Walkout for Akom
Students and faculty demand apology from SF State administration
March 26, 2006 3:17 PM
A diverse group of about 300 students and faculty from the College of Ethnic Studies stood in solemn solidarity outside the Ethnic Studies- Psychology building in support of Africana studies professor Antwi Akom, a week after criminal charges were dropped.
The walkout took place at noon on March 22.
Akom was arrested on Oct. 25 for battering a police officer and resisting arrest.
“I feel really good that so many people came to support Dr. Akom,” said Asian American studies major Allan Cheung, 21. “And it’s not only African Americans, it’s Asian Americans, it’s Latinos, Chicanos and American Indians.”
On March 13, a university-sanctioned commission found that no racial profiling occurred and that Akom was the aggressor in the highly publicized incident last year. The commission was led by former City Attorney Louise Renne and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
“The timing of that report was meant to hurt Dr. Akom,” said Akom’s attorney Matt Gonzalez at the protest.
He added that the SF State administration wanted to influence District Attorney Kamala Harris’ decision of dropping the charges.
Lillian Taiz, vice president of the CSU California Faculty Association (CFA), said SF State President Robert Corrigan needed to acknowledge that racial profiling did occur on campus.
“He needs to let (Akom) get on with his job," she said. "As a leader, he needs to look into the problem that exploded on this campus and he needs to face up to the problem and address it systemically." She added that the administration was protecting itself from liability.
The Africana Studies department issued a statement demanding that the university apologize to Akom and enact transparent guidelines to prevent racial profiling from occurring on campus. The department also wanted complaints against the Department of Public Safety investigated.
Students and faculty were silent, and Akom nodded in acknowledgment as representatives from the different ethnic studies departments read their statements of support.
”Tell the truth, tell the truth,” Akom said.
Raza studies major Sonia Mays said that she was happy to see the massive support for the Africana studies professor.
“It’s our responsibility as students of color to be here,” she said. “This could happen to anyone of us.”
But not everyone said that they believed that Akom is innocent.
Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) advisor Bobby Farlice said that the commission did a commendable job in examining the case.
“This is just an isolated behavior, a bizarre behavior being blown into a campus-wide issue,” Farlice said, adding that the SF State community should be rational in examining the case.
Sgt. Reginald Parsons, an officer who was involved in the incident, could not have targeted Akom because of his race, Farlice said.
“He’s black, how can he racially profile another brother?” said Farlice, who knew Parsons through EOP.
In an e-mail to faculty and staff, SF State President Robert Corrigan said that Harris wanted the administration to handle the case.
“She believes that the interests of justice can be best served not in the criminal courts, but within the university community, relying upon our extensive procedures for responding to incidents involving faculty,” Corrigan said.
He also said (in the email) that university administrators would determine whether disciplinary action, based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, is warranted.
Akom could face dismissal, demotion, or suspension without pay, based on the CFA Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The commission report suggested that the university communicate its after-hours policy - which includes a requirement that people show identification to the Department of Public Safety officers and private security guards on campus - with faculty, staff and students.
The report also recommended that SF State adopt a consistent procedure to investigate racial profiling allegations.
Corrigan said that he will discuss the commission’s recommendations at the Academic Senate meeting
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