Update: March 11, 7:42 p.m.
The student who displayed a short knife in a sociology class on race, class and gender did so while his group was standing to give a presentation to the rest of the class, according to CSULB President Jane Close Conoley in an email to the Long Beach NAACP chapter President Naomi Rainey March 9.
The 20-year-old male holding the knife was doing so from behind another female student. When the professor saw the knife, she tapped the student on his shoulder and asked him to exit the classroom with her. Once outside, she told him he could not come back. According to the email, he did not argue and subsequently left.
“Our understanding is that only the professor and one other student observed the knife,” Conoley said in the email. “The rest of the class was unaware of the knife, but did see the effect on the professor and some became concerned.”
The professor has experienced significant anxiety as a result, according to Conoley.
After the police arrived, they interviewed students and witnesses. The student in possession of the knife claimed that he was cleaning his fingernails and “did not intend to threaten or harm anyone.”
“The male student was assigned to another class,” Conoley said. “All his other professors were told of the incident and all indicated they were willing to keep him in their classes.”
There are currently three entities investigating the incident: the Long Beach Police Department, the campus Judicial and Ethical Development Office and the NAACP.
Updated: March 11, 10:55 a.m.
The student who brandished the knife to a female classmate Feb. 25 is a CSULB community service officer, according to Chief of Police Fernando Solorzano Thursday at a student forum.
“That young man,” Solorzano said. “He works for me, he is a student, and he’s a CSO.”
Solorzano told this to the crowd of more than 150 students and faculty gathered in the University Student Union Ballroom.
The forum was facilitated by Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Taylor for students to “share [their] concerns with campus leadership.”
Students and faculty were in an uproar when Solorzano announced the 20-year-old student worked for the campus police. Originally, the University Police reported to the Daily 49er that the student is a relative of someone in the university police department.
According to University Police, it referred the call to the Long Beach Police Department due to the “possible conflict of interest.”
“The Long Beach Police Department is assisting in the investigation,” LBPD Public Information Officer James Richardson said.
Some students believe that the incident was racially motivated, saying on social media that a white male student threatened a black female student with the knife. The race of those involved has not been confirmed by the police or the university.
“I want to know when this white boy is going to be expelled from school,” student Malia Blake said. “What are the steps we need to take? This is a race issue and I don’t know why this isn’t being presented at the moment.”
Mel Gutierrez, a student in the sociology department, questioned the validity of the investigation and how they came to the conclusion that the male was not a threat.
“I want to know, how many people did you actually interview in that classroom?” Gutierrez said. “And if it wasn’t all the students, how can you be sure the male is not a threat and allow him to continue to attend classes?”
According to Solorzano, the police did a full assessment of the student to find he was not a threat.
“We were able to find and go through our data systems to do a complete assessment of this person,” Solorzano said. “We know that he was not on the loose and was not a threat to our campus community.”
Before the forum started, the victim who remained anonymous came forward to tell her story about what happened in the race, class and gender class where the incident occurred.
“I experienced fear, anxiety, sadness and anger,” she said. “This happened in my race class and my gender class where students come together to share statements, challenge each other’s ideas and be able to discuss.
“On Thursday Feb. 25 that was not the case,” she said. “I am one of the faces of the knife incident, and I will speak on my truth in a formal statement to be released soon. I owe it to myself and the students that are concerned.”
After about an hour of students voicing their frustrations, the Black Student Union and students that attended the forum walked out due to what some called an unstructured event.
“What’s important to know is we have students confessing their lives and their stories and there’s no administration,” Justin Bradley, CSULB Black Student Union president said. “Who are we speaking to? The podium is empty. You’re not listening to them.”
“Why isn’t President Conoley here?” Bradley asked. “Understand the emotion in the room and then you have a president of the university who doesn’t have the goddamn audacity to be here, are you kidding me? Why is the central person overlooking this campus not here?”
CSULB President Jane Close Conoley did not attend the forum. Conoley walked over to the forum around 5 p.m. but decided not to enter.
“When I arrived the discussion seemed quite energetic,” Conoley said in an email. “I made a decision that if I entered the room, any progress that might be ongoing in moving the conversation to problem solving would be lost. I thought that students involved would feel the need to start their planned remarks from the beginning thus robbing the forum of needed time and direction.”
Conoley said she remained in contact with members of the administration who attended the forum.
Conoley said she is aware that the student was a community service officer.
“This process is best done when all sides are allowed to speak,” Conoley said in an email Friday morning. “When all accept the need to allow investigations to be completed before discipline is levied, and when we aim our anger not at individuals but on changing systems and structures that interfere with student success.”
The administration assembled a panel of professionals to answer questions as best they could.
“They can’t answer those questions [about the incident] because they could potentially jeopardize whatever it is that LBPD is doing,” Uhlenkamp said.
Some of those in attendance demanded that the student be expelled and demanded Dean of Student Jeffrey Klaus resign immediately.
Chair of Chicano and Latino Studies Jose Moreno read an email to the crowd and said he was there in solidarity with students as they move forward in their quest for action and answers.
“It’s always amazing to be in the midst of people exercising their power,” Moreno said. “Exercising their voice.”
While the forum allowed students to voice their opinions and concerns in an allotted two-minute time frame per speaker, the event lost its structure once it was announced the student was a CSO officer.
“I think a lot of feelings had to get out,” Taylor said. “ I don’t know how much can be answered when you have feelings around anger and hostility and lack of understanding. So, I just let it roll. I didn’t want to contain it. You gotta let it get out, so get it out. Hopefully, in the next steps we are able to do more.”
Students weren’t the only group to voice concern after the incident. Dori Levy, member of the executive board of the California Faculty Association and mentor of Students for Quality Education, also spoke.
“I have to say, I don’t feel safe,” Levy said. “I don’t feel safe for my students. I mean, how do I know that this kid isn’t sitting there next to another student in one of my classes? I want him out. Every faculty member on this campus wants that kid out, and I want justice.”
This was the first of a series of forums that Taylor will be facilitating. The next event will be Wednesday March 23.
Yasmin Cortez and Ariana Sawyer contributed to this report.
Story has been corrected to indicate the student’s official title. The student is a Community Service Officer.