On Nov. 2, 2010, Raul Oliveros was fired after 14 years of exemplary service to the Harvey Mudd’s Hoch-Shanahan Dinning Commons. In an e-mail sent to students, faculty, and staff, HMC’s Vice President for Administration and Finance Andrew Dorantes explained that Raul had threatened a supervisor a few days before Oliveros’s termination. Even though Raul had no history of violence, HMC took the situation seriously and had him terminated, notifying the police of the situation.
When I received Dorantes’s e-mail, I found the story hard to believe. Raul had been such a big part of Mudd’s culture. Known around the 5Cs as “the Smoothie Man,” Raul could be found every morning at Hoch’s smoothie station. Students saw him reading at the Linde Activity Center when he got off work. On weekends, he was a bartender at nearly all of Mudd’s big parties. It seemed very suspicious that such a diligent worker and a calm, shy man would suddenly be such a threat to our campus. Since his dismissal, I have been in contact with Raul and, in the past month, a group of students supporting Raul have engaged in a dialogue with Andrew Dorantes. From our conversations, the story has only gotten more and more suspicious.
There are many discrepancies between what the Mudd administration’s version of the story and what Raul claims actually happened. In an interview given to student supporters in February, Vice President Dorantes revealed that Raul had threatened to bring a firearm and shoot Hoch-Shanahan’s general manager, Miguel Q. Ruvalcaba. Raul, on the other hand, said that in the alleged conversation he was actually complaining about another employee who would not stop ramming him with her cart. When the general manager seemed hesitant to respond to the incident, Raul replied that if the general manager did not take action, he would.
According to the vice president, Raul was terminated after “a through investigation.” However, Harvey Mudd’s discriminatory harassment policy states that the administration has up to 30 days to complete an investigation. In Raul’s case, the investigation was completed in less than 48 hours. Also according to this policy, Raul had the right to be notified of the investigation and charges, and read the final report filed against him. None of these rights were respected. Raul never even received a termination letter; he was fired over the phone.
Finally, in the aforementioned mass e-mail, the Harvey Mudd administration wrote that they had filed a formal report with the Claremont Police Department, a claim which is true but misleading. Given the nature of the threats, it appeared that HMC had filed a criminal report with the Claremont Police. What was actually filed, however, was not a criminal police report but a civil complaint. This fact was not properly communicated to the Harvey Mudd community or to Raul himself. As Raul understood it, the school had called the police on him, making him terrified to even walk the streets of Claremont.
I was quite shocked to discover the differences between what the administration said happened, what Raul said happened, and what should have happened if HMC’s policies had been followed. I believe that Harvey Mudd did not follow proper protocol, even considering the supposed threatening nature of the situation. Because of this mishap, Raul’s life is forever changed and his image is permanently tarnished.
If you are interested in reading more about Harvey Mudd’s discriminatory harassment policy, the document can be found at:http://www.hmc.edu/about/administrativeoffices/hr1/policies1/discriminatoryharassment.html