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USD professor under investigation for racial comments in a blog

USD Asian American students and the Student Bar Association are calling for the professor's resignation or termination and a formal apology

SAN DIEGO — A University of San Diego law professor is under investigation accused of using racially charged rhetoric in an off-campus blog.

Asian Pacific American Law Student Association  (APALSA) and the USD School of Law Student Bar Association are calling on law school and university officials to fire the professor who they say used racist language when talking about the coronavirus and China.

“It's very hurtful rhetoric that was used. It is very divisive language,” said Ashley Thompson, USD APALSA event coordinator. “It was very hard to process and swallow what he said.”

APALSA says since complaints were made to the school, the professor has updated his blog writing he wasn’t referring to an ethnic group but the Chinese government.

“I think it ultimately revealed that he does not understand the hurt that he's caused. It's not what he's explicitly saying in the post, but it's the context,” said Rosa Namgoong, APALSA Vice President of Student Affairs.

The students learned of the blog post around the time of this week’s deadly mass shooting in Georgia.

Asian hate crimes are on the rise, the national Stop Hate AAPI reports 3,800 incidents in the last year.

RELATED: San Diegans react to deadly Georgia shooting

Recently an elderly San Diego Asian woman was attacked on the trolley. During RISE San Diego’s webinar on Thursday, a Filipino American artist tearfully shared the pain of the recent attacks.

“I can't stop crying," Anjanette Maraya-Ramey Executive Dir. of Maraya Performing Arts.

Asian Americans say it is about education and uplifting the community. USD said although the blog is not hosted by the school it does not condone disparaging language and the complaints are under internal review.

APALSA says the USD Law Student Bar Association has joined their list of demands they are sending to the Law School and university leaders and the professor calling for his resignation and termination and a formal apology.

“What he did was ultimately hurtful. And we ultimately want ownership and for him to learn and to do for him to do better," said Thompson. 

The San Diego API Coalition encourages people to call out incidents and report harassment, discrimination or violence first to police and also the National STOP HATE AAPI

USD e-mailed News 8 the following statement on the professor's post: 

The University of San Diego School of Law is aware of the blog post of the faculty member. 

While the blog is not hosted by the University of San Diego, these forms of bias, wherever they occur, have an adverse impact on our community.  It is especially concerning when the disparaging language comes from a member of our community. A core value of the University of San Diego School of Law is that all members of the community must be treated with dignity and respect.  University policies specifically prohibit harassment, including the use of epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs based on race or national origin, among other categories.  

We have received formal complaints relating to the faculty member’s conduct, and in accordance with university procedures, there will be a process to review whether university or law school policies have been violated.

APALSA plans to send a letter of demands to the administration on Friday: here is a list of the formal demands APALSA is asking the administration.

APALSA’s Calls to Action

  1. Immediate Investigation + Termination of Professor Thomas Smith (Joint request w/ SBA President and VP) 
  2. Monthly updates regarding the progress of the investigation being conducted against Professor Smith 
  3. Option for students to opt out from Professor Smith’s class, which consequently would require more availability of professors to teach the same subjects 
    1. A demand that Professor Smith never be allowed to teach 1L students since they do not have the option of picking and choosing their classes. We would want this to apply INDEFINITELY, not just for a couple of years like what happened with Professor Alexander
  4. Formal apology from Professor Smith 
  5. Hiring more diverse professors
    1. Having a committee of student reps from each affinity org to be part of the hiring/interviewing process
  6. A cohesive reporting system for students to access when there is offensive conduct by faculty or staff at USD 
  7. Students to be provided with a notice of prior offensive conduct when registering for a class that involves Professor Smith (& any other Professor who has been flagged for xenophobic, transphobic, racist, bigotry) 
  8. Offer a suggestion for Dean’s Diversity Task Force to include one representative from each affinity group to be present at meetings
    1. Alternatively, have the 2 student representatives in the Task Force have the duty of communicating with affinity group organization leadership and keeping them posted on updates.


APALSA’s Next Steps

  1. Draft a letter to Professor Smith addressing why his blog post is harmful to the API student and community at-large
  2. Meet with leaders from each of the affinity organizations on campus to devise a long-term game plan w/next year’s boards so that there are continued efforts to keep the school accountable with this investigation