Cal State Long Beach – President Conoley’s message on campus safety.

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Dear Campus Community,

I am saddened to report that late last week a classroom incident created significant anxiety among those who witnessed it and additional anxiety among those who heard of it.

Two separate investigations of the incident are ongoing. One is from our own Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. Another independent investigation is being led by the Long Beach City Police Department. We asked for this independent LBPD investigation to ensure there would be no perceived conflict of interest with our campus police.

What we know is that a male student was seen holding a small knife (2.5 inches) in a sociology class on February 25. The professor perceived a threat and asked the student to leave. He did. Following that, the two previously mentioned investigations were launched.

As per our usual protocol, the alleged perpetrator underwent a threat assessment. In our best professional judgment he did not pose a serious or imminent threat to our campus. This is why a “timely warning” was not issued. 

Of course, even without concrete evidence of imminent threat, the real experience of threat and anxiety can be very strong. A brief report of the incident appeared in the Daily 49er but no additional campus communication was issued. Now, I think that was a mistake.

In many of my previous messages I’ve shared with you my thoughts about privilege, prejudice, violence against women, discrimination, the need to celebrate the excellence of our multiple forms of diversity and intersectionalities, and zero tolerance for bullying. This incident triggered emotions related to many of these issues, and our lack of campus communication caused some in our Beach Family to feel that their concerns as women of color were being minimized. That was never my intent, but I realize now that my silence was deafening.

Some of what you’ve read on social media is misinformation. There was only one incident, not two or three. Further, the investigations are ongoing and no final disciplinary decisions have been made.

Even if an event does not rise to the level of a “crime” the after effects can be traumatic to those who were witnesses. Events such as these can re-traumatize those who were not present, but who have personally experienced violence. Finally, we know that the important #BlacksOnCampus and #BlackLivesMatter campaigns make us all more watchful for evidence of bigotry on our campus. All of these forces and many more can create real pain.

I know our Beach Family is committed to fairness. Everyone, no matter the color of his or her skin, is innocent until proven guilty. I understand it’s hard to believe, but please know that a fair and impartial process is happening. Help has been offered to all involved. Anyone else on campus who feels insecure about safety is encouraged to call our Counseling Center or our Dean of Students.

I continue to learn from all of you who have taken the time to communicate with me. One concrete change I will implement is that we’ll do an additional assessment about “threat” following incidents reflecting tensions that exist on our campus and at the national level—that is, incidents involving race, gender, class, sexuality, political beliefs and the many other intersectionalities that characterize our wonderful campus community.

Go (a safe and secure) Beach!

Jane Conoley

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