National News

Removal of Black Student by Police Was Not Prompted by Bias, Investigations Conclude

Posted November 14, 2018 11:01 p.m. EST

Racial bias did not play a role in a lecturer’s decision to have campus police officers at the University of Texas at San Antonio escort a black student from her classroom Monday, though the lecturer exercised poor judgment in handling the situation, two investigations concluded.

The ejection came days after the lecturer stopped class to demand that the student remove her feet from the back of a seat, a pet peeve of the instructor. A video of the student’s removal from class was shared on Twitter on Monday and has been viewed more than 4 million times.

In announcing the conclusion of the investigations, the university’s president, Taylor Eighmy, said that the results “in no way diminish” the school’s commitment to inclusivity.

“After hearing from so many students, faculty and staff regarding their feelings of marginalization, disrespect and fear, I am more convinced than ever that this is a top priority,” he wrote in a Wednesday email to faculty members, staff members and students.

The conclusion that racial bias did not play a role in the instructor’s actions was “based primarily on the opinion of the student,” Eighmy wrote.

The lecturer, who had already been relieved of her duties for the semester, will be required to undergo classroom management training before returning for the 2019 spring semester, he added.

The episode follows numerous recent instances in which videos have captured white people needlessly involving the police in encounters with people of color. In October, a white woman called the police on a black man in Georgia who was baby-sitting for two white children. In April, a white woman called the police on two black men grilling at a lake in Oakland, California.

In the reports, the University of Texas at San Antonio identified the lecturer as Moss. Jasmine Lane, a junior in the class, said that the instructor was Anita Moss and added that the class was human anatomy and physiology.

In the video, Moss, who appears to be white, is seen speaking to uniformed officers at the side of the classroom. She leads them to the student, who stands up after one of the officers approaches. The student then follows all three out without incident.

The video was shared on Twitter by a user named Apurva Rawal, who identified himself as a student in the class. Another user, with the handle “FavoritePaigeee,” said she was the one escorted from the room. Neither responded to requests for comment, but Lane confirmed that Rawal was in the class and that the student who was removed is named Paige.

According to the findings of one of the investigations, based on interviews with the student, the instructor and others in the class, Moss had a “preoccupation” with students placing their feet on seats.

“Because of her preoccupation, Dr. Moss perceives this behavior to be uncivil, while disciplinary colleagues and other faculty would likely disagree,” Howard Grimes, an interim dean of the College of Sciences, wrote in the report.

The removal of the student from class Monday followed an exchange in Friday’s class in which Moss interrupted her lecture to ask the student to remove her feet from a chair, according to the report. The student complied and Moss then confronted the class over what she described as its general lack of civility, Lane said.

On Sunday, Moss emailed the student to tell her that she would not be allowed in class until the two met privately to discuss her behavior. But, according to the report, Moss had emailed the wrong student.

So, when the student whom Moss had chastised Friday showed up to class again Monday, Moss approached her and asked her to leave immediately or she would call campus police, according to the report. The student insisted on staying, telling Moss that the class was “very important” to her. So Moss left the room and called the police.

After the student was escorted out, some of her classmates confronted Moss, arguing that involving the campus police was uncivil itself and took time away from the lecture, according to Lane and Rawal. Eventually, Moss ended the lecture early and left the room.

On Twitter, the user who identified herself as the student removed from the classroom said she was “completely overwhelmed and thankful” for the support.

Speaking before the report was issued, Lane, who is black, said she did not believe the instructor’s actions were based on racial bias.

“She’s been fair to me and a bunch of my other peers of color and our class is very diverse, so to say that was racially motivated would kind of take away from how she treated all of us,” Lane said.

Still, Lane said she was disappointed with Moss’ decision to involve the police, noting the many instances in which people of color have been killed or harmed in interactions with officials despite doing little or nothing to provoke them.

Moss did not immediately respond to requests for comment.