Wednesday, May 18, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 11th, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 11 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 11

Allan Hancock students and faculty allege instances of age discrimination

By Taylor O'Connor

Mary Jo Gabel has taught sewing classes at Allan Hancock College for 35 years and never had issues until 2021, she said, when she saw a series of age discriminatory actions against her retired, noncredit students. 

“We were made aware back in October that the office has been referring to us—because we were seniors—as ‘the blue haired mafia,’... I filed a complaint in October and let my class know about it on the first of November,” she said. 

Some of the students in an Allan Hancock College noncredit sewing class planned to attend the college’s May 10 board meeting to protest changes to the sewing program.

Students were offended by the name, and 14 of them filed additional complaints against Dean of Academic Affairs Sofia Ramirez Gelpi—who initially used the term in an email between administration staff. At the same time, Gabel said, the college had been moving Gabel’s noncredit classes out of the designated on-campus sewing lab and sent them to a community center in Guadalupe, and later to Atkinson Community Center

“I’ve filed a grievance, had mediation, and interviewed with the lawyer the college secured. They said there’s no discrimination. But I’m sorry, there’s discrimination,” she said.

Gabel and her noncredit students planned to approach the Hancock board of trustees during its May 10 meeting—after the Sun’s deadline—to discuss their grievances and advocate to get back in a campus classroom, she said. 

“We are planning on wearing blue ribbons in our hair and showing up as a group, and a few people will speak. They need to see we’re out there and not done. It’s a sad situation with everything they’ve looked the other way on,” Gabel said. 

Allan Hancock College Director of Public Affairs Lauren Milbourne told the Sun via email that the college thoroughly investigated the claims with an independent third party and ensured that students would continue to have access to the sewing program. 

“The district conducted an investigation and followed all its policies and procedures related to processing complaints of unlawful discrimination related to the sewing program,” Milbourne said. “Upon completing a thorough investigation, all complainants were provided with a determination that the complaints were not sustained.”  

The students appealed that determination, and the board of trustees unanimously denied the appeal on April 19, she said. 

Sewing student Rose Marie Clyatt said she’s upset with the board’s decisions and that keeping them off-campus disconnects them from the community and the proper equipment.

“It’s very frustrating. As you get older, you always assume you’d have a little respect from people. We are taxpaying people and people who’ve been in the community for many years,” the Santa Maria native said. 

The Atkinson Park classroom is smaller with less equipment, electrical cord issues, and broken chairs, which make it difficult for the senior students to sew comfortably. Having classes off-campus also makes it challenging for them to get to their courses, Clyatt said.

“We’ve been here for a while, but unless you’re coming out of high school they [won’t] help you,” she said. “I don’t think they realize we’re all busy working and they’d be totally surprised to see what’s accomplished in that class.” 

Instructor Gabel said she wants to ensure these classes continue altogether and don’t get pushed out of the curriculum. 

“They are taking these noncredit classes for enrichment. People need to realize that’s what keeps people a part of the community and learning something new. The sad thing is they are being discriminated against, and it’s not endearing at all,” Gabel said.  

Weekly Poll
What type of vegetable would you grow in a free community garden?

Brussel Sprouts, they are the best.
Broccoli because it can go with any meal.
Tomatoes, although I think those are technically a fruit.
French fries!

| Poll Results

My 805 Tix - Tickets to upcoming events