VIRTUAL TOWN HALL PREVIEW: Students prepare to voice their opinions about viral professor video


Chris Wong

Provost Steve Perez and Sac State President Robert Nelsen will serve as panelists along with vice president for inclusive excellence Diana Tate Vermeire at a virtual town hall on May 19, 2020, in response to a viral video where a Sac State professor’s wife used a racial slur. Screenshot via Facebook. Photos by Rahul Lal and Joseph Daniels. Graphic made in Canva.

Madeleine Beck and Chris Wong

Sacramento State will hold a virtual town hall Tuesday in response to a viral video of a Sac State professor and his wife in an argument with their neighbors, in which the wife used a racial slur. 

“The town hall is being held to acknowledge the concern expressed by our campus community as well as to give us an opportunity to discuss how Sac State can continue to address racial bias and make diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority,” said Diana Tate Vermeire, Sac State’s vice president of inclusive excellence, in an email.

RELATED: Sac State professor seen in viral video where wife uses racial slur against neighbors

Vermeire, Sac State President Robert Nelsen and Provost Steve Perez will serve as panelists at the town hall according to Vermeire.

Students have expressed their opinions about the video on social media, and many have strong opinions as to whether Tim Ford, the economics professor in the video, should be fired.

Greo, a Sac State student and rapper who goes by “Greo the Storyteller,” started a petition for Tim Ford’s removal. The petition, titled hashtag #FireTimFord, had over 1,400 signatures as of Sunday. 

“If the fall semester comes and this man is still employed, Sac State is going to wish that they were smart and had just fired him right now,” Greo said. 

Greo said she is working with Sac State’s Black Student Union and the Cooper-Woodson College Enhancement Program (CWC), an academic support and retention program that promotes Pan African culture, to plan future courses of action to see that Ford is fired.

Greo said the petition was a direct response to Nelsen’s statement, which she called “terrible” and “disrespectful” saying that Nelsen used buzzwords like “bigotry” and “racial bias” just to say that Sac State will not comment publicly on the video.

“This was just a whole lot of work to basically say nothing,” Greo said.

Adwoa Akyianu, the president of Sac State’s Black Student Union, said she thinks Ford should be fired, stating that professors have power over students and their grading discretion could be based on racism.

Akyianu also said the university needs to figure out how they’re going to handle this before they continue to recruit Black students to Sac State.

“Right now, I don’t feel comfortable telling my friends and family that this is a safe space for Black students to be protected on campus,” Akyianu said.

The 2018 Sac State Campus Climate Survey, which among other questions asked Sac State administrators, faculty and staff how welcome they felt at Sac State, found that African American administrators, faculty and staff reported feeling the least welcome on campus when compared to other ethnicities. 

Akyianu said she feels the initial decision by the university to not address the video publicly was ignoring how students felt about the incident. 

“How could you say that to these students that are telling you that we’re hurt?” Akyianu said. “To say that you’re no longer going to address it is, to me, complete dismissal. And to me, to us I believe, dismissal comes across as devaluation.” 

Akyianu said that if Ford is not fired, the conversation will continue. 

“We will definitely continue to make it clear that this kind of behavior is intolerable if the university is not willing to fire Tim Ford,” Akyianu said. 

One of Ford’s students this past semester, economics major Matthew Clare, said Ford’s class was one of his favorite classes. Clare said Ford’s wife seemed to be causing the most trouble and that firing Ford would not be appropriate.

“The social cost is embarrassing enough, and I think that he is professional enough to learn from this,” Clare said via Reddit direct message.

Clare said he thinks Ford should receive a minor disciplinary action.

“I just want him to recognize how stupid and unnecessary this was and how it could easily be avoided by just being nice to your neighbors and minding your own business,” Clare said.

Andrea Moore, a Sac State ethnic studies professor, said that with Black students feeling less welcome on campus than other students according to the Campus Climate Survey, Ford needs to give more than an apology.

“I think that Tim Ford should publicly share how he plans to educate himself around issues like this and why it brings up certain tensions that it does, and I think it would be good if he could also talk about how he plans on giving back to the community that was hurt by this,” Moore said. 

Questions for the town hall can be submitted in advance by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “May 2020 Town Hall.” An ASL interpretation and closed captioning will also be available. You can register for the town hall, which begins at 3:30 p.m., here.

CORRECTION: May 20, 2020. This story was updated to correct an error, which stated that the 2018 Campus Climate survey was given to Sac State faculty and students, but it was only given to Sac State administrators, faculty and staff.