The JJC Board of Trustees voted to censure Trustee Maureen Broderick on March 10 in response to social media comments made by Broderick back on Jan. 6 in reference to the attack on the Capitol. The motion, which passed 4-2, was made by Trustee Alicia Morales, who called the Facebook comments “inappropriate” and “out of line.”
Morales, along with Trustees Nancy Garcia Guillen, Jake Mahalik and Chairman Bob Wunderlich, voted to censure. Trustees Dan O’Connell, Betty Washington and Student Trustee Ian Wilkinson voted not to censure. Broderick abstained from voting. Student trustee votes are symbolic.
The censure is a formal reprimand, but will not impact her role as a member of the Board.
Both O’Connell and Washington expressed concerns with the Facebook remarks but felt censure was not the correct course of action. According to Washington, Broderick did not do anything to directly harm the college.
The controversy first began two months ago with the campus community flooding the Board with emails, phone calls and texts over Facebook posts by Broderick. One group, JJC Allyship, called them “prejudicial and racially tinged.”
A special meeting was held Jan. 11 specifically to read the public comments being submitted. Approximately 15 minutes of that meeting was spent presenting email upon email of concerned students, staff, faculty and community members.
David Lozano, president of Latinos Unidos, was not convinced with the explanation Broderick gave at that meeting for her Facebook posts.
“The damage is done,” Lozano said. “She attempted to address the comments…but I feel that she was defensive, unapologetic and seemed angered that the Joliet community had brought this issue to the Board’s attention.”
In a board meeting held on Wed. Feb. 17, additional statements and letters submitted by campus organizations expressed concerns about the posts made by Broderick in response to the Capitol attack.
“This is why students of color continue to feel unwelcome and unsafe on our own college campus,” Latinos Unidos wrote in their letter to the Board.
The other groups included JJC Allyship, Black Student Union and JJC Social Justice, all of which are dedicated to increasing visibility and amplifying the voices of students of color on campus.
Committee for African American and Latino American Concerns (CAALAC) presented its letter of concern to the Board during a Board meeting on Jan. 20.
Many of the organizations focused on two specific comments pulled from a thread Trustee Broderick was involved in. One of them read, “And turmoil to hit on 1/20/21….be prepared you Biden supporters,” she wrote, referencing Biden’s inauguration day.
Another post read, “There’s more to come out! Buses of antifa & BLM were brought in and escorted by the police hmmm.”
These posts prompted the pushback by members of the college community.
“As students of color, we are offended and disappointed that someone that sits on our Board of Trustees and makes decisions about our student body holds these false opinions about groups of people of color and try to lay blame for such an act of violence that threatens our Nation’s democracy,” Latinos Unidos wrote.
CAALAC’s letter held similar accusations, stating that Broderick’s comments “makes employees feel as if we’ve not gained any traction” in efforts to emphasize diversity on campus.
JJC Allyship Club, which strives to challenge racial inequities and injustices affecting the JJC community and also works on active ways to be allies with colleagues and students of color, also spoke out on the matter.
“Keeping quiet is how white supremacy flourishes. Being complicit in the lie by not challenging the spread of misinformation is not what a good ally does,” said Patricia Zuccarello, dean of career and technical education and organizer for the JJC Allyship club.
In an interview with the Blazer the week before the censure vote, Broderick offered an apology, specifically directed at those who have sent letters to the Board.
“Some recent comments on social media were misunderstood and have been taken out of context,” Broderick said. “Too often social media has enabled an environment that often removes the true spirit of civil discourse. My concern at that time was for my family member in law enforcement who was directly involved with the recent events.
“I apologize for it and pray that everyone can find a way to peacefully work out any differences in a proper manner. I believe in resolving our differences through the proper channels and processes, for that is what I have always and will continue to do in whatever capacity I find myself in. I have never accepted any type of violence and never will. Violence is totally despicable and intolerable to me at any time.”
“I would argue that if damage is done, it necessitates even more earnest action,” Zuccarello said. “Action is important. Apologizing is important. But apologizing without accompanying behavioral changes doesn’t do much good.”
Bob Marcink, speaking as president of the Fulltime Faculty Union at both the Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 meetings, called for the board to discipline Broderick and establish a disciplinary process for board members who misuse their public platforms in the future.
He said it is important that all JJC students feel safe and comfortable on campus, and the board had the power to make that happen.
Despite wishes from the campus community for Broderick to be removed from her seat on the Board, Wunderlich said the Board did not have the right to do that.
“The only thing we could do would be to publicly censure her, which is nothing more than a slap on the wrist,” Wunderlich said the week before the March 10 meeting.
Wunderlich assured that measures are being taken to prevent future instances like this from happening.
“We’re going through all our Board policies… how can the Board of Trustees police themselves on making sure things like this don’t happen,” Wunderlich said.
On Jan.12, following the initial Board meeting about the issue, President Judy Mitchell emailed the campus community stating that Broderick’s opinions do not reflect that of JJC.
“The comments and/or opinions expressed by Trustee Broderick are not those of JJC,” Mitchell wrote. “As your president, I want to state unequivocally that Joliet Junior College does not tolerate violence or injustice.”
This isn’t the first incident JJC has had where students have expressed their concerns regarding racism at the campus. Lozano reflected on the response of the Board last year to allegations that former Police Chief Pete Comanda had made racially insensitive comments during a police exercise.
“I feel that some members of The Board of Trustees never seemed to care about promoting diversity and inclusion and have never really taken our concerns as students seriously,” Lozano said. “This was specifically seen with the incident involving the former JJC chief of police last year.”