A petition demanding the immediate reinstatement of English instructor Mark McQueen was presented at the Faculty Association meeting on Nov. 14 after McQueen was placed on administrative leave during an investigation into allegations that he attacked a student.
According to college officials, McQueen was put on paid administrative leave several weeks ago because of an altercation with a student. McQueen allegedly struck a student during the incident, but the instructor insists he was merely defending himself after the student approached him aggressively.
The issue is still being investigated.
Two documents seeking signatures from faculty were circulated during the meeting, including a letter of support for McQueen—primarily from his immediate colleagues in the English and Language Divisions—as well as an FA petition.
The petition states that an irate student physically confronted McQueen during a pertinent discussion in McQueen’s English 1B class.
“A student stood up with fists clenched and approached McQueen stating ‘you are a motherfucker’ and ‘I can kick your ass,” the petition said. “McQueen raised his hand and placed it on the student’s shoulder in a defensive manner. This action in and of itself diffused the situation.”
According to the petition, the class continued and subsequently concluded without further incident. Students that witnessed these events stated that the student, at the conclusion of the class, apologized for his actions.
FA president Roger Marheine also said during the meeting that McQueen attended and taught all his classes for the day.
“We want all faculty to know that McQueen’s basic rights have been violated and that with this Administration, none of us is safe from irresponsible accusations,” said Marheine.
PCC General Counsel Gail Cooper did not return an email and phone message requesting comment on the matter. Cooper said last week that McQueen’s hiatus is instrumental to protect the integrity of the investigation and the student complainant and witnesses.
“Mr. McQueen continues in good standing with his regular pay during the investigation, and he and the student are both shielded from any further incident during its course,” Cooper said via email.
McQueen’s predicament was portrayed by faculty as a case of great injustice conducted by a hostile administration, which maintains intolerable work conditions.
According to the letter of support, McQueen’s actions were justified.
“When a student stands up, fists clenched and shouts [threats], that student defines himself as an imminent danger, and the teacher has a ‘right’ to defend him or herself and ‘is compelled’ to defend the class,” the letter said. “No student has the right to be this disruptive and not be disciplined. And no teacher should suffer the embarrassment of being placed on administrative leave when challenging unruly behavior.”
Discussions during the meeting revealed mounting outrage.
“I think this is so outrageous,” said engineering and technology instructor Kristin Pilon. “This could happen to any one of us at any moment, for any kind of complaint from a student.”
The petition claims that had this incident occurred elsewhere, the situation would have been handled differently.
“It could be assumed that in any other context, be it a different educational institution, a workplace, or a public setting, McQueen would be commended for his calm and reasonable response to a potentially violent situation,” said the petition. “But not at PCC.”
The petition also claims that the decision to put McQueen on leave was made prior to any discussion of the events with him.
“All individuals are entitled to due process, fair treatment, and a presumption of reasonable conduct until proven otherwise,” the petition said. “These fundamental rights to not become suspended when you walk into your PCC classroom.”
Marheine elaborated on the faculty’s discontent.
“Quite frankly, the faculty is fed up with the assaults on shared governance, the lack of collegial respect for faculty professionalism, and a toxic atmosphere that undermines the basic well-being of all who work at PCC,” said Marheine.
Faculty members are now considering alternative methods of protest.
“I think that [petitions] should be given to the Board with a timeline, by which time we expect it to be resolved, or we should all walk off the job,” Pilon said. “I don’t think we should continue working here with this kind of thing going on. We’re allowing them to keep doing this by doing our job and by being good and by trying to keep everything going, we’re thinking about the students, and I think we’re putting ourselves at risk and I think it’s a really serious matter.”
English instructor Diana Francisco suggested a secondary option.
“[We can refuse] to give finals. The students wouldn’t object,” Francisco said. “You just calculate their grade up to the point, and tell the administration, ‘No finals! You didn’t resolve this in a timely manner.’”
As questions still linger unanswered, the faculty said they continue to wait for a District response.
“We still have not received any documentation of specific charges,” Marheine said. “I am shocked that the Administration would be so callous and unprofessional in its abuse of a faculty member in good standing.”