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Cal State LA president and mayoral candidate express dismay of Black professor’s forcible removal

Current faculty member, Dr. Melina Abdullah, was dragged out by the police from a free mayoral debate on campus for not having a free ticket

By Ashley A. Smith - EdSource & With Additions by ONME Newswire

California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA), President William Covino said that using campus police officers to remove professor, Dr. Melina Abdullah was unwarranted.

“If I had been consulted, I would not have approved it,” Covino said in a statement released to EdSource Thursday.

Dr. Melina Abdullah

Abdullah, a former chair of the campus’ pan-African studies department, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, and a current faculty member for 20 years was forcibly removed from the Cal State LA near-empty auditorium by campus police from a mayoral debate Sunday for not having a ticket to the free debate event. According to the L.A. Times, there were approximately 40-50 people present in the auditorium, along with select mayoral candidates present.

The California Faculty Association, the union representing CSU faculty members, Wednesday said the “police aggression” directed at Abdullah was not an “isolated incident” and that this was not the first time campus police have intervened during a “non-violent disagreement between Black, Indigenous, and people of color students, faculty and staff.”

However, Abdullah was approached a few minutes before the event began, simply for not having a ticket to the college event where she teaches; there were no outburst from her as some activists had been doing at prior candidate debates after the events had started.

In a statement, the faculty association said the CSU and interim Chancellor Jolene Koester should take immediate action to address systemic racism on the 23 campuses by forming a workgroup of students, faculty and staff to offer recommendations and alternatives to university police.

“I was horrified, but not surprised,” said Breanna Peterson, a CSU Monterey Bay senior with Students for Quality Education, a student advocacy organization. “This is a painful example of police brutality directed against faculty and students of color … 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.”

Covino said he wasn’t informed of Abdullah’s removal until afterward.

“I apologize for the distress this incident has caused,” he said. “We are and have been revising our protocols and staffing to prevent incidents such as this.”

Los Angeles mayoral candidate, Karen Bass, who was present during the incident, could

not see what was happening in the back of the room from the debate stage, according to her tweet.

"There was commotion in the back of the auditorium," stated Bass. I couldn't see or hear who it was. But the bottom line is this--it is shameful that a university would remove Dr. Melina Abdullah, a tenured member of their own faculty, in the way they did."

Bass, a candidate in the 2022 Los Angeles mayoral election in which the primary for this election, will take place on June 7, 2022, currently serves as the U.S. representative for California's 37th congressional district since 2011.

The district, numbered as the 33rd district for her first term, covers several areas south and west of downtown Los Angeles. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served for six years in the California State Assembly, the last two as speaker.

Incumbent Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, will be ineligible to seek a third term due to term limits, but is serving an extended second term due to a law moving election dates.


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