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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Allegedly sexist presentation at SCC was meant to spark conversation, students say

Jaida Burgess poses for a photo on Wednesday, March 30, 2016, at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Jaida Burgess poses for a photo on Wednesday, March 30, 2016, at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Witnesses interviewed by Spokane Community College investigators claim allegedly sexist PowerPoint slides used in a criminal justice class were intended as jokes and teaching points.

Witnesses interviewed as part of a Title IX complaint filed by student Jaida Burgess also told investigators that Burgess was “difficult,” “argumentative” and “domineering” in class, according to a report obtained Tuesday through a public records request.

Burgess’ complaint against criminal justice instructors Mike Prim and Gary Johns alleges sexism, racism and retaliation.

The report is in the hands of SCC President Ryan Carstens, who said he hopes to make a determination by the end of the week.

Prim and Johns have been put on paid home assignment, a nondisciplinary measure intended to protect the investigation process, Carstens said.

“We take the allegation seriously,” he said. “My job is to decide what to do in light of this information.”

Prim told investigators he used PowerPoint slides, which portray supposed gender differences between men and women, to “evoke a conversation about stereotypes.” However, he said, Burgess left his class after arguing with him about the content of the PowerPoint but before he was able to lead a discussion that would contextualize the slides and make his teaching point.

Student witnesses corroborated Prim’s account.

“In 20 years of using these slides I’ve never had anyone react this way,” Prim told investigators.

The slides said, among other things, that women want men to be very rich and to give them lots of attention, while a man wants a woman to “1. Show up naked 2. Bring beer.”

The five men and two women in the class who were interviewed by investigators said they didn’t find the slides offensive. The Title IX investigation did not look at the PowerPoint as a whole, instead focusing solely on the three slides named in Burgess’ complaint.

“It was nothing more than a joke,” said one student in the class.

Another student, according to the report, said “he has seen these exact slides in other (non-criminal justice program) education courses.”

Burgess said Tuesday, “At the end of the day, I don’t give a damn if they found it offensive. The stuff on those slides was offensive.”

Two criminal justice students met with college officials on March 29, a few days after The Spokesman-Review first reported the investigation. These students told officials that Burgess was dishonest.

The complaint also alleges racism and discrimination dating back to the 2015 winter quarter. At that time, Burgess was enrolled in a minority studies class taught by Prim. She said he told the class, “Black people over-exaggerate racism and that is why it still exists.”

Prim confirmed with investigators that he did say this, and told investigators he was differentiating between bias, prejudice and discrimination.

Burgess alleged in her complaint that Johns said, “If you submit this, I will make sure you never have a career in law enforcement.”

“Wow, that is a lie and completely taken out of context,” Johns told investigators.

Kiel Frey was a student in Prim’s human relations class the year prior to Burgess and has previously said he found the content offensive and “thought many of the females in the class were offended.”

But Frey wasn’t in the same section as Burgess, and Title IX investigators did not include his statements in the report.

Prim and Johns haven’t responded to multiple requests for comment.

Burgess said investigators didn’t speak to two witnesses she provided and didn’t investigate a number of student conduct complaints Prim filed against her with the student development office. The office reviewed the complaints and declined to sanction Burgess.

“I can’t see how they are being impartial or objective about the whole thing,” Burgess said. “If I bring you witnesses, you should at least sit down with them.”

Carstens said he’s seen the PowerPoint in question and although he can’t comment on details of the investigation, “I can understand how the presentation could raise some questions and concerns.”

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