CFA Contacts: Michelle Hatfield: 916-612-8779; Kody Leibowitz: 916-947-6258; Filiberto Nolasco Gomez: 916-502-0023: Lisa Cohen: 310-395-2544
SACRAMENTO — On May Day, May 1, the “new Jim Crow” was on display as we witnessed a targeted attack against an esteemed campus and community leader, Dr. Melina Abdullah, who was forcibly removed from a campus event by armed university police officers. This is only the most recent sign of the systemic anti-Black racism that persists in the CSU which we have called attention to on numerous occasions. Let us be clear, Abdullah was sitting peacefully in the audience awaiting a Los Angeles mayoral candidate debate, and she presented no danger to anyone.
This police aggression is not an isolated incident. This is not the first time campus police were called to intervene during a non-violent disagreement involving Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) students, faculty, and staff.
CFA demands the California State University system take concrete, transparent, genuine actions to address its ugly systemic anti-Black racism on all 23 campuses. Furthermore, CFA strongly urges Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester to immediately take action to convene a wide and representative workgroup of diverse and inclusive stakeholders to research, offer systemwide recommendations, and implement alternatives to university police. This workgroup must include CSU students, faculty, and staff who have lived campus experiences with systemic anti-Black racism.
If not now, when?
Abdullah is a CSU Los Angeles professor, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA, a Los Angeles community leader, activist, and a major, highly honored and recognized state, national, and international Black Studies scholar and human rights leader.
What would have happened had the police not been called on Abdullah? What if the event had been open to the campus community in the spirit of encouraging students’ civic engagement? Instead, the event was privatized, Black professors and their students who sought tickets were not granted access, and the police were used as a tool of violence against a member of the campus faculty.
“Police are weaponized on our campuses and what happened at Cal State LA is another yet another example of how faculty of color, and Black faculty in particular, are targeted, thus terrorizing BIPOC campus community members who are often system-impacted. The harm this causes ripples through the work we do, and suggests that when we seek civic engagement, we risk social control, police brutality, and detainment,” said Dr. Sharon Elise, CFA Associate Vice President of Racial & Social Justice, South, and CSU San Marcos professor.
CFA redoubles our calls and commitment to alternatives to police on campus. The only way to have a campus safe for faculty, staff, and students of color is for militarized police to be removed.
During Sunday’s abuse, no one in the auditorium tried to help Abdullah, no one running for Los Angeles mayor had the courage to lend support while she called for help. When police pulled Abdullah outside, it was students who intervened and made sure Abdullah was not additionally harmed. Students for Quality Education interns have been asking for crisis intervention teams since 2018, and students, faculty, and staff have been brutalized by campus police in the past with no media presence. If campus police are willing to be this audacious in front of cameras, we can only imagine how they treat BIPOC people in private. Students want cops gone from our campuses.
“I was horrified, but not surprised. This is a painful example of police brutality directed against faculty and students of color,” said Breanna Peterson, CSU Monterey Bay senior and Students for Quality Education intern. “And shows that university police are not concerned with safety. If they were, they wouldn’t have dragged out someone sitting peacefully in a chair. We need to provide students the resources they need like access to mental health rather than investing in police who patrol lecture and debate halls.”
The CFA Los Angeles Executive Board demands that CSU Los Angeles President William Covino be held accountable for fostering a campus climate that permits campus police to physically harm and violently drag an esteemed faculty member rather than de-escalate and resolve incidents peacefully. CFA Los Angeles members are calling for a no confidence vote by the university’s Academic Senate against Covino and his removal from the presidency.
“President Covino has a documented history of refusing to meet with Black faculty, Black students, Black clergy, and Black community leaders to discuss anti-Black racism at CSU Los Angeles,” said Anthony Ratcliff, CFA Los Angeles chapter president. “Covino is ultimately responsible for the safety of all faculty, students, and staff, especially at events at Cal State Los Angeles. Funding earmarked to campus police must be redirected to community-led alternatives to policing to ensure the safety, protection, and well-being of all CSU LA students, faculty, and staff.”
CFA leaders will be speaking at a press conference today (May 4) at 2 p.m. PST at the Student Union on the CSU Los Angeles campus, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles. For details on the press conference, contact Tabatha Jones Jolivet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-994-0276.
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA FACULTY ASSOCIATION: CFA represents more than 29,000 tenure-line instructional faculty, lecturers, librarians, counselors, and coaches on the 23 campuses of the California State University system, from Humboldt State in the north, to San Diego State in the south. Learn more about CFA at www.calfac.org and visit our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.