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Indybay Feature

L.A. City College Presidential Hopeful Fostered Retaliation Culture as LAVC President

by Anonymous
Erika Endrijonas has been announced as a finalist for President of Los Angeles City College, but new information shows she fostered an existing culture of retaliation while President of Los Angeles Valley College.
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Pasadena City College Superintendent-President Erika Endrijonas has been announced as a finalist for the L.A. City College President Position. The move would be a step-down in authority from her current position as CEO of a college district to a management role of a single college under her the LACCD Chancellor’s supervision. When Endrijonas accepted the PCC Superintendent-President position in 2018, she was quoted by the Pasadena Star News as citing the increased authority as a major consideration in taking the position “I felt ready to be a superintendent-president and work directly with the board.” It would also come with a pay decrease over over $100,000 dollars, if Endrijonas and outgoing LACC President Mary Gallagher’s posted salary is anything to go by.

Endrijonas’s willingness to take such a big career decline my seem surprising, but it shouldn’t. Currently the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees is deciding whether or not to fire Endrijonas. Two months ago Endrijonas was announced as a finalist for Superintendent-President of Santa Barbara City College (where she had previously served as the Career and Technical Dean for nearly a decade) and Mt. San Antonio College. However after further evaluation Mt. San Antonio College went with a different candidate and Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees announced they would re-open applications and extend their Presidential search for other candidates. Having been passed over by her two first choices, Endrijonas was quoted by Pasadena Now as stating she “plans to complete the process at LACC while waiting to see what happens at PCC.”

Endrijonas’s rejection by three community colleges is stunning as it comes less than a year after Inside Higher Ed reported a shortage of California Community College Administrators.

At the heart of the situation is how Erika Endirjonas treats people and the culture she fosters in her role as a Community College President.

When Endrijonas was first announced for the position, she announced listening as the first item on her agenda in an interview with the Pasadena Star-News; “Her first order of business? Checking in with students, faculty, staff and residents of the communities served by PCC. “The first thing I’m going to do is basically listen — talk to the various communities and constituencies, not just at the main site but all of the sites where Pasadena City College operates,” Endrijonas said in a phone interview.”

But according to Pasadena News Outlets she’s done very little listening and a great deal of bullying. Last year the PCC Academic Senate passed a vote of no confidence in her leadership 17-12. PCC student newspaper The PCC Courier covered that during the meeting “Endrijonas was called “stubborn,” “arbitrary,” “unsafe,” among other descriptions. She was accused of violating “the regulations and spirit of shared governance.”

This was followed by the PCC Faculty Union passing a similar resolution with 66% of full-time faculty members voting they had no confidence in Endrijonas’s leadership. Adjunct Faculty members staged protests and made public comments to the Pasadena News Media and at meetings of the LACCD Board of Trustees.

Months later Pasadena voters replaced incumbent trustees with new members.

Last September, The President of the Board of Trustees hired legal counsel to advise on contract negotiations with Endrijonas, and whether or not to extend or end her contract.

The response from Endrijonas’s allies has been a tidal-wave of retaliation and abuse against PCC Board of Trustees President Sandra Chen Lau for doing the job that Pasadena voters elected her too. At the April 19, 2023 Board Meeting, Endrijonas’s allies on campus staged a very public tantrum that was poorly received. Multiple news items have been published personally attacking Ms. Chen Lau.

Perhaps the most obnoxious statement came from Bill Hawkins quoted as saying: “Who is Sandra Chen Lau and why is she taking a wrecking ball to this venerable institution?”

Ms. Chen Lau was forced to defend her self and the Pasadena voters that elected her and the new trustees with a very public Op-ED ‘Standing Up for Good Governance’ against the smear campaign ran against her on Endrijonas’s behalf.

This petty torrent of abuse against an elected official for providing oversight on behalf of PCC stakeholders appears surprising at first.

But it shouldn’t.

The way Endrijonas has been characterized so far by those who have dealt with her sounds like one of Tami Cowden’s villainous archetypes “the abusive autocrat, she lies, cheats, and steals her way to the top. Her climb to success has left many a heel mark on the backs of others. She doesn’t care about the peons around her – only the a achievement of her dreams matter. Forget expecting a helping hand from her – she doesn’t help anyone but herself.”

And evidence has surfaced that this is a long-standing pattern of bad behavior going back as far as her previous institution Los Angeles Valley College where she fostered an existing culture of retaliation.

Under Erika Endrijonas’s leadership LAVC engaged in illegal retaliation.

That’s not an opinion.

It was a the finding and determination of a jury who awarded a $2.9 million dollar judgement to a former employee. When asked if she would return to LAVC, the employee responded “Not after what they did to me.”

On May 2, 2023 ‘Erika Endrijonas faces new questions in LACCD fraud’ hit the wire detailing two student filed accreditation complaints against LAVC.

This was followed on May 5, 2023 ‘Dozen LAVC Cinema Student Narratives challenges Erika Endrijonas’s LACCD Success Story’ undercutting Endrijonas’s image as a student success champion.

And new emails and Facebook Messages from 2014 – 2017, show that Student 1 and 2 made multiple attempts to resolve matters at the college level before approaching Accreditation. They also show that both students appear to have suffered retaliation by LAVC Officials in response to challenging multiple violations of accreditation.

The first documented attempt came in Fall 2014, when Student 1 sent a detailed letter to the LACCD Board of Trustees President Scott Svonkin, who in turn notified LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodrigues about problems in the LAVC Media Arts Department. This was followed by petitions and letters from students to LAVC Media Arts Department Chair Eric Swelstad, CTE Dean Laurie Nalepa, Vice-President of Academic Affairs Karen Daar, and College President Erika Endrijonas in 2015. This was followed in 2016 with a second letter to Scott Svonkin and a dozen student narratives collected and sent to Erika Endrijonas.

In a 2015 Student Facebook Chat, Student 1 describes someone improperly accessing Student 1’s Academic File and removing paperwork to prevent Student 1 from graduating. The post also specifically mentions LAVC Department Chair Eric Swelstad refusing to sign another student’s paperwork and threatening to deny accommodation to a third student undergoing medical treatment.

A series of emails show that despite Student 1 was also denied the opportunity to walk at LAVC’s college commencement ceremony June 7, 2016. The official notification, including that Student 1 had earned the ‘President’s Distinguished Honor Award’ and completed multiple certificates and association degrees in Media Arts, Cinema and Television was supposedly mailed May 25, 2016 but conveniently didn’t arrive until June 10 – three days after the ceremony.

Endrijonas’s email reply to Student 1 inquiries was the same calloused indifference to others that she has demonstrated as Superintendent-President at Pasadena City College.

Student 2 collected a petition of twenty-three students and submitted it to Endrijonas’s desk demanding that LAVC’s Department Chair Eric Swelstad and Dean Laurie Nalepa abide by Accreditation.

A 2017 Email shows that ultimately Student 2 took the classes needed for graduation at LA City College, only to have Eric Swelstad inform that he wasn’t “familiar” with the coursework at LA City College and wasn’t sure if they would count for graduation either.

It also an audacious lie.

LAVC’s Media Arts Advisory May 19, 2017 Meeting Minutes show faculty from LACC including Cinema Chair Joni Varner were participants.

Minutes from the LACC Cinema/TV Department Industry Advisory Committee Meeting on June 9, 2017, show LAVC Faculty including Department Chair Eric Swelstad participating in curriculum development conversations.

This also isn’t the first time Eric Swelstad or LAVC had weaponized graduation to retaliate against a student either.

On May 19, 2009, an LAVC Cinema Student filed a lawsuit at Van Nuys Courthouse East against Los Angeles Valley College and naming the entire LAVC Media Arts faculty, area Dean, Vice-President, President and every member of the LACCD Board of Trustees as respondents for reasons mirroring the complaints that Student 1 and Student 2 brought almost a decade later and retaliation he suffered for speaking out.

“46. When plaintiff complained about the above referenced matters, Swelstad and other Valley College officials retaliated against plaintiff by refusing to grant him a Certificate and creating a hostile learning environment for him in class.

47. On or around June 2007 plaintiff satisfied the requirements to get a Cinema Arts Production Certificate (“Certificate”) at Valley College.

48. On or around June 2007 plaintiff applied for an Associate Degree in Media Arts at the Valley college graduation office.

49. On a letter dated December 19, 2007, Plaintiff was notified by by the Valley College graduation office that he would need to take three additional non-media/cinema classes to qualify for the degree.

50. Plaintiff called the Graduation Office soon after receiving the letter and talked to the to staff there who told him that, however, he fulfilled the requirements for the Motion Picture Production Certificate.

51. Plaintiff was told that he would receive a Certificate in the mail and that his scholastic record would reflect that fact.

52. Despite repeated phone calls to the Valley College Graduation Office and Academic Affairs regarding this matter, plaintiff was not given the certificate.

53. On or about September 2008, plaintiff finally visited the office on September 2008, and was told to fill out another form in order to receive the Certificate. Plaintiff filled out the form.

54. On our about October 2008, Swelstad denied the plaintiff the certificate via a letter even though plaintiff has fulfilled the requirements to get the Certificate.
55. On our about October 13, 2008, plaintiff notified Delahoussaye and Reed that plaintiff had fulfilled all requirements for the Certificate and that they should take care of the matter as soon as possible. On or about October 13, 2008, Yasmin Delahoussaye and Dennis Reed denied request.”

There is no record of how Endrijonas responded to Student 2’s situation other than permitting Eric Swelstad to remain Department Chair. While it’s not known for a fact if Endrjionas was aware of this prior pattern of retaliation, what is known is not only how Endrijonas responded to the same retaliation towards Student 1, but also in her response to Student 1’s Accreditation Complaint in 2016 she stated she’d done an extensive fact-finding mission into the issues in LAVC’s Media Arts Department under Eric Swelstad’s governance.

Either Endrijonas lied to Accreditation about her fact-finding mission, or she did the fact finding mission and was aware of the existing retaliation culture in the LAVC Media Arts Department and fostered it.

Retaliation was the number one EEOC prosecuted complaint in 2019, before Covid closed multiple industries. And failure to graduate is the number one problem facing California Community Colleges – which will soon start costing colleges tax dollars if they don’t clean-up their act under California's new funding formula. LACCD just lost a $10 million dollar lawsuit at LA Southwest College for retaliation, because of a Vice-President who should have been fired and wasn't. And under Endrijonas, LACCD also lost a $2.9 million dollar lawsuit at LA Valley College.

Is the LACCD Board of Trustees and Chancellor really planning on throwing away more taxpayer dollars on a President who has not only lost the confidence of her current institution after four years of mismanagement, but has also fostered an existing culture of education and financial abuse against students as a form of retaliation at LACCD?





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RE: Spring Schedule 2016 Important

REDACTED

Wed 12/9/2015 5:22 PM
To: daarkl [at] lavc.edu ;endrijea [at] lavc.edu ;nalepal [at] lavc.edu

CC REDACTED

Dear President Endrijonas and Vice-President Daar,

My name is REDACTED and I am writing this email on behalf of myself and REDACTED - we are both Full-Time Media Arts students regarding the Spring 2016 schedule of classes.


Both REDACTED and myself need and want to take Media Arts 113 Low Budget Film-Making to qualify for certificates and degrees in our department and we are short this course which is one of the core classes in Media Arts Producing track and an approved required elective for two other Media Arts certificate/degrees . This class has not been offered in two years. Both of us who signed up for Cinema 111 this semester (also a core class offered for the first time in two years) were hoping Low Budget would be be offered Spring 2016.

REDACTED and I are seeking both graduation requirements and additional job training in our industry with this class.


I spoke with the Media Arts Department Chair Eric Swelstad regarding the class in September and was informed that the Spring schedule was finalized and no new classes could be added and suggested I gather a petition of students for next Fall 2016, as well as find out if there was an instructor willing to offer the class. I spoke with REDACTED who taught Low Budget Film-Making in 2013 and he agreed that he was interested in offering the class again provided it was on a week night and communicated this to the Department Chair. I have also spoken with other students who either need this class or expressed a strong interest taking it especially if it were assigned to this instructor.


We have since learned from Academic Affairs that this class could still have been scheduled already in the Spring and that it still can potentially be. Despite not adding Media Arts 113 - the Spring schedule has Broadcast 22-2, 3, and 4 - all of which are one unit independent study classes that are non-degree applicable and scheduled with a teacher that is already teaching five broadcast production classes. Additionally other Independent Study Broadcast classes 185, 295 and 385 (also non-degree applicable) were offered during the summer session 2015. None of these classes are required to graduate or part of education plans made up by counseling for Financial Aid. From our understanding they are additional classes to provide extra hands on training.


Other students in Fall 2015 lobbied the Department for classes required to graduate that they believed would be offered in the Spring and were given the same response - again NDA classes were given priority over them in scheduling and the class they petitioned for Cinema 123 was offered this Fall. During that time the student who organized the petition was un-fortunately forced to leave school to take care of a sick family member and were unable to take the class they needed to graduate despite having completed the many perquisites for this course because it was not offered until this Fall. Had it been offered in the Spring they would have completed the program and earned a Cinema degree or certificate by now.
mediaarts113_2_.png
Because of the schedule and a lack of classes many of our friends are quitting the program after this semester and others have already left Valley College this semester to take coursework at LA City College. At the moment we have learned that City College is offering two sections of their producing class that is not been offered at Valley College. Many students are leaving Valley College and signed up at LA City College for the producing class and we would like to know when there is a demand and need for this class why non- degree applicable classes are being prioritized in scheduling over degree applicable classes on the Spring 2016 schedule?
For most of us it would be an added difficulty and require additional transcript evaluations and paperwork - not to mention commuting from the Valley to another part of town ect . . . to take this course at LA City College and would much rather take it at our home campus with our department.

Some students are already experiencing difficulties because Media/Cinema 110 which is required and a core class generally offered in Fall was cut this semester and is causing students both graduation and Financial Aid Problems for some students including REDACTED.

If it is possible to schedule Media Arts 113 in the Spring semester we would appreciate your assistance with this matter in making this happen or we would like an explanation why NDA classes are being scheduled over degree applicable classes.

It would be the best Christmas gift you could give us by adding this one class to the Spring schedule and would mean alot to many students.

Best Regards and Merry Christmas REDACTED & REDACTED
§Student 1 - 2015 Retaliation Facebook Messages
by Anonymous
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Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 4:34pm PST

Also this semester I discovered my course substitution for 124 which I had to fight with him to approve from REDACTED was never catalogued and removed from my file that almost prevented me receiving my cinema certificate

Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 4:32pm PST

Also since then he refused to sign REDACTED 110 paperwork and lied to REDACTED taclaiming he doesn't make a decision because it's made by a committee that has to evaluate REDACTED transcript (this is not true unless he Denys REDACTED and REDACTED appeals). He also told REDACTED who is having surgery (which he was aware of) that REDACTED isn't able to make REDACTED final exam that REDACTED will receive an incomplete not
a lesser passing grade such as B. And he's been short and snappish with me ever since - nobody to my knowledge has done or
said anything to him.

Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 4:28pm PST

So the background is - I spoke to Swelstad in September about offering 113 in the spring. He told me that spring schedule was
folinalzwd and couldn't be added but to email him about fall and we specifically discussed Redacted I (who he said he was okay
with). I've sent him emails for about two or three months also telling him not to schedule REDACTED classes against REDACTED which he Has done for several years. A few weeks ago I sent a partial list to him of interested students and he said they might offer it in
fall but we can't request an instructor. I spoke with a teacher in another department and academic affairs who said that they
totally could have and still can add a class to schedule if there is student demand.

§Student 1 Graduation and Distinguished Honor Letter
by Anonymous
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§Erika Endrijonas reply to Student 1
by Anonymous
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Endrijonas, Erika A
Sat 6/11/2016 12:11 PM

TO: REDACTED

REDACTED

If you applied for graduation, then you received the letter because you earned this Honor. If you did not apply for graduation, then this was sent to you by accident. Although my signature is on the letter, it is actually sent out by Student Services. Please follow up with Admissions and Records because my office does not determine who receives the letter.

Erika Endrijonas, Ph.D.
President
Los Angeles Valley College
5800 Fulton Avenue
Valley Glen, CA 91401
818-947-2321
endrijea [at] lavc.edu
Twitter: @LAVCPrez

-Original Message-

From: REDACTED
Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2016 9:22 AM
To: Endrijonas, Erika A
Subject: Letter

Erika,

I got this in the mail yesterday. What's does this mean?

REDACTED
§Emails to Student 1 from Graduation Office
by Anonymous
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RE: Graduation
Respess, Marsha L.
Mon 6/13/2016 9:19 AM
To: REDACTED

REDACTED

We base graduation honors on all your college work completed and with your Valley, Pierce, REDACTED units your GPA at this time is 3.700 and you have at least 50% of your units completed at Valley so if you continue to do well and have at least a cumulative GPA of 3.700 you will earn the President's Distinguished Honor Award.

Marsha Respess

MESSAGE REDACTED

On June 13, 2016, at 10:12 AM, Respess, Masha L. wrote:

REDACTED

you were listed in the graduation program as being a candidate for the President's Distinguished Honor Award based on your cumulative GPA as of Fall 15. You do need to pass Math 125 course you are enrolled in at Pierce College for Fall 16 in order to graduate and if you maintain your 3.700 GPA higher with your SS16 and F16 courses you will earn this award. You qualify for the degrees in Broadcasting with the Television Option, Cinema Arts, and Media Arts with the Directing Option. We do not grant multiple degrees in Media Arts so completion of the Screenwriting Option and Producing Option will be noted on your record under memorandum after next semester.

Marsha Respess-A&R Evaluator
respesml [at] lavc.edu
§Eric Swelstad email to Student 2
by Anonymous
student2_retaliation.jpeg
Swelstad, Eric J.
Tue 4/11/2017 11:07 PM

To: REDACTED
CC: nalepal [at] lavc.edu;

REDACTED

I don't meet students to sign course substitution forms during, before, or after my class time, but I can meet with you during my office hours which the first free time will be next week Monday from 11am - 12pm in CC 249.

I am not immediately familiar with the two classes you mentioned below at LA City College.

I do not sign course substitution forms until AFTER I have reviewed the following:

– the course outline of the course(s)

– the syllabus from each course

REDACTED
§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
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§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
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§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
sm_12_-_19.jpg
§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
sm_20_-_28.jpg
§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
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§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
sm_36_-_43.jpg
§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
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§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
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§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
sm_59_-_64.jpg
§2009 LAVC Media Arts Student Lawsuit
by Anonymous
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