Adjunct Professor Paul A. Williams was fired by GCC administration Nov. 8 after he reportedly made ethnic slurs and threats towards an Armenian student in class.
According to Alisa Alaverdyan, a student who was in the class at the time of the incident, Williams told the student he was going to “beat him back to Armenia.”
He then turned and pointed to a student he believed to be of Turkish descent and said that he would have her ancestors cut the Armenian student’s throat.
The student involved wished not to be named and refused to comment about the incident.Alaverdyan left class immediately to report the incident to Administration.
“The whole class just gasped after he said it.” said Alaverdyan. “I went to the vice president’s [Steve White] office shaking and told them that I wanted them to see me like this to know how upset I am.”
Williams had been an instructor at GCC for only a month. He had been hired on an emergency basis after the original Jerrold Habush, who taught the history 117 class, had become suddenly ill.
In an attempt to quickly replace the instructor for the class, college officials hired Williams and neglected to go through the whole screening process which involves a peer review and a student evaluation early on into the semester.
“I interviewed him myself, and while I didn’t think he was going to be a star I thought he would be adequate,” said Roger Bowerman, chair of the social science division.
“I don’t think there’s a way to find out, there are things you cannot legally ask at an interview, there’s almost no way to find out.” The incident started on Nov. 4, after students reportedly told Williams that class ended earlier than the actual set time.
“The wall clocks had been removed so he didn’t know what time it was on Monday,” said Bowerman.
“He asked the students if it was time to go and the students started saying ‘ya, ya, it’s time to go’ and there were still about 20 minutes left.”
“Everybody started saying the time,” said Ed Salas, a student in the class, “but we really wanted to go because he wasn’t lecturing and it wasn’t making sense for us to be there so he dismissed the class.”
The following Wednesday, Williams came into class and began yelling at a student he assumed to be who originally gave him the wrong time. He then continued to make ethnic remarks about the student.
Afterwards, he turned to the class and scolded them for not participating in class enough through attendance, or assignments.
“He didn’t deny that it happened, but he couldn’t give a reason to justify it happened,” said Bowerman.
After the initial altercation with the student, Williams played a video for the class while he continued to discuss the issue with the student at his desk. The student kept trying to tell Williams he was not to blame.
After he dismissed the class, a few students stayed behind to speak with Williams.
“I stayed after class because I wanted to talk to Paul and ask him ‘what is up, why did you hang yourself’, ” said Salas.
“The way he attacked the student was completely wrong in my judgment and he let his personal life inside the classroom.”
Salas said that when he approached Williams, the teacher commented, “So how did you like my lecture today; you think I got everybody’s attention?”
According to Salas, at the end of class Williams complained about Alaverdyan leaving class.
“What he tried to do, in my presence was to tell the student that ‘I’m going to strike the 100 points that I took away from you, if you talk to Alisa in withdrawing her complaint against me’, so pretty much it was blackmail.”
Williams declined to comment.
As punishment Williams had taken off 100 points from the student’s grade for the incident.
The Armenian Student Association is considering setting up workshops for professors to teach them about cultures and how to deal with students who are disrespectful.
The incident was reported as a disturbance of the peace by the campus police and has been sent to Glendale’s District Attorney’s office for further investigation.