Philosophy professor resigned after investigation reveals possible abuse by superior


Former Compassion In Action club adviser Kim Berling introducing the concept of Effective Altruism and the C.I.A club during the Philosophy club meeting on Tuesday Nov. 15. Berling worked at Cerritos College for two years before she was forced to resign. Photo credit: Perla Lara

Jenny Gonzalez

Documents obtained by Talon Marks indicate philosophy instructor Kim Berling was possibly terminated unjustly on Tuesday, July 25 after an investigation was conducted against former chair of the philosophy department Ana Torres-Bower — regarding physical and verbal abuse against Berling.

Compassion In Action Club (CiA) President James Coppola posted the news on the Cerritos College Books 4 Sale Facebook page on Thursday, July 20. In the post, he stated Berling was “unjustly terminated by the college.”

Berling began working at Cerritos College in August 2015, but the physical and verbal aggression began this year.

In the investigation against Bower, Talon Marks has acquired documents from knowledgeable officials who say there was tampering within some documents where the investigation concluded there was sufficient evidence to prove Bower was physically and verbally assaultive toward Berling. Four days later, the document stated there was insufficient evidence and an extra sentence was added.

Berling received the tampered document on Tuesday July 25, and was told by Vice President of Human Resources Dr. Adriana Flores-Church to go back to work and that everything was fine.

Less than 24 hours later, Berling was forced to come into work at 8 a.m. to a meeting with her union representative Jay Elarcosa and Flores-Church, where she was hereby terminated. According to Berling, her union representative negotiated the option of forced resignation.

According to Cerritos College Faculty Federation President Stephanie Rosenblatt, “The CCFF did not negotiate a forced resignation. Ms. Berling was given options by College Administration in regards to her future employment and the CCFF negotiated additional time in order for Ms. Berling to make a sound and unhurried decision. The CCFF advised Ms. Berling of her right to representation in regards to the options provided by the College. Ms. Berling, opted to voluntarily resign.”

Shocked and confused, Berling chose the option to resign. She hopes to be reinstated so she can continue to work with the CiA club.

Berling said Bower abused her on three separate occasions:

•The first instance happened on a Monday in late January/early February according to Berling. Bower grabbed Berling’s upper arms and bruised her while scolding her about the CiA Club and needing her authorization for a grant. Bower would not allow her to leave the office, knowing Berling had an important appointment to get to.

“I was standing there and I [didn’t] know what to do. I have never been spoken to like that. I’m an adult woman, usually I don’t have this going on,” Berling said.
Because the club is run under ASCC governance, the philosophy department’s approval is unnecessary.

•The second event happened on a Thursday, March 23 where Bower pulled Berling into her office, grabbing Berling’s wrists and again, would not allow her to leave the office. Berling was on her way to the CiA Club meeting when she was pulled into Bower’s office. Bower put herself in front of the door and scolded Berling for having a fundraiser for the club on the same day the philosophy department was hosting a discussion about climate change for Dr. Roy Scranton from Notre Dame University. Bower demanded that Berling cancel the club fundraiser and force the club members to go to the philosophy department event.

After Berling unwillingly agreed to avoid conflict, Bower released her. Berling went to the meeting and told the club the news. The club decided to cancel the fundraiser but did not attend the seminar. Because of this change, CiA lost an opportunity to make more money for the fundraiser on the day they originally chose.
Coppola said, “Dr. Torres-Bower had no authority to cancel our club event but from what Kim told us, she made up a rule about how department clubs had to be there, that rule didn’t exist. We only found out about this after how ridiculous it sounded and confirming it with [Student Activities Coordinator] Amna Jara.”

•The third event happened a week later on Thursday, March 30 at the climate change event — where, as Berling was leaving the event at 11 a.m. to go to the CiA Club meeting, Bower yelled at her, “You are not authorized to have a meeting right now!” drawing attention to them both. Berling knew she didn’t need authorization from the philosophy department to hold the meeting so she waited until she was able, and went to the meeting anyway.

According to Berling, this is not the first allegation against Bower. There are more than 20 years of documented abuse by her.

She was hesitant to report the abuse because she was told about the history of what happens to those that report or complain.

“I have been told before, these things happened with Ana — to watch out, because if anything ever did, the adjuncts in our department get fired for no reason if they go against her, or, [they] get [their] classes taken away so that [they] don’t have any work and it forces [them] to disappear,” she said.

Outraged former students will be protesting at the next Board of Trustee’s meeting on Wednesday, August 16. They also plan to protest at the next faculty senate meeting on Tuesday, August 22.

Bower has not responded for comment.

**This story has been edited to add the statement by Stephanie Rosenblatt, and the headline has been changed. The words removed were “forced to resign”.