Student Faces Expulsion
Insults thrown almost two years ago may soon turn prophetic.
March 10, 2004 1:00 PM
“This is my country and you should go home,” said Tatiana Menaker, a Jewish student, during the Israeli peace demonstration in May 2002. “This is my school, and you should go,” replied Tarek Alnaimi, a Palestinian supporter, who was also at the same rally.
Nearly two years later, Alnaimi’s words could become a reality.
On March 15, Menaker, a 55-year-old creative writing student, could be expelled after she threatened a judicial affairs officer and was suspended for two weeks.
“This situation is so disgusting in my opinion,” Menaker said. “It’s a huge psychological trauma.”
On Feb. 23, Menaker met with Donna Cunningham, a judicial affairs officer, to discuss a verbal altercation between Menaker and another Palestinian student, Leila Qutami.
During the meeting, Menaker began to speak without letting Cunningham speak, raising her voice, yelling, pointing her finger, and standing up in her seat across from Cunningham’s desk, according to the police report.
Menaker waved a stack of fliers, entitled “End US Occupation in Palestine and Iraq,” in Cunningham’s face, a police report said. Menaker did this, she said in the interview with Xpress, because she felt that these flyers were “littering” campus with pro-socialist propaganda and the university doesn’t do anything about it. At this point, Cunningham felt threatened and activated the panic alarm, the UPD police report said.
Three University Police officers escorted her off of campus.
“She is anti-socialist," said Aleksandra Fliegler, Menaker’s friend. “I don’t think she poses any threat to anybody.”
Menaker emigrated to the United States in 1996 with $90 in her pocket and two children by her side. She built a Bay Area tour guide business and bought a three-story house in San Francisco. A former journalist from Russia, she enrolled in SF State to study English. She’s written several articles for Front Page magazine, an online publication, and many letters to Xpress, expressing her anti-socialist views. Hundreds of readers have sent her letters of support.
“She is very vocal person, said Seth Brysk, executive director of Hillel, an organization of Jewish students in San Francisco. “She has no problem expressing her opinion.”
Until the May 2002 rally, Menaker said she had never been arrested or accused of racism.
“I never insult people on the basis of color,” she said. “I was a refugee. I’m very sensitive about that. I’m not racist.”
During this rally, Menaker offended several, four of whom filed police reports with the UPD.
For Menaker, this was the root of her troubles. She was involved in nine verbal altercations and disturbing the peace incidents in the last two years, all from the same group of people, Menaker said.
During the police investigation, Menaker admitted to saying offensive words to the pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators. She was charged with two counts of disturbing the peace and using indecent language, and had to do 40 hours of community service.
Menaker told police that pro-Palestinian demonstrators were screaming “Hitler didn’t finish his job,” and “Zionists out of the country” during this rally.
Menaker retaliated. While her words differed from person to person, all reported that Menaker insulted them and that they felt threatened.
In Arabic, 'Sharmoota' means 'bitch.'
According to the police report, Menaker said she had recently learned the word and that she “hoped that she said it the right way.” Additionally, police record shows that Menaker also insulted Leila Qutami, 21, during this rally by calling her an “Arab bitch." Qutami later filed a police report.
While Qutami’s report did not result in the two charges with which Menaker was charged, Menaker carries a grudge against her and others involved.
Menaker expressed anger towards Qutami because Qutami did not show up to the 2002 disciplinary hearing.
“This is the person who falsely accuses me, then runs away,” Menaker said of Qutami. “The person didn’t have the guts to testify. I am a 55-year-old woman. What harm can I do?”
According to the police report, Qutami chose not to attend the disciplinary hearing.
On Feb. 11, 2004, Menaker saw Qutami at a voter registration table set up in Malcolm X Plaza and walked up to her.
“Are you Leila Qutami?” Menaker reportedly asked Qutami, in what the police report described as a “menacing” way.
Qutami said yes.
“Then you’re the one who framed me,” the police records report Menaker said.
While Menaker said she only called Qutami a “liar” and and a “coward,” Qutami reported to officers that she said a lot more.
Qutami said she felt singled out and did not wish to have a confrontation with Menaker, a woman she believed was capable of violence due to her vocal opinions about Arab peoples.
Qutami walked around the plaza and quad area. Menaker followed her. Menaker then re-approached Qutami and said, “I am not finished with you,” according to the police report.
Qutami told police that she felt frustrated that Menaker had singled her out for something she was not responsible for and asked Menaker what she wanted her to do about it.
“Get out of this country. You and your friends. Go lick Saddam’s ass,” Menaker replied, according to police records.
Frightened, Qutami slipped in to a crowd of people and walked away. Fearing retaliation and media coverage, Qutami declined to file a police report.
According to Christina Holmes, of the SF State public affairs office, Menaker is being disciplined for her “disruptive behavior," not her views or writings.
“She was causing the disturbance during her disciplinary hearing,” Holmes said. “She got angry. She stood up leaning over the desk. The administrator asked her to calm down and sit down but she refused.”
Menaker questioned why she should be prosecuted for telling someone to “go fuck your camel” and calling another woman a “sharmoota,” when students cuss and swear all the time. Menaker compared the behavior of the students who filed police reports to tattle-talers in kindergarten.
“I’m angry,” Menaker said. “(Cunningham, the judicial affairs officer) ruined 16 months of my life. She became an instrument of political revenge.”
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