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New questions arise in ASU viral video case involving students

Posted at 7:13 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 21:47:42-05

An Arizona State University investigation into a verbal confrontation between students — three women of color, and two white men — inside the Tempe campus multicultural center is finished with most of the allegations being dismissed, according to students and their attorney.

However, the university is requiring the three women to write a response outlining their plan to act more civilly in the future, said attorney Will Knight.

One of the students, Sarra Tekola, said that’s not happening.

“I am loud, Black, and proud,” Tekola said. “I will not give into your threats of assimilation ASU.”

Video of the verbal confrontation in late September went viral, prompting an ASU code of conduct investigation into the incident.

The two men — one wearing a “Did not vote for Biden” t-shirt and the other dismaying a “Police Lives Matter” sticker on his laptop — sat down in an ASU Multicultural Communities of Excellence center. The centers are designated “to provide a sense of place and support for students of color,” according to a university webpage.

According to an attorney for one of the men, the pair should be considered the victims in this case, and they were not disciplined or investigated.

Outside ASU’s Tempe campus, the Black students, Knight, and other community leaders spoke at a press conference organized by activist organizations and student groups.

They further denounced the investigation and praised their pressure campaign for leading to the dismissal of multiple disciplinary charges.

Knight said ASU unexpectedly sent them an email two hours before the scheduled press conference to inform them the charges were dropped.

But while the investigation is over, the controversy into this incident is not.

During the press conference, Bruce Franks Jr., a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, said one of the students faced further retaliation during the university’s investigation.

Franks accused ASU of colluding with Phoenix police to bring additional disciplinary charges against Tekola because of a protest arrest in October 2020.

Those criminal protest charges were dropped earlier this year after an ABC15 investigation exposed police and prosecutors exaggerated and lied in dozens of demonstration arrests throughout 2020.

“It had nothing to do with the (campus) incident,” Tekola told ABC15 in an interview. “It’s how I know it was police retaliation.”

Four days after the confrontation at the multicultural center, ASU documented another complaint against Tekola for the protest charges from a year earlier.

On a form titled “Code of Conduct Investigative Report Overview,” it lists the Phoenix Police Department as a reporting party.

ASU declined to answer specific questions about how the complaint was generated, citing federal education privacy laws.

The Phoenix Police Department denied any involvement.

“No, the Phoenix Police Department did not contact ASU to report her 2020 arrest,” a police spokesperson told ABC15 late Tuesday. “As noted in the ASU Investigative overview on the form you are referring to – ASU discovered her arrest during a separate investigation into Sarra. We cannot speak to how they label their forms, or why they listed us as a reporting party.”

It’s not clear how Phoenix knew the title of the specific form.

Knight said that information is considered confidential under federal law, and he now will be seeking more information.

The police department did not immediately respond to an ABC15 email with follow-up questions about the form.

ASU sent the following statement about the incident involving the multicultural center confrontation and their investigation.

“ASU’s multicultural spaces are open to all students and are a central component of a university-wide effort to advance our charter commitments to inclusion. As a public university, we are also committed to the free and robust exchange of ideas and to intellectual freedom and free expression, even on difficult topics. The Dean of Students Office met with all students involved. However, due to student privacy, we will not be disclosing any additional information or commenting on any potential discipline arising from the incident. When a student violates the ABOR Student Code of Conduct, they will be held accountable and appropriate remedial action will be taken. Remedial actions are meant to be educational, not punitive. They affirm university standards and encourage students to make better choices in the future. Remedial actions may include administrative actions, educational interventions, and/or discipline.”

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@abc15.com.