Going to Class While Black

A professor at UT San Antonio was recorded calling the police on an African American student who had propped her feet up on the seat in front of her.

November 14, 2018

A black student at the University of Texas at San Antonio was escorted out of her biology class by police for purportedly putting her feet up, the latest incident to go viral in the phenomenon of African American men and women having law enforcement called on them for everyday activities.

The episode is being investigated as potential discrimination, according to the university.

Apurva Rawal, who said on Twitter he was a student at UT San Antonio, posted a one-minute video to the website of police taking his classmate out. Rawal wrote that the student had put her feet up on the seat in front of her. Students say that the faculty member, identified as Anita Moss, senior lecturer in the department of biology, stopped the lecture to “go on a tirade” about how the class was uncivil and not paying attention.

Moss, who did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s request for comment, apparently then called the police on the student.

The video as of Tuesday evening been retweeted more than 15,600 times. It had been viewed more than two million times.

“I chose to attend this university because of its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, and today's events genuinely make me concerned for not only my fellow students, but any future Roadrunners that may choose to attend this institution in the future,” Rawal wrote on Twitter.

The student in the video also posted to Twitter but did not identify herself by name. She wrote that she was told she would need to leave or she would be escorted out by police.

“I never disobeyed the student code of conduct,” the student wrote. “Not once,” adding that a police report over the incident had been filed.

UT San Antonio officials responded quickly to the video, writing on Twitter that they were “aware” of the situation and were investigating. Officials posted to Twitter on Tuesday to say they had met with both the professor and the student. The university said on Tuesday that the professor's classes will be taught by another faculty member for the remainder of the semester. The student has been "welcomed back" to class and offered support services. 

President Taylor Eighmy released a statement to campus acknowledging that a professor had called the police on a student. Eighmy said that “while the facts aren’t fully known,” the Office of Equal Opportunity Services was investigating the incident as possibly discriminatory.

Howard Grimes, the interim dean of the College of Sciences, also will be inquiring about the classroom’s “academic management,” Eighmy said in his statement. He also noted that a new vice president for inclusive excellence, Myron Anderson, would be arriving on campus soon.

“Beyond this particular incident, I am very much aware that the circumstance represents another example of the work we need to do as an institution around issues of inclusivity and supporting our students of color,” Eighmy said. “This concerns me greatly, and it’s incumbent upon us as an institution to face this head-on. It’s something that we need to address immediately as a university community.”

Eighmy said in a separate statement that the institution needed more faculty, staff and administrators of color on campus and has "accelerated" the search to diversify the university's employees.

Provost Kimberly Andrews also posted on Twitter that she was “concerned” and that “creating a classroom environment that is conducive to learning is our priority.”

Despite administrators’ assurances that the video would be investigated, the institution garnered widespread anger on social media.

Prominent academic Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote on Twitter to her nearly 70,000 followers that she was so angry she was “about to black out.”

Another Twitter user, who said she was a university instructor, responded to Rawal to say she doesn’t care if students sit or stand.

“I don't get too excited about petty seating, but worry more if my students are not successful,” the professor wrote. “Empowerment has no correct seating position to capture it.”


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