Two minority students at Arizona State University (ASU) posted a video on Instagram on December 22 announcing that ASU has disciplined them for forcing two white students on September 23 to leave the university’s multicultural center, an event captured on video that went viral. ASU first charged undergraduate student Mastaani Qureshi and graduate student Sarra Tekola with two Code of Conduct violations in November, stalking and interfering with university activities. A third student, Sarra Tekola, was also charged with the violations, but ASU later dropped them.
According to Qureshi and Tekola in their video response announcing ASU’s discipline, the university first gave them a warning, then required them “to write a 3-page paper on how next time we talk to white people about race in society, we will be civil.” Qureshi said she will not comply with writing the statement and does not regret her actions.
State Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Mesa), a graduate of ASU who called for defunding ASU along with 19 other state legislators if the university did not discipline the students, denounced the slight disciplinary action. He told The Arizona Sun Times, “ASU’s decision to give nothing more than a slap on the wrist to the individuals who racially harassed and threatened two students earlier this year is yet another example of the systemic double standard and institutionalized racism that has been allowed to foster under the leadership of ASU president Michael Crow.”
In their video discussing the punishment, the two students alleged, “Hateful and racist symbology invaded our multicultural center on ASU’s Tempe campus and make the center unsafe for BIPOC students who were trying to study.”
They explained how they found offensive a sticker one of the two white male students had on his laptop that said “Police Lives Matter,” a Chick-fil-A cup, and a shirt one of the students was wearing that said “Did not vote for Biden.” They said the laptop with the sticker was deliberately aimed toward some students at Black Studies tables, describing what they saw as “non-verbal aggressive gestures.”
The pair said they called for help from ASU, “but no one came for over 30 minutes, so we were forced to confront these men by ourselves.” They said they are “suffering psychological and emotional violence.”
They went on, “ASU’s investigation found us guilty of interfering with university activities” on November 16. “Dear white people, AKA ASU… We are being “persecuted for defending our multicultural center from racism and sexism.” They said they are in the midst of “white supremacy and neo-Nazism on this campus.” The pair declared, “ASU is a violent place.”
They claimed that ASU College Republicans United (CRU) distributed a flyer on campus that said Jews control the world. However, CRU issued a statement a couple of months ago declaring that they had not put the flyers up; someone had done that pretending to be them.
The two women included a clip of one of them giving a speech on campus saying ASU is “used as a recruiting ground for Nazis.” She said, “our center has been infiltrated by Trump supporters.” The other student said at the event, “They’re calling me a savage.”
Their video also included clips of statements from two ASU professors. In one of them, the director of the School of Social Transformation Camilla Fojas declared that the two white students had engaged in “symbolic violence.”
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Previously, another faculty member, Leah Sarat, sent out a mass email on November 2 with 11 other individuals signing their names onto it, condemning “colorblind language” and demanding that ASU revoke the Code of Conduct violations.
Hoffman denounced her actions to The Sun Times.
“If true that associate professor of history and philosophy Leah Sarat has led a faculty initiative to defend this racist and bigoted behavior then serious disciplinary action needs to be taken, up to and including termination, and it serves as only further evidence of the widespread institutionalization of racism at ASU,” he said.
ASU hasn’t said much about the incident. On September 24, the university issued a statement that said it was investigating the situation, and added, “Differences of opinion are part of the university experience. The university expects respectful dialogue between students in all engagements.”
On November 16, after speaking with those involved in the incident, ASU said it would only comment, “ASU’s multicultural spaces are open to all students and are a central component of a university-wide effort to advance our charter commitments to inclusion. As a public university, we are also committed to the free and robust exchange of ideas and to intellectual freedom and free expression, even on difficult topics.”
Hoffman told The Sun Times in response to where things stand now, “I’m saddened and disgusted that my alma mater has fallen so far from reputability and is now counted among the thousands of woke higher ed institutions that fail to prepare young adults for a productive and prosperous future. I certainly will not support one more cent of state funding for ASU or any public university that embraces this kind of racist, anti-American behavior.”
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Arizona State University Campus” by Kevin Dooley. CC BY 2.0.