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SCU Finds “No Evidence” of Racial Animus or Bias in Incident Involving Black Professor

After a year long review by Santa Clara University (SCU), a panel has determined that there was no evidence of racial animus or bias by the University Campus Safety officers connected to the August 2020 incident involving a black associate professor.

In a letter to the SCU community, Acting President Lisa Kloppenberg said, “The Equity Hearing Panel found ‘no evidence that any of [the Campus Safety officers] acted with, or were motivated in their actions by, racial animus or bias toward’ the faculty member or her family. Those conclusions are consistent with the findings of the independent investigation, the Panel stated.”

The Panel went on to find that three of the officers “…had an interaction with the faculty member and her family at their home that was ‘misdirected and unnecessary,’ and ‘violated University Policy (Campus Safety Policy Manual 413.4) by their actions.’”

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Dan Roth, who represented Associate Professor Danielle Morgan throughout the process, said the statement made by the University was “inaccurate”. He says in the entire 117-page report released by the Panel, the word “animus” never appears and the word “bias” only appears twice in sentences that have nothing to do with this case.

“When we got the panel’s ruling, that was sort of a shocking thing to read. That was not what was at issue,” said Roth. “Then the administration essentially cherry picked a not terribly on point statement that the Panel made. They left out some quite serious findings regarding how the Campus Safety officers performed both their duties and conducted themselves in the hearing.”

“The Panel found that the four officers’ ‘explanations for their interactions’ at the Morgan home ‘were not credible,’” said Roth. “The Panel also described certain of the officers’ statements as ‘inaccurate and untrue,’ and ‘after-the-fact rationalizations for the woefully inadequate interaction with’ Danielle and her family. The Panel found that the officers violated university policy, and recommended remedial training.”

The investigation stems from an incident on the morning of Aug. 22, 2020. Associate Professor Danielle Morgan’s brother was on the SCU campus to visit his sister. University Campus Safety officers spotted him and then followed him to Morgan’s home just across the street from campus.

Morgan detailed what happened next in a thread on Twitter, saying that the officers forced her to show her campus ID and prove that she lived in the house. Morgan says when she asked why she needed to show her ID in her own home, the officer replied that it was not her home, the University owned it.

Just hours after the incident, SCU President, Father Kevin O’Brien, told Morgan and her family he was “deeply sorry” for what occurred. When asked this week if Morgan had received any other formal apology from the University or the officers, Morgan’s lawyer, Dan Roth, said he did not know of one.

Following the incident, SCU hired an independent auditor, Ret. Judge LaDoris Cordell, to recommend changes to the University’s Campus Safety Services. Cordell issued her report in early January 2021, outlining 22 recommendations for change.

On Aug. 19, 2021, SCU sent a letter to its community saying it has made “substantial progress” on five of the recommendations, including transitioning Campus Safety Services to fall under the Division of Student Life.

Vice Provost for Student Life Jeanne Rosenberger says job titles and position descriptions within Campus Safety Services have been revised, “including the replacement of law enforcement/military titles of positions with non-law enforcement/military titles.” The University is working on a plan to discontinue room searches by campus safety officers, and processes are being put into place to allow for immediate feedback from individuals who have interactions with the department. All Campus Safety personnel will be required to undergo periodic anti-bias and implicit bias training and they will need to go through periodic mental health training.

Roth says he is disappointed in the lack of progress since the release of Cordell’s independent audit eight months ago. He wonders why simple recommendations such as making the Policy Manual containing the rules and regulations that govern Campus Safety Services easily available to the SCU community have yet to be implemented.

SCU has created a website to access information about reforms based upon Cordell’s recommendations, however, you must have a University login to access the page.

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