Cal State Dominguez Hills backs director of Dymally Institute

CARSON — Professor and author Anthony Samad is still scheduled to begin his term as executive director of the Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute at Cal State Dominguez Hills in February despite a concerted effort by some civil rights activists to have Samad removed from the position before he began.

University President Willie Hagan announced Samad’s appointment in a press release Dec. 13, citing Samad’s background as an educator, a former president of the Los Angels chapter of the NAACP and his position as host and managing director of Urban Issues Forum of Greater Los Angeles since 1999.

But Vincent L. Burr, president of the Carson-Torrance branch of the NAACP, said Hagan should withdraw his appointment of Samad due to Samad’s history of sexual harassment allegations.

“There is no place in civil society or the workplace for individuals like Mr. Samad, who uses his position(s) of power to intimidate anyone, specifically women, through sexual provocation,” a statement released by Burr last month said.

“It is my hope that your good conscious serves as your guide and that your spirit help determine that you conclude that a different decision can and must be made regarding a new candidate for this position,” Burr added.

In 2011, a woman filed charges against Samad when he served as group leader of 100 Black Men. The charges were settled out of court in 2015 with no admission of guilt by Samad.

Samad elected not to speak on the record about the controversy over his appointment.

University officials say they have conducted a legal investigation and did not deem the prior allegations against Samad as a justified reasoning to rescind his position.

“The university’s commissioned background check on Mr. Samad was conducted in accordance with state law and did not yield information on a conviction more than 27 years ago, or any alleged sexual misconduct claims,” Hagan said in a statement after the allegations against Samad surfaced.

The longtime Los Angeles activist and community leader spent several years as college professor at East Los Angeles College and was the former leader of the 100 Black Men of Los Angeles. He is a published author and has been a community activist in the Los Angeles area for years.

“Based on his extensive experience in academia, many stellar years of community service and activism in the nonprofit and private sectors, and the fact that he came highly recommended by prominent members of the community and state and federal government, Mr. Samad stood out from the other candidates as the best choice to lead the Dymally Institute,” Hagan’s statement added.

“Nevertheless, the allegations brought to the university’s attention were disturbing, and a decision was made to have them further investigated. Our research turned up the allegations, but found no judgments against Mr. Samad substantiating them.”

Mervyn Dymally

Mervyn Dymally was a trail-blazing politician in California. He served in the state Assembly from 1963-66 and in the state Senate from 1967-75. In 1975, he became the first African-American elected to statewide office when he was elected lieutenant governor, a post he held for four years.

In 1981 he was elected to Congress, serving six terms as a South Los Angeles representative. He later spent three more terms in the state Assembly.

Dymally’s daughter, Lynn Dymally, was involved in the final round of the selection process. She spoke out about the decisions made by the college and despite the history of allegations, she believes that Samad is the best candidate for the position.

“I, more than anyone else, would know my father’s wishes and I dare say he is not turning over in his grave at the appointment of Dr. Samad,” she said. “I think that he’s an excellent selection and I give him my full support.”

Dymally also said she believes that the university addressed the situation properly by conducting a formalized search following the letter received from the NAACP chapter.

“I think they did their due diligence,” Dymally said. “They investigated the matter and the legal team looked into it. President Hagan and CSU system feel comfortable that Dr. Samad is a credible individual to serve as the executive director.


600 Whittier students complete Escalante Summer Math Academy

WHITTIER — More than 600 middle and high school students celebrated their completion of a challenging six-week summer mathematics academy that prepares them for college-level math courses and propels them to the next course level for the 2017-18 school year.

The Jaime Escalante Summer Math Academy, now in its 27th year at Pioneer High School, concluded with a celebration for family and friends who cheered as the seventh- through 12th-grade students received certificates of completion. Those who received A’s or Bs earned 10 credits that will be transferred to their transcripts, enabling them to advance one course level.

The enrichment program is inspired by famous math educator Jaime Escalante and was developed by East Los Angeles College to provide inner-city students and disadvantaged youth pre-collegiate math instruction.

“That certificate has their name, but it bears your last name,” Javier Gonzalez, math department chair and director of the summer academy, said to parents in attendance. “That means it’s a family accomplishment. You did this together. Everything your child accomplishes is because of their family support.”

The academy offered 15 classes covering Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Math Analysis and Calculus to students from the Whittier Union High School District’s five comprehensive high schools as well as Los Nietos, East Whittier, Granada and Hillview middle schools.

The accelerated program compresses a math class that is normally taught over an entire school year into 150 hours, or six weeks. Classes were taught by college professors and incorporated college- and high school-level tutors, including 15 former Pioneer High students who took advantage of the program and wanted to give back to the community.

“At Whittier Union, you are cousins and you help each other out,” said Fernando Fernandez, ELAC math professor and Escalante Math Academy program director. “I have to commend this community for fostering something very special and sharing it with others.”

Fernandez explained the importance of reaching students who demonstrate what Escalante described as “ganas” — the desire to learn, the ability to sacrifice and the wish to get ahead.

“My mission is to expand the support currently offered,” Fernandez said. “If somebody wants to do math, we’re going to be there to help.”

The academy has been a staple of Pioneer High School, where Gonzalez has led the program since its onset and partnered with ELAC to give Whittier’s young learners the opportunity to pursue college-level classes while in high school.

“This intensive program has really brought our community together and paved the way for our Whittier Union students and those who will be joining us in the future to take advantage of this wonderful resource that is available in their own backyard,” Pioneer High Principal Lilia Bozigian said. “The program’s leaders worked hard every day to ensure our students master the concepts and have the support they need to achieve their goals.”

Jaime Escalante was the calculus teach at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles in the 1980s, whose students were accused of cheating on a college placement test. His story was made into the movie “Stand and Deliver” in 1988.

East L.A. students to study STEM subjects at Cal State L.A.

LOS ANGELES — Cal State Los Angeles has joined a program under Verizon Innovative Learning to provide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experiences to middle school boys in East Los Angeles.

Students will participate in summer intensive courses on the university campus to learn skills such as coding, three-dimensional printing, robotics and entrepreneurship that will help to make them competitive for future careers in a digital economy.

Throughout the 2017-18 school year, students will return to Cal State L.A. each month, for mentoring and continued training in STEM subjects. Through the partnership, Cal State L.A. was awarded a $400,000 grant.

The Verizon Innovative Learning program is a first-of-its-kind, two-year initiative that partners with historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to bring STEM skills to minority, middle school young men. This year, the program has expanded to 16 universities nationwide.

“This partnership with Verizon will allow us to reach younger students and spark their interest in STEM subjects,” Cal State President William A. Covino said. “Our participation in the Verizon Innovative Learning program underscores our role as a leader in STEM instruction. Cal State L.A. graduates are changing the face of STEM professions across the country.”

The National Science Foundation has noted Cal State LA’s success in graduating students of color who go on to earn a Ph.D. in STEM fields.

“Cal State L.A. is a perfect partner because of its longstanding ties with the community of East Los Angeles,” said Octavio Villalpando, Cal State L.A.’s vice provost for diversity and engaged learning and chief diversity officer for Academic and Student Life. “Through service-learning classes, Cal State L.A. students contribute hours of service to local schools and community-based organizations. We are a part of this community and we know it well.”

The Verizon Innovative Learning program will benefit students in sixth and seventh grades from five middle schools: Belvedere, Brooklyn Avenue-SPAN, Griffith, Hollenbeck and Stevenson.

The schools are part of the GO East L.A. initiative, a joint effort of the Los Angeles Unified School District, East Los Angeles College and Cal State L.A. The initiative was created in 2014 to promote greater academic outcomes for all East L.A. students by focusing on college awareness, preparation, completion, and career readiness.

Bianca Guzman, director of GO East L.A., will coordinate the Verizon program at Cal State L.A. with support from university faculty members Mauricio Castillo, Claudia Kouyoumdjian, and Jessica Morales-Chicas.

The middle school students who satisfactorily complete the program are eligible to receive a free tablet from Cal State L.A. They are also eligible to receive college course credit, and an opportunity to sign up for an apprenticeship certificate program to create computer applications.

“Through this program students will learn that they can become creators of technology,” said Jose A. Gomez, executive vice president for Cal State LA. “One of these kids is the next Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos, or Steve Jobs.”