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Cal State LA president dismayed by faculty member’s forcible removal

California State University, Los Angeles, President William Covino said that using campus police officers to remove professor Melina Abdullah was unwarranted.

“If I had been consulted, I would not have approved it,” Covino said in a statement released to EdSource Thursday.

Abdullah, a former chair of the campus’ pan-African studies department and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, was forcibly removed by campus police from a mayoral debate Sunday.

The California Faculty Association, the union representing CSU faculty members, Wednesday said the “police aggression” directed at Abdullah was not an “isolated incident” and that this was not the first time campus police have intervened during a “non-violent disagreement between Black, Indigenous, and people of color students, faculty and staff.”

In a statement, the faculty association said the CSU and interim Chancellor Jolene Koester should take immediate action to address systemic racism on the 23 campuses by forming a workgroup of students, faculty and staff to offer recommendations and alternatives to university police.

“I was horrified, but not surprised,” said Breanna Peterson, a CSU Monterey Bay senior with Students for Quality Education, a student advocacy organization. “This is a painful example of police brutality directed against faculty and students of color … and shows that university police are not concerned with safety. If they were, they wouldn’t have dragged out someone sitting peacefully in a chair. We need to provide students the resources they need like access to mental health rather than investing in police who patrol lecture and debate halls.”

Covino said he wasn’t informed of Abdullah’s removal until afterward.

“I apologize for the distress this incident has caused,” he said. “We are and have been revising our protocols and staffing to prevent incidents such as this.”