After a pair of investigations, officials at the University of Texas-San Antonio concluded that racial bias wasn’t a factor in a viral incident where a white professor called police on a Black student for having her feet propped up in class.
Video posted to Twitter earlier this week showed officers approach the unnamed student as she sat in the lecture hall Monday after biology professor Anita Moss called them to have the student escorted from class. The clip sparked swift outrage from the campus community.
An investigation conducted by Howard Grimes, the interim dean of the College of Sciences, revealed the incident followed days of mounting tensions between the two over classroom etiquette and that Moss had emailed the student telling her not to return to class until they discussed it, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Moss sent the e-mail to the wrong address, however, leaving the professor to interpret the student’s presence in class that day as a blatant act of defiance.
A separate investigation by the Equal Opportunity Services Office also determined racial bias was not a factor in the incident but concluded the lecturer had acted irrationally by having the student removed from class, UTSA president Taylor Eighmy said in a statement. Moss’ lack of judgment ultimately led the university to suspend her for the rest of the semester.
“This pre-occupation [with putting feet on chairs] interfered with her effective academic management in the classroom and she showed a lapse in judgment in calling the campus police for putting feet on chairs, which posed no apparent safety risk,” Grimes’ report read.
Grimes’ investigation also found that Moss had expressed repeated frustration with the way students behaved in her class, asking several of them to refrain from texting, putting their feet on the chairs and talking to one another during class. Having one’s feet on chairs was a particular pet peeve of hers, the report noted, and an act she described as “uncivil” and a “form of disrespect.”
On Friday, Moss confronted the student who was later escorted out and demanded that she put her feet on the floor. The lecturer said she voiced her frustrations to another colleague after class who suggested she call campus authorities, according to the report.
Naturally, the student who Moss had admonished days earlier was confused when she arrived to class on Monday and was told to get out. Moss handed the student a printed copy of the email she never received and repeatedly asked her to leave.
“This class is very important to me, and I do not want to miss the lecture, as we have a test coming on Wednesday,” the student told Moss, according to the report.
When the professor informed the student she was calling the police, the student replied, “Do what you need to do,” and took a seat. Officers arrived minutes later and removed the student without incident.
In his report, Grimes noted that “none of the students interviewed for this report, including (the) escorted student, felt that Dr. Moss should be terminated from her employment at UTSA.”
“The instructor has a very strong track record of positive student evaluations, and she had no prior incidents of classroom mismanagement,” Eighmy also wrote. “Moreover, the students interviewed shared their opinions that the faculty member’s actions did not warrant her dismissal.”
Moss will be allowed to return to the classroom in the spring after completing sensitivity training.
As for the student in question, she will return to the class, which will be taught by another faculty member.