A viral video of a Winston-Salem State University student being arrested this week has drawn mixed reactions on social media, with some slamming a professor accused of calling the police on a student of racism and others criticizing the student for escalating the situation.
In the statement, the university acknowledges that “the weaponization of police is a prevalent problem” in the Black community but concluded that wasn’t the case in this situation.
The video, first posted on TikTok, shows a chaotic classroom where Leilla Hamud, a Black female student, is being held over a desk with her hands clasped behind her back by two police officers while she yells at them to stop. Several other students hold up their cellphones to record the Dec. 14 arrest.
The professor tries to regain control of the classroom.
“And she’s still standing this letting this happen,” another student standing next to Hamud says.
Hamud then turns her attention to the instructor and lashes out in an angry tirade.
“I hate you,” she yells. “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I swear to God, I hate you. I swear to God I hate you, bro. You’re the worst teacher ever.”
“You get me taken out of here because I don’t want to apologize.”
The professor, who another student on TikTok later identified as Cynthia Villagomez, said she tried to de-escalate the situation, but her voice was drowned out by Hamud’s.
“She sit here and say that she love Black people, but you let this happen,” Hamud said.
The video racked up more than 3.9 million views on Tik Tok and was reshared on other social media outlets. Some online users were calling on Villagomez, an associate history professor and department chairperson at the historically Black university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to step down or be fired.
Villagomez had to deactivate her LinkedIn account, and her Rate My Professor page is flooded with bad reviews.
“Such a racist professor. I hope she never teaches another class. No respect towards anyone,” one review said.
“Horrible person. Is outwardly racist and will arrest students for not apologizing or even looking at her wrong. She should not be a teacher and I hope action will be done against her for not protecting her students or creating a safe place,” another person wrote.
Hours after the video went viral, Hamud went on Instagram Live to share her version of the sequence of events that led to the dramatic arrest.
The 20-year-old student said the professor told her to redo a part of a final assignment, but she refused.
“She got back to me saying that my essay was completely wrong and I should revise it and all this sh**,” Hamud said. “And I’m like I am not going back to redo this easy that took me two weeks and you told me six hours before. So I am not doing it.”
The student said Villagomez told her that she should consider rewriting the essay because it would impact her grade. Still, Hamud admits that she told the professor that she “did not care” about the grade for the essay.
That’s when Villagomez reportedly raised her voice at the student, and she yelled back, according to Hamud. The professor also demanded an apology, according to the student, and then asked her to leave, which she refused to do also.
“She is getting loud and telling me it’s her class, so it doesn’t matter what you think,” the student recalled. “I am not going to sit here and lie to you guys. I got loud back.”
Since Hamud refused to leave, Villagomez went into the hallway and spoke to another professor, the student said.
“I guess at that point, she decided to call campus police,” she said.
Hamud said the first officer who arrived was Black and well-known around campus. He tried to get more details on the situation, but when a white campus law enforcement officer showed up, things took a turn, according to the student.
“‘You’re going to have to get out, or I’m going to take you out,'” Hamud recalled the campus police officer saying.
The second campus officer appeared to be of higher rank wearing stripes on his sleeve.
Some online users questioned why the student was adamant about rejecting the opportunity to get a better grade and not just leaving the classroom when she asked.
“Why didn’t she leave the classroom… .not saying she should’ve been arrested but she did undermine the teacher’s authority,” wrote Moore Elizabeth on Facebook. “My daughter goes to WSSU & I would want her to leave & handle the situation differently.
“She shouldn’t have been arrested, however, the student was wrong for not leaving when she was told to do so,” wrote Detria Galloway on Facebook.
Still, some are outraged that a professor would choose to call law enforcement for Hamud in a space that’s supposed to be a safe haven for Black students.
“An example of how HBCUs are not exempt from using white supremacist tactics,” wrote @biab_14 on Twitter. HBCUs are not perfect, and they are still institutions.”
“This seems like a pretty bad look for Winston-Salem State. We have to do better to de-escalate situations and not have simple misunderstandings result in arrests and marginalization of students,” said Dr. John Grizzanti, a post-doctorate fellow at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Hamud was charged with disorderly conduct, although she said that the officers told her that she would be charged with resisting arrest. Under state law, a person can be charged with disorderly conduct if they refuse to vacate any private and public educational institution “in obedience of any kind.”
A Winston-Salem State University spokesperson said another professor who was not involved in the incident called the police. The school has a process that faculty and staff must follow “when there is a reported disturbance anywhere on campus.”
“We received a report that there was a significant commotion in Carolina Hall this morning, and as such, a WSSU employee nearby called for the assistance of law enforcement after they tried to de-escalate the situation,” the school said in a statement.
Representatives for the HBCU that officers are legally obligated to “assess the situation and provide every opportunity for a positive resolution. As situations escalate, their responsibility is to ensure the safety of the students, faculty, and staff members that are present.”
“We strive for a safe, inclusive, thriving, and intellectual community where all our faculty, staff, and students feel respected and supported. To that end, we will take swift and appropriate measures against any situation that contradicts those ideals.”