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Protesters Call for Public Scrutiny of Pierce Plans to Develop Farmland

February 04, 1988|BOB POOL | Times Staff Writer

Charging that secret decisions are being made about development of Pierce College farmland, students and homeowners demanded Wednesday that the Los Angeles Community College District force campus officials to open themselves to public scrutiny.

Protesters urged district trustees to make administrators of the Woodland Hills school accountable as various plans for use of 200 acres of pasture and cropland are evaluated in coming months.

They complained that attempts so far to learn about development proposals have led to intimidation of both students and homeowners--and, in one case, resulted in illegal mail tampering.

Trustees ordered an investigation of some of the charges and called for a closed-door session to discuss specific complaints about college President David Wolf.

The accusations are "very disturbing. . . . I'm very upset," said Trustee Wallace Albertson.

Confidence Told

But board members stressed that they have confidence in Wolf.

Wolf "has gone out of his way to show he's firmly committed to keeping every shred of Pierce intact," said board member Wallace Knox. "I consider him one of the best administrators we have in the district."

But a curriculum dispute within the school's Agriculture Department, development of a multimillion-dollar equestrian center, and use of the campus for such things as a toxic chemical collection point and a site for the San Fernando Valley Fair, a swap meet and a Halloween horror show were criticized by the protesters.

"It's Farmgate," said Wayne Taylor, a former student who is president of the college's Agriculture Alumni Assn.

Taylor complained that Wolf has told him that he "doesn't expect the farm to be there in 18 months. . . . He said he could live with a petting zoo."

Homeowner Andi McPherson, former head of a campus support group called Friends of the Pierce College Farm, said the community has the right to help plan any future development of the agriculture land.

'Farm in Jeopardy'

"We know there will be change. We want the least offensive type of change," McPherson told trustees. "The farm is in jeopardy. People have a right to know."

Resident LeAnna McGuire said such things as a weekly swap meet at the campus are "guaranteed to turn Pierce into a toilet."

When she has sought information about future developments, she said campus administrators have told her that "none of these issues, past or present, are my business or the business of the student body, faculty and community."

"I'm sick of being told that."

The most serious complaints were lodged by Pierce student Laurie-Suzanne and Chatsworth horse enthusiast Mitchell Luczynski.

Laurie-Suzanne, an agriculture student, charged that she was "all but kicked out of school" when she attempted last month to organize two student government-sponsored forums on a planned equestrian center at the farm.

She said that an agriculture teacher called her at home and threatened legal action against her, and that school administrators stripped her of her job as a student government senator. She charged that administrators also refused to allow announcements of the forums to be placed in a faculty bulletin or the school's student newspaper.

When she mailed 320 first-class letters to faculty members, the letters were seized when they arrived at the college and held for five days, Laurie-Suzanne told trustees. The mail was finally distributed just hours before the first forum.

She urged "a full-scale investigation in that we're dealing with mail tampering and students' civil rights."

Luczynski complained that an agriculture teacher telephoned him and asked him to tell members of his Chatsworth Equestrian Trails club not to attend the horse center forums.

Charges 'Disturbing'

Wolf described Laurie-Suzanne's charges as "most disturbing." He was asked by board members to investigate them.

Wolf said he uses campus planning and advisory committees and freely shares information when he is asked about a subject.

But he said internal turmoil in the Agriculture Department makes low-key planning efforts necessary.

Agriculture teachers, who themselves are split over a proposed curriculum modernization, are the "most difficult faculty I've ever worked with," Wolf told board members.

Said Trustee Lindsay Conner: "It's not possible to include everyone who wants to be involved in the planning process. . . . Whatever we do, there's going to be a group of people unhappy."

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