A person involved in an altercation that led to a timely warning bulletin describing her as a “transgender female” said she’s suffered on several levels since the email was issued on Dec. 4.
Coming from a small and conservative town, Angelisa Pantoja, a freshman, said she has been targeted before for expressing her masculine personality and being mistaken as transgender.
“I struggled with that all through high school, but coming to SF State I was excited to get away from that and be in an environment where I could be myself and hopefully not face discrimination the way that I faced it at home,” she said.
On Dec. 4, an email by Luoluo Hong, VP of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management, that was supposed to keep students safe, described the alleged suspect of an assault with a deadly weapon as a “transgendered female.”
Instead of safeguarding students, it ended up negatively impacting their well-being, and putting the safety of the SF State community in jeopardy, according to an anonymous flier distributed on Dec. 5.
On Dec. 12, the Division of Equity and Community Inclusion led a meeting of staff and students where the alleged suspect shared her story.
“It’s hurting not only my personal life but it’s hurting me academically, it’s hurting me socially, it’s hurting me mentally,” Pantoja said. “There’s days when I don’t even leave my dorm because I don’t want to deal with all these people staring at me.”
According to Pantoja, her name and Snapchat information were also sent out to a group chat of 935 SF State students with claims that she was transgender.
Pantoja said the altercation occurred after she received threatening messages from the alleged victim, and decided meet him to address the harassment at around midnight on Dec. 4. She said she was confronted by five men who became hostile and advanced on her. She pulled out her knife in self-defense. The alleged victim received cuts to the hand when he tried to disarm her, she said.
The timely warning bulletin stated the incident was reported two hours later.
On Dec. 5, an anonymous flier circulated across campus calling for the decriminalization of trans bodies at SF State. The flier urged students to call Hong’s office every day until an apology was issued for insensitively using the term “transgender” as a physical descriptor of a suspect.
The office received at least a dozen calls with those demands, according to Anthony Robbins* of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
For nearly three hours during the Dec. 11 Associated Students Inc. board meeting, a large group of students addressed Hong directly about the warning’s dangerous language, and demanded that an email be issued to address the misuse of the term “transgender.”
Hong apologized but didn’t immediately vow to send a clarification email. She said there was a process for making promises to the student body. Students left frustrated that no immediate action would be taken.
On Sunday night, Dec. 16, Hong issued an emailed apology.
“We have learned that the victim incorrectly described one of the alleged suspects in this incident as a ‘transgender female,’” the email reads. “Based on feedback from students, faculty and staff … we recognize that the 12/04/18 message had the impact of triggering anxiety and fear for many individuals in our trans community, who confront alienation, marginalization and threats to their safety on a regular basis.
“For this, we want to express our deep regret.”
The Clery Act, established in 1989 after a Lehigh University student was raped and killed in the dorms, warns students about potentially dangerous suspects involved in crime near or on campus.
The University Police Department is involved in the early stages of investigating, and descriptions are taken directly from the victim. According to protocol, UPD Police Chief Jason Wu gave Hong a written description based on the one given by the alleged victim.
The incident was reported at 2 a.m., and the email went out 15 hours later, at 5 p.m. Nevertheless, Hong said, due to scheduling, she was unable to personally review the document before it went out with her email signature.
“What typically happens is that UPD and Hong will have a conversation, which includes a review of the documents to make sure we have the information that is necessary so that we can keep the campus informed,” said Manuel Alejandro Pérez, interim assistant vice president for the Division of Equity and Community Engagement during the Dec. 12 meeting.
Bucket Manyweather, student engagement specialist at the Black Unity Center, said that repeating the words of the alleged victim verbatim can be very problematic.
“I think what’s even scarier is that there is an incident of transphobia on campus,” she said. “The university can stand wherever it wants. I think the point is that there are some dangerous people on campus right now and [the university] standing with trans students isn’t directly keeping them safe.”
*Correction: In the print version of this article, this quote was attributed to Tony Little instead of Anthony “Tony” Robbins. Both were working the front desk phone on Dec. 7 in the Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Office. The Xpress regrets this error.