BSU president presses Sac State to fire professor seen arguing with neighbors

President Nelsen apologizes for saying altercation will not be discussed publicly


Screenshot via Zoom

The virtual town hall participants and interpreters check their video cameras before the beginning of the event Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Sacramento State held a virtual town hall where administrators and community members spoke on how the campus can respond to racism.

Chris Wong, news editor

The president of Sacramento State’s Black Student Union pressed administrators to fire the professor seen in a viral video where his wife used racial slurs.

Sac State BSU president Adwoa Akyianu called for the professor’s firing on Tuesday during a virtual town hall hosted by Sac State, which aimed to address how the campus responds to personnel issues and discuss how Sac State can respond to racial bias. 

The town hall was the latest in Sac State’s response to a viral video featuring economics professor Tim Ford and his wife arguing with their neighbors. In the video, Ford’s wife uses a racial slur and Ford throws a drink at his neighbors’ home after announcing that he works at Sac State.

The university announced the town hall hours after Sac State President Robert Nelsen sent a SacSend email saying the school would not discuss the incident publicly further. He apologized for that statement at the town hall.

Story continues below tweet.

“Words matter. The words I used could easily be understood to say that the university and I in particular were going to be silent about what we should never be silent about,” Nelsen said. 

Akyianu said Nelsen’s original statement saying the incident would not be addressed publicly anymore communicates that Sac State values policy more than its students.

“I think my community is done accepting apologies,” Akyianu said. 

Akyianu said she wants an action-oriented apology, including Tim Ford’s firing, a zero-tolerance racism policy to set precedent for future incidents of racism and mandated cultural responsiveness training that students have a hand in creating.

Sac State’s California Faculty Association and social work department also made statements at the meeting.

Andrea Moore is an associate professor of ethnic studies and Sac State’s racial and social justice representative for the CFA. 

Speaking for the CFA, she said that though space is given to discuss issues of racism at Sac State, the task of acting on it is relegated to the students and faculty affected by the issues in what the CFA calls “cultural taxation.”

Akyianu called the issue “racial taxation.” For her, time spent rectifying racial issues takes time away from her studies, an issue she said white students do not face.

“For every moment that I have to address my community, for every meeting that I have to organize and be in, is every moment that my white counterparts were studying for finals, every moment that they could dedicate to their academic success that we don’t get the privilege to,” Akyianu said.

Teiahsha Bankhead, associate professor of social work, read a statement from the division of social work condemning Ford.

“The culture and climate of Sac State is now being seen as a hostile place for students of color who are not able to receive a fair chance and equitable education — directly due to professors who abject biases and prejudices and who so willfully engage in racist and oppressive behaviors,” Bankhead said.

Bankhead also said that alcohol or drug use is not an acceptable excuse for Ford’s wife’s actions. Ford had previously apologized for his wife’s use of a racial slur and said she checked in to a hospital for alcohol and drug abuse.

RELATED: Sac State professor apologizes for video featuring racial slurs, petition circulates for his removal

“Alcoholism and drug addiction do not excuse harmful acts of verbal abuse, intimidation and violence against people of color,” Bankhead said.

Diana Tate Vermeire, the university diversity officer and vice president of inclusive excellence, acknowledged some students’ concerns that the video represents a larger issue of racism on campus.

“I know that some individuals join our virtual town hall today and see the video as an isolated incident,” Vermeire said. “But many others see it as one in a long line of incidents where we realize that we have not reached our goals of inclusion, that we have not sent the message that we all belong.”

Steve Perez, provost and vice president of academic affairs, outlined Sac State’s process for reviewing complaints against faculty.

First, the college leadership, Office of Faculty Advancement and relevant administrator for labor issues has a role in determining if any laws or policies were violated in the misconduct involved in the complaint, Perez said. 

The Office of Equal Opportunity also has a role if the complaint relates to discrimination, harassment, retaliation or sexual misconduct, Perez added.

“Once OEO is satisfied that they fully understand the complaint, they determine whether the allegations taken as true are a violation of law or policy,” Perez said. 

If the allegations constitute a potential violation, the OEO investigates, Perez said.

The Office of Faculty Advancement and administrator for labor issues use similar processes to the OEO’s, Perez said.

He said following that, a decision is made on the appropriate corrective or disciplinary action, and the employee is notified what the action is and the effective date.

Perez said whether or not the allegations have been sustained are confidential and that Sac State is limited in what information it can release to complainants.