Laney College Investigates Faculty Member's Alleged Racist Message to Student

Instructor is placed on leave after allegations of xenophobic messages relating to student's name

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A faculty member at Laney College in Oakland has been placed on leave, and the school has launched an investigation after the instructor allegedly sent racist and xenophobic messages to a Vietnamese student about the pronunciation of their name.

College President Tammeil Gilkerson published a letter to the Laney community Thursday, saying in part, the college has been "firm and outspoken about our mission to educate, support and inspire students to excel in an inclusive and diverse learning environment rooted in social justice."

The identities of the faculty member and student were not provided, nor was the substance of the messages in question.

The allegations come on the heels of the Peralta Community College District board, which governs Laney College, passing a resolution Wednesday reaffirming its commitment to diversity and inclusion for Black students.

Here's the full text of Gilkerson's letter:

Dear Laney Community.

I am writing to let you know that we are aware of the allegations of racist and xenophobic messages from a faculty member at our college with a student about the pronunciation of their name. We take these allegations seriously and immediately placed the faculty member on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Laney College has long stood as both a partner and a leader in the fight for social justice and equity in our communities. We have been firm and outspoken about our mission to educate, support and inspire students to excel in an inclusive and diverse learning environment rooted in social justice. We want our students to feel safe and know that we honor their backgrounds, their experiences and everything that makes them unique. They are everything that is beautiful about our college.

On the surface this incident is obviously disturbing and comes after decades of discussing and working to combat structural racism, xenophobia, and violence in both the Black and Asian Pacific Islander community. While our mission has been bold and unrelenting, we also recognize that our college and its community is a reflection of broader society and we must actively fight ignorance with education. We do not tolerate racism, discrimination or oppression of any kind.

This week’s Supreme Court rulings reaffirming the rights of immigrants and LGBTQ+ communities were huge victories in years-long battles for recognition and protection of these systematically marginalized communities. While we join with allies to celebrate these wins, we understand the need to still actively combat the deeply rooted anti-immigrant, anti-queer, and anti-Black racism spawned by white supremacy in this country that still continues.

Our collective work is the antidote to these systems, structures and conditions of oppression.

We will continue to both call out and call-in as we work to continually evaluate and transform our college community.

Our work continues.

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