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UTSA report: student’s ousting wasn’t racially motivated

November 15, 2018

A pair of investigations completed Wednesday concluded that a professor’s ousting of a black student from a lecture hall Monday at the University of Texas at San Antonio came after days of tension between the two over classroom behavior, but was not racially motivated, officials said.

Biology lecturer Anita Moss had written an email to the student after an incident Friday, telling her not to return to class until they had discussed it — but sent the email to the wrong address, causing Moss to interpret the student’s presence in class Monday as a deliberate affront, according to one report, by the UTSA Provost’s Office.

Her decision to call police and have the student escorted out of class has resulted in her suspension from teaching for the rest of the semester.

In an emailed update Wednesday night, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said a separate Equal Opportunity Services investigation found that racial bias was not a factor. The student who was made to leave class did not believe Moss’ actions were based on racial bias and decided not to file a formal complaint of discrimination, Eighmy said.

Eighmy had ordered both investigations in response to an online furor over cellphone video posted by a classmate, Apurva Rawal, that showed the student leaving a lecture hall Monday after police officers approached her. In two days, it generated more than more than 60,000 retweets and thousands of comments.

Eighmy stressed the need to work toward a more inclusive campus in his initial response and repeated his concerns more forcefully in an email late Tuesday to the campus community, saying UTSA needed to take a hard look at the school’s climate for African American students.

“The reactions expressed through social media, emails, phone calls and group meetings I’ve attended confirm that feelings of marginalization on the part of some students — especially our African American students — are real and profound” he wrote, adding that the university had an obligation to “take a hard look at our campus climate — especially for students of color — and enact systemic change to make UTSA a more inclusive campus.”

Neither the student nor Moss responded to Express-News’ requests for comment. Moss must complete classroom management training with the university’s Teaching and Learning Services before she can return to teaching in the spring semester “with ongoing monitoring,” Eighmy said. She has been suspended from teaching for the rest of the current semester.

African Americans accounted for 8.7 percent of the university’s fall 2017 enrollment, according to its website. Eighmy said he was committed to examining how students from underrepresented groups are treated on campus, putting a greater emphasis on safe reporting, and diversifying the faculty, staff and administration.

On Nov. 9, days before Monday’s incident, UTSA announced it had filled a new position, vice president of inclusive excellence. It has hired Myron Anderson, a diversity advisor to the president of Metropolitan State University of Denver, to start Jan. 1

The UTSA La Raza Faculty and Administrator Association, called it “long overdue and necessary” but said changing campus culture is not just one person’s job. In a statement, the organization said Monday’s incident was “ugly” and should not be seen as isolated.

Krista Torralva covers several school districts and public universities in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | Krista.Torralva@express-news.net | Twitter: @KMTorralva

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