Professor’s Racial Harassment of White Student was ‘Personal’

Jan 11, 2018 |  Dion J. Pierre

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Professor’s Racial Harassment of White Student was ‘Personal’

Jan 11, 2018 | 

Dion J. Pierre

A Native American professor at San Diego State University racially harassed a white student, the California State Department of Justice concluded last week.

Oscar Monge, a lecturer who made his name in the fight to scrub San Diego State’s Aztec mascot from school corridors and celebrations, maligned and threatened graduate student Crystal Sudano, after she challenged his claim that the mascot was racist.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Monge and Sudano’s history dates back to 2011 when they crossed paths at an Occupy San Diego protest. The pair corresponded sporadically thereafter until they bumped heads in an SDSU lobby in the fall of 2016. Monge reportedly derided Sudano for wearing a shirt that bore SDSU’s contested logo. Shortly after their exchange, Sudano registered for Monge’s spring lecture, "American Indians through Film, Television, and Popular Culture.”

The pair spoke frequently via Facebook in the months leading up to the spring term. Their correspondence revealed Monge’s contempt for white and non-white students who did not share his social justice longings.

In one message, Monge suggested that a contingent of “Cherokee Princesses,” a derogative term for whites who claim Native American heritage, was behind the anti-mascot movement’s impasse (at the time SDSU’s Student Senate rejected a resolution to replace the mascot). And that he was unsure about a black SDSU Student Senator because Monge heard that he “was an Uncle Tom.”

She defended the black student against Monge’s bluster and he responded apoplectically: “This is precisely the sort of behavior I don’t want you to bring if you meet Native Students, to get all ‘white savior’ on them and tell them that they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Sudano defended her intentions. She told Monge that she was committed to the anti-mascot cause but that his hard-line alienated her.

This fallout led Sudano to fact check Monge’s thesis “Fail Montezuma” which triggered the mascot debate at SDSU in 2015. Her search tolled the knell for Monge’s retaliation. When word got back to Monge that Sudano was ferreting through his research for untruths and exaggerations, the professor singled her out for truancy and unfinished assignments and threatened to dock her grade. Monge never did follow through on his threat, though Sudano dropped his course when she suspected that Monge gossiped about her.

SDSU officials have so far declined to discuss the investigation in detail and have yet to sanction Monge for his misbehavior. Their delay speaks volumes.

In a letter to California Justice Department deputy attorney general Christine B. Mersten, Monge defended his invective on the grounds that “whiteness is synonymous with evil.” Monge’s defiance in the face of a state investigation could be an indication that he has administrative support and that school officials are prepared to defend his remarks under the banner of “extramural utterances” as the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) did when Trinity College lightly sanctioned the Johnny Eric Williamson for sharing anti-white comments on social media.

Such a move would be unwise, not least because Monge’s words betray his erratic disposition. And if, as the investigation concluded, his remarks were “deeply personal” and “demonstrated animus” against whites, the university should sack Monge and replace him with a professor who doesn’t attempt to browbeat his students into conformity.

Though I would like to say that SDSU will share in Trinity College’s fate, which saw alumni donations and student enrollment plummet after officials refused to fire Johnny Eric Williams, SDSU isn’t likely to sanction Monge. San Diego State University is a mammoth public university beholden to taxpayers and legislators in a county that no Republican presidential candidate has won since 1996. As such, legislative action and parental outrage are unlikely.

There is room for optimism, however. Thirteen-hundred miles away, the University of Missouri shuttered several campus dorms after parents and students rejected the campus’s racialized climate and incessant hate crime hoaxes. Such a response foretold a reckoning. Identitarian strong-arming on college campuses is chipping away at the university’s legitimacy in the eyes of the jury who matters most: cash-strapped parents who count on their children being beneficiaries and not victims of higher education.

The Monge Incident won’t undo the higher education diversity regime overnight, but it is yet another story that will fester in the public consciousness until the day comes when we all decide that we have had enough.

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