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Former Student Life and Development coordinator and doctoral student Alisia Thompson was expelled from Cal State Long Beach on Wednesday after sending as many as 2,000 email complaints regarding Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Taylor to university officials, colleagues of Taylor and CSU employees.
Speaking generally, President Jane Close Conoley said that expulsions are typically rare in her experience and cause “a lot of heartache.”
The complaint itself was a 31-page attachment with her statement as well as supporting screenshots that accompanied each email, articulating her detailed account of alleged workplace abuse directed toward Thompson from Taylor’s office.
The reasons for expulsion were listed by Provost Brian Jersky, who issued an email to Thompson on Wednesday illustrating the cause for expulsion in seven points.
In addition, Taylor has filed a three-year restraining order against Thompson as well as a civil harassment suit. Copies of the order, expulsion letter and complaint were all given to the Daily 49er by Thompson. Taylor and Conoley have referred all requests for comment to Terri Carbaugh, the university spokesperson.
University officials have refused to comment on the situation, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is federal legislation in the United States that protects the privacy of students’ personally identifiable information.
In the expulsion letter dated May 3, Jersky said that Thompson “carried [her] campaign out with careful planning, thoughtful execution and clear malice.” He accused Thompson of trying to extort Jersky through her complaint’s demands during a March 13 meeting, and illustrates the fact that after their meeting, Thompson went to Taylor’s office and left a note with her secretary stating: “When my demands are met, IT STOPS!” [pullquote speaker=”Alisia Thompson, Former student” photo=”” align=”right” background=”on” border=”all” shadow=”off”]That made me so angry, because I feel like the university, as a whole, never tried to find out what happened or even if there was validity to my claims.[/pullquote]
Thompson affirmed in an interview on Sunday that she left this note for Taylor with her secretary and said she felt that even though this meeting with Jersky was intended to serve as a mediating tool, Jersky had only told her to stop sending the emails.
“That made me so angry, because I feel like the university, as a whole, never tried to find out what happened or even if there was validity to my claims. Because I felt like during that meeting, there were never any intentions to resolve anything, I was angry,” Thompson said. “I did act out anger, which I take responsibility for. It was not good for me to write the note.”
In her complaint, Thompson alleges she dealt with “insufficient resources to support low performing student organizations, exhaustion from toxic work environment and emotional and psychological suffering from compromising integrity on behalf of a university official.” She also alleges that the needs of at-risk students of color were demeaned and not taken seriously by administration during the knife incident.
According to Cal State Long Beach University Police, the number of email complaints that Thompson sent clocked in at almost 2,000 distributed emails. In the body of the email, Thompson writes that she was “abused and harassed” by Taylor while attempting to provide resources to African American students before and after “[Taylor’s] mishandling of the knife incident.” The emails were mass distributed on two separate occasions: Jan. 14-15 and March 13.
The aforementioned incident took place on Feb. 25, 2016, after a male student brandished a knife to a black female student during a race, class and gender course. A CSULB timely warning was not distributed to students after the event transpired, which left many black students distrusting of university administration and their understanding of black students.
Thompson, who began advising the National Pan-Hellenic Council (African American fraternities and sororities), Cultural Greek Council, Black Student Union and other community service organizations uses her nine-page formal complaint to articulate the campus climate after the knife incident.
“The following day, February 26, various Black Student Union students approached me about the incident and were enraged that a report about the incident had not been made to the campus community. Students felt this was another example of the university’s lack of concern for African American students,” Thompson wrote in her complaint.
Thompson then goes on to state that while African American students continued to grow angrier after the transgression, “no university official provided me any support in mediating their frustration.”
As the campus climate continued to shift, Thompson’s students were directly impacted by the aftermath of the knife incident and student leaders demanded that the perpetrator involved in the altercation be expelled. The tension between administration and students of color was addressed in a campus forum soon after the incident took place.
“Dr. Taylor organized the first forum in response to the incident but did not heed any of the suggestions from the seasoned faculty and staff on the event committee.” Thompson wrote. “Brett Waterfield and Anna Nazarian, among others who were apart of the committee, warned Dr. Taylor that her approach was not going to be effective and would upset the students.”
The forum ended dismally, according to Thompson, who said she was uncomfortable with the way administration did not allow students to develop their own forum to talk about issues that are important to them. [pullquote speaker=”Lionel Mandy, Professor Emeritus” photo=”” align=”left” background=”on” border=”all” shadow=”on”]I didn’t want to see that whatever it was that was causing friction between them…result in Dr. Taylor not being able to mentor a really talented student.[/pullquote]
Thompson said in her complaint that she remained devoted to her job and responsibilities despite the lack of resources that both she and her students struggled with, and attempted to restructure her occupational responsibilities under the guidance of a colleague so that she could better support her students. These new responsibilities expanded on Thompson’s current duties and stressed African American-based research in order to collect data pertaining to black student retention rates as well as “sisterhood expansion,” which would have worked to “provide additional support to female African American students (i.e. free tutoring, life skills training, academic coaching, career coaching, leadership opportunities, and peer mentorship),” according to her complaint.
After submitting her change of responsibilities to her superiors, Dean of Students Jeff Klaus and Student Life and Development Director Brett Waterfield, Waterfield revealed to Thompson that in order to adjust her duties, he would have to restructure the entire Student Life and Development office. This would require Taylor’s approval and, according to Thompson, partially contributed to her eventually resignation.
Klaus declined to comment and Waterfield did not respond to multiple emails from the Daily 49er requesting comment.
In her complaint, Thompson mentions a professor who tried to mediate the issues between the two women. Lionel Mandy, professor emeritus at CSULB, resides in Sri Lanka, but said that he stays connected to the campus in part because his son attends the university and because he participates in the Black Graduation every year. He met Thompson during the 2015 Black Graduation and maintained a professional relationship with her throughout her time at CSULB.
Mandy said that upon returning to campus for the Black Graduation ceremony, he went to visit Thompson and she told him that it was her last week of work and explained the events that had transpired. He advised her against resigning and tried to mediate the situation by meeting with Taylor. He said in the meeting, he discussed Taylor’s perspective on what had transpired between herself and Thompson.
“My goal was to make peace between them,” Mandy said. “And the reason for that is that Dr. Taylor was new in her job, and when you’re new in a job that involves student services, one of the things you want to do is you want to mentor people, so they can take positions like the one you have. And of the people that existed, that I knew about on campus in student services … I thought of all of them that Alisia was the brightest and had the most to offer. And I didn’t want to see that whatever it was that was causing friction between them … result in Dr. Taylor not being able to mentor a really talented student.”
He supported her character multiple times while reiterating that he was present only for the very end of the event stated in her complaint.
“Alisia is a principled human being, that I do know,” he said. “She left the job because she felt like she had not been supported, that’s what she told me. I take Alisia at her word. Dr. Taylor had a different version of it. We weren’t talking about abuse or anything like that at that point, I was just attempting to get Alisia’s job back.”
Thompson’s conditions for settlement were addressed at the end of her statement.
“I expect for a formal statement of apology to be made by Dr. Taylor to the student body about her lack of tact when making decisions following the Feb. 25 knife incident and the negative impact it had on student trust with the university. I expect to be rehired by the university for the African American Resource Coordinator position I proposed. I expect to be reimbursed for my Summer and Fall tuition costs that ordinarily would have been compensated by my staff fee-waiver. I expect to be compensated for my loss of wages between August 2015-November 2015.”
Thompson submitted the claim under Executive Order 1096, a “systemwide policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment, retaliation, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence and stalking against employees and third parties and systemwide procedure for addressing such complaints by employees and third parties” and cited retaliation in the complaint form.
Her complaint was investigated and dismissed, according to CSULB spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh, although she would not comment on the reasoning of the dismissal. Thompson alleges that the university dismissed her complaint because she is young – a form of ageism. Executive Order 1096 only protects against ageism if the individual is at least 40 and Thompson is 27.
Taylor filed a restraining order on April 11 with attachments detailing the alleged harassment by Thompson. In her description, Taylor says that Thompson had sent nearly 300 emails to her, CSU Chancellor Timothy White, Conoley, CSU Public Affairs and Chief of Staff Travis Tamasese on March 10.
In the order, Taylor wrote, “During that time I was attending a national conference, NASPA -National Association Student Personnel Administrators, in San Antonio, Texas. As I began to meet and interact with various colleagues, it became clear that many of them received the same email, on average 15-20 times that day. Out of frustration and concern for my safety, some of my colleagues replied to the email and requested to be removed from Ms. Thomson’s email list.”
In addition, Taylor mentions a video that was shared with her by Thompson via email. Taylor said that the video served to “antagonize her,” and that it had “major psychological implications. While the video does not personally name me, it was designed for me and makes statements of vengeance and resorting to illegal activity.”
The video that Thompson shared consists of her introducing and singing a song she authored herself about her struggles at the time. Thompson said that the intention of creating the song was to help her cope with the situation on campus and remind her of her Christian faith. She said the song was inspired by Taylor and the events that transpired throughout the year, and was not meant to be construed as a threat.
“I write music and one of my songs was about how I tried to cope with it,” Thompson said. “The song is basically saying that no matter what she does to me, God is with me and will always help to fight my battles.”
While Thompson said that she was told that she may be criminally charged with extortion by Taylor, she doesn’t yet know when or if she will be served with the charges.
“To be honest with you, there’s nothing that I can do,” Thompson said. “All I can really do is keep going with the rest of my life.”
Statement of Complaint:
Statement from Restraining Order:
A day after the Daily 49er sent two emails to Carmen Taylor and CSULB President Jane Close Conoley requesting interviews with them regarding Alisia Thompson, a reporter began receiving unsolicited calls and texts from individuals who wanted to be interviewed.
The reporter interviewed each individual, and all three testified against Thompson. One, in particular, was discovered by the Daily 49er to be a close relative of Taylor. He then admitted to the 49er that he was a family member, but would not truthfully disclose how he received the reporter’s phone number.
Taylor would not respond to questions regarding the distribution of this reporter’s information.
“The Department of Media Relations by no means engaged in an advocacy campaign toward the 49er on questions regarding the conflict between Dr. Taylor and Alisia,” Carbaugh said in response to the 49er’s inquiries of how the reporter’s personal information was shared, as only Taylor, Conoley and Carbaugh and their offices should have had access to the email requests.