Former professor crashes senate meeting, protests president-elect


Valerie van den Broek, Features Editor

Senators were asked to leave the room for recess after a former adjunct English instructor protested the welcoming of new Academic Senate President-Elect Raeanne Napoleon at Wednesday’s senate meeting.

“I’m here to speak in protest to the appointment of Raeanne Napoleon to the Academic Senate president last week,” Celeste Barber said at public comment.

Current Academic Senate President Patricia Stark immediately interrupted Barber, saying it is against the Academic Senate code of ethics to personally attack people, which Barber denied doing.

“This is not a personal attack against her as a human being, or in any way,” Barber said.

Barber said Napoleon violated her first amendment rights by cutting her off during public comment at the Jan. 24 Board of Trustees meeting when she attempted to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. She said she recalled being “terrified.”

“I was there lawfully when within 30 seconds of me speaking, [Napoleon] interrupted me, shouting me down,” Barber said. “I was screamed at…”

Napoleon sat in silence for the entirety of Barber’s comments. 

As the tension in the room continued to rise, Stark attempted to calm the situation by stopping the public comment, to which Barber opposed.

“This is my first amendment right and she violated my rights in a public meeting,” Barber said.

A heated discussion arose between Stark and Barber.

“You are out of order,” Stark said.

“I am not out of order,” Barber said while raising her voice. “This is a public comment I have the right to speak here.”

As senators silently waited in shock listening to the discussion, Stark called for a three-minute recess.

Even after all of the senators left the room, Barber continued speaking and crying as she clutched the small “pocket constitutions” she brought with her to share with the senators.

“My rights as an American were violated, I was recognized by board president Robert Miller to speak [at the Jan. 24 board meeting],” she said, weeping.

Senators waited in the hallway while Stark again asked Barber to leave.

“You have to leave now or otherwise I’ll call security,” she said.

Standing her ground, Barber told Stark to “go ahead.”

Barber eventually left the meeting and senators went back to their seats to continue the meeting.

Napoleon did not appear to be impacted by the outburst.

“She is not a current faculty so she doesn’t have a say,” Napoleon said in an outside interview with the Channels.

Napoleon received a round of applause for being the elect-president of the Academic Senate from fellow senators as the atmosphere in the room calmed down.

“It’s good work, but these are tough times,” said Dean Nevins, representative of the science division and past president to the new elected president and senators. “There are some really unpleasant decisions you’re going to have to make, so keep your eyes on the students and on the college.”

The Academic Senate will reconvene July 10.