PHOENIX — An argument between white and Black students over who’s welcome in a new Arizona State University multicultural study space may end in discipline for the Black students after the video went viral on social media.
The Multicultural Communities of Excellence space was designated “to provide a sense of place and support for students of color,” according to a university webpage.
Last Thursday, two white, male students showed up. One had a “police matter“ sticker, and the other wore a t-shirt saying he did not vote for Joe Biden.
After several students felt uncomfortable, a student leader said she reached out to the university to send staff to help. Things escalated before the university employees arrived.
“We weren't just triggered by a sticker,“ Sarra Tekola, who video-recorded the incident, said. “The way we see it, we have ownership of that space, and we had to protect it.”
Earlier this year, the ABC15 investigators exposed how Tekola and other police protesters were wrongly arrested and falsely charged as gang members for exercising their first amendment rights.
Tekola was also a leader in campaigns to get ASU to create a multicultural study space. She said the process took years.
The video of the student conflict got millions of hits on social media, leading to angry backlash and doxxing.
“On Instagram, Facebook, emails, we start getting death threats, rape threats, lynching threats, and just bigoted comments that people will not say to your face nowadays,” said Mastaani Qureshi, who can be heard and seen on the video.
The university just sent notice to the three Black students saying they face allegations of student conduct violations including stalking and disrupting the university setting.
“ASU now has me in the hot seat and under investigation because they can't control racial resentment on their campus, let alone in the multicultural space,” said student Mimi Arayya.
ASU's Dean of Students Office would not comment on the investigation but did say in an email, “ASU’s multicultural spaces are open to all students,” and the university is “committed to the free and robust exchange of ideas and to intellectual freedom and free expression, even on difficult topics.”
“This is just super disrespectful because they're penalizing women of color for standing up for themselves,” Qureshi said.
ABC15 identified one of the male students as Chase Beckerman. He issued a statement on social media saying he's cooperating with the university's investigation.
“I am devastated that this misunderstanding is being highlighted by others in a way that perpetuates the continued racial divide in this country,” Beckerman also wrote.
The three Black students involved said that the whole debacle could have been avoided if ASU officials would have added staff or security in the study space or if ASU created guidelines to use the space. The university didn't act until after the video. Now the university is requiring key card access to use the space.