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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Dean Story

Melody Soto / Roundup

A formal investigation into David E. Williams, associate dean of agriculture, concluded April 28 following complaints of disrespectful behavior by faculty and students.

The investigation was conducted by Sylvia Silva, compliance officer of Pierce College.

“Several allegations were made by faculty and students,” Silva said. “Written complaints were included and attached to the report.”

Written complaints turned into Silva by students stated that Williams has displayed disrespectful behavior on several occasions.

Statements regarding Trojan, a horse that died in the Equestrian Center, claim that Trojan was allowed to suffer prior to being euthanized. Increasing health problems in other horses, several cases having to do with William’s decision to remove their shoes, maintenance and safety issues were also included in writing.

The report was forwarded to the president of faculty union and the president of faculty grievances representative, Silva said.

Silva is not yet aware of whether a decision has been made on her investigation.

In response to a question regarding horses being lame and not being used for instruction on Wednesday, May 11, Williams said that these indications were inaccurate.

“These horses are in the best condition they have ever been; people compliment me all the time,” he said. “Go take pictures of the horses yourself.”

Betina Loudermilk, adjunct instructor of agriculture, was aware of the investigation but was not involved.

However, Loudermilk said there are several maintenance issues that have become safety issues in the Equestrian Center, including weeds left to grow as high “as a person’s waist,” and arenas not being watered before use.

“It’s very hard to take a class when a horse wants to pull down constantly and eat the weeds, especially for new students,” she said. “Sometimes four weeks pass without the arenas being prepped; it’s almost like riding on concrete.”

In addition, manure piling into mounds two to three feet in height and attracting flies, as well wasted food visible in the aisle ways have been a problem since the horses were switched off of food cubes, according to Loudermilk.

Stinging nettle, a plant with hairs that when touched releases a combination of chemicals that sting, is growing visibly near Pen 2. As a child, Loudermilk fell into the plant and had a very painful experience, she said.

“If you were to go to any instructional barn facility, you would not see the place look like this place does,” Loudermilk said. “We’ve never had our place look this terrible, ever.”

Williams made the decision to remove the horseshoes off all the horses. Several students and Loudermilk believe that this led to health problems in some of the horses.

“Not all horses need shoes, but some horses have preexisting conditions and need shoes,” Jayme Mills said.

Loudermilk, Mills and Tiffany Colohan also believe that if the horses’ shoes were going to be removed, the horses should have been given time to adjust from being sore before being ridden, especially the older horses.

Dean Williams says we’re not veterinarians and can’t diagnose a horse, but a lot of us own horses or have taken pre-veterinary classes and know when something is wrong with a horse,” Jenn Stott said.

Trojan, a horse that was euthanized Wednesday, April 13, was a horse that had been lame this semester and was not used during the drill team class Loudermilk teaches, she said.

A veterinarian attended Trojan the morning he showed symptoms of colic, but after the effects of the medication he was given wore off, Siobhan Donnelly called the veterinarian without authorization because she saw that Trojan was left alone suffering and rolling on the ground for approximately two hours.

“The horse was allowed to flip back and forth in pain,” Donnelly said.

Students like Donnelly, Helene Zinn and Julia Crisler felt ignored and lied to.

Wanting to be informed about what was happening to one of their favorite horses, they asked Williams several questions but he didn’t answer any of them.

“The veterinarian had no intention of coming back a second time,” Donnelly said. “Williams told the veterinarian on the phone that Trojan was resting peacefully, but that wasn’t true.”

Linda Howell is the only student allowed to board her horse in the Equestrian Center pens. She has a contract with LACCD, and her horse is used for instruction in advanced riding classes.

During the morning of Thursday, March 3, Howell was in her horse’s stall when Williams approached her and told her to fill out paperwork, she said.

Howell told Williams she would fill out the paperwork, but that he had lied to her before, she said. Williams proceeded to yell in response, claiming that Howell worked for Loudermilk.

“I was visibly shaken after this,” Howell said. “Ever since that day, I am never alone at school.”

Howell filled out an incident report March 9 that was filed at the Pierce College Sheriff’s Station after this incident.

Donnelly witnessed the interaction between the two.

“He got in her face and yelled at her,” Donnelly said. “He told her if she didn’t sign paperwork, he was going to remove her from the property.”

Colohan has also observed Williams’ inappropriate behavior, she said.

“I’ve seen him yell at Paddy Warner in front of her students on several occasions, and that’s disrespectful,” Colohan said. “As a dean, if he has a disagreement with a teacher there’s a way to discuss it in his office, but not in front of students.”

Pierce is an official evacuation zone for large animals during natural disasters. After coming back from spring break, students noted that several metal panels used for pens during emergency evacuations were cut up and stacked.

“We just want to know what happened to them. This is our outdoor classroom and we want to know what’s going on,” Crisler said.


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