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Gangs, drugs allegedly spotted at Pr. George's Community College

By Daniel de Vise

Three former staff members of Prince George's Community College allege in a letter to the school's president that college administrators are trying to cover up complaints of drug deals, gang activities and a "violent" work environment, particularly at the student center on the school's Largo campus.

College leaders say the allegations are untrue. Faculty leaders seem to concur that the claims of gangs and drugs and violence are exaggerated, if not entirely false.

The letter, authored by two former employees in the Student Life Services department and a third from the Center for Minority Business Development, was sent to President Charlene Dukes on Oct. 26. It was written primarily by Malcolm Lewis Barnes, a former director of education and training until his dismissal earlier this year.

It alleges myriad problems at the college, including mismanagement of grant funds and wrongful dismissals, mostly focused on the Minority Business Development unit. The authors say they are seeking an outside investigation. (If such an investigation occurs, I will follow it.)

The authors make more sweeping comments about workplace environment at the community college, alleging "sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, student intimidation, organized drug dealing, campus gang activity, and the systematic retaliation against college employees who reported that activity."

The letter contends that Taryn Reid-Bowser, an event scheduler, was wrongly dismissed after reporting "a hostile and violent work environment that included intimidation of staff and visitors, open violence and drug trafficking."

It alleges Leverne "Lee" Cotton was wrongly dismissed after reporting "having to break up fights among students and at least three outside gangs that had infiltrated the college's campus and set up drug dealing rings" at the student center.

College officials met to discuss the letter and responded with a written statement.

"We are unaware of any formal or informal complaints involving gangs setting up drug-dealing rings at Prince George's Community College," wrote Deidra Hill, a spokeswoman. "The college is continuously patrolled by campus police officers, and no such gang-related activity has ever been observed by our officers. However, like many other colleges and universities across the country, we have experienced isolated incidents of drug possession and/or sale on the campus, and these have been handled on a case-by-case basis. When this occurs, all individuals involved are arrested, barred from the campus, and suspended."

With such a wide discrepancy separating the claims of the former employees and the response from the college, I approached faculty leaders for their thoughts.

Michael Gavin, an associate professor of English who is president of the Faculty Organization, said he had never heard or seen reports of gangs and drugs in the campus center.

Mark Hubley, a biology professor also involved in faculty governance, gave essentially the same response. But he told me later that he had asked a few colleagues at lunch, and one said he was "well aware" of drug dealing on campus.

Students have complained, via the Owl campus newspaper, of rowdy student behavior in the student center, but the complaints are more of roughhousing and inappropriate sexuality, rather than gangs and drugs.

In fall 2009, a couple was caught engaging "in inappropriate sexual acts" in an office space assigned to a Christian fellowship in the student center.

Inappropriate displays of affection are apparently widespread in the building, so much so that signs have been posted reminding students of rules for tolerable behavior and of such common-sense directives as, "Spooning leads to forking."

An April item in the Owl, headlined "How Much Is Too Much?", reported on an informal survey that found a wide range of students "not happy about witnessing so much PDA on campus."

Campus enrollment has grown in double digits in the past two years. There are more people in the student center: not just active students, one Owl account stated, but a broader range of "immature high school graduates" simply looking for a place to hang out. It has lent credence to the school's unwanted identity as "13th Grade Largo University," wrote Adelaja Obajimi, editor in chief of the Owl.

Hill had this to say:

"With regards to student behavior on the campus, the vast majority of Prince George's Community College students exhibit appropriate behavior. A small percentage of students do need to be educated on proper conduct in a collegiate environment. This process includes open letters from the college president, counseling, and in extreme circumstances, disciplinary actions that range from warnings to expulsion.
However, these infrequent instances have little impact on Prince George's Community College as we strive to deliver quality education to our constituents and attract and produce outstanding students."

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By Daniel de Vise  | November 5, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Community Colleges, Crime, Public safety, Students  | Tags:  PGCC, Prince George's Community College, gangs drugs community college  
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This article is very vauge in the sense that there are not any particular complaints that have been filed, mainly an overall complaint/suspision about drug/gang problems on campus. Without actual complaints and actual alligations, it is very hard for anyone at the college to take appropriate action. School security cameras should be thouroughly investiagted by officals for anything suspicious, other than that it is kind of a waiting game for someone to come forward with more substansial information.

Posted by: Lindsey4 | November 7, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

It is scary to think, that as an educator we are now reduced to frightened victims. That is the problem with today's school system, our power is being taken away and being replaced with this Barney land philosophy of hurting the children's psyche. What is the next step? Combat gear and hazmat suits in order to teach.

Posted by: leacade | November 7, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I have been an employee at PGCC for the last 10 years and before that, a student. PGCC has the same problems other campuses experience.

Because the Washington Post has a history of reporting half-truths and having reporters editorialize the news instead of reporting it, I'm not sure if the comments made by the former disgruntled employees were written out of context or not printed completely.

I love working on this campus and as a former student, I can vouch for the superior caliber of the faculty. Most of the students are well-behaved and the few that are not, do not stay long or are not PGCC students.

The few problems I have witnessed on this campus have been handled professionally and competently by the Campus Police.

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