SMC— Santa Monica College removed an Italian language professor after he allegedly made racially insensitive comments in a non-credit class, said Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeff Shimizu.
Romualdo Scherillo stated, among other things, that he was afraid to fail black students for fear of reprisal, student Susie Duff said. He also made comments about their work ethic.
Scherillo did not respond to e-mails from the Daily Press.
“There has been a history of complaints about this individual,” Shimizu said. “They went back as far as 2011 with similar complaints from students and so forth.”
Shimizu could not elaborate on the types of complaints that were received by the college.
The comments were made during the second of six classes. A new professor was brought in for the third class.
“We don’t want to call it a firing,” Shimizu said. “We just removed him from the class. He was removed because they felt they had to take action because all of these complaints that were coming in from active students there.”
The class was a part of the community service program for which students do not receive credit. Professors are hired on an assignment to assignment basis, Shimizu said. They are not members of the college’s teachers union.
“I’m not even sure if they’ve completed their next rotation for winter/spring [schedule] yet, but I would think with this issue here, they would evaluate the decision before they hired him back,” he said. “Nobody has said he’s been fired or he’s not coming back. I would think that they would at least meet with him if he requests to come back.”
The comments came in the last two minutes of the class, Duff said.
“All the air goes out of the room,” she said. “You could have heard a pin drop. You watched Mr. Scherillo do one of those faces like, ‘what did I just say?’ And then, unfortunately, he went on to dig himself deeper.”
She was disappointed with the way the school handled the issue. While she did not agree with all of his comments, she said Scherillo was fired for being politically incorrect.
“I find his remarks abhorrent, it’s all the more reason we should be discussing them, especially in a college situation,” she said. “What offended me, in particular, was that we were treated like we were impressionable kindergartners as opposed to adults in an evening class. What would have been great would have been for the administrators to come in and have a discussion about this.”
Shimizu said that the college did take into account student complaints before removing Scherillo.
“They have a documentation of e-mailed complaints from him from the past couple years actually,” he said. “There was a pattern there. That wasn’t just a spontaneous decision.”
In the case of a for-credit class, students have the right to file complaints with the college’s human resources department, something that is not available for non-credit classes like Scherillo’s.
Shimizu said Scherillo’s statements did not reflect the ideals of the college.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is not a common occurrence here,” he said.
The class ends this week.
“They now have 16 people who are attending the course,” he said. “A few of those that dropped, they allowed them back in but did not charge them.”