union President, they can do this to their NEXT part-time union President, and every part-time union President after that. Maybe ANY community college can do this to their part-time union President, and if that is the case, then why would anyone ever step up to lead a PT-only unit again? What if this is the first of many metaphorical association “beheadings”? Maybe not based on an incident at a graduation, but in a classroom, in a meeting, or in a hallway. If PT-only units are valued, they must be protected, and their leadership must be as well.