An SF State professor called University police (UPD) on a Black student after a minor classroom disruption April 11. Since then he has struggled to complete his coursework and contacting administration for recourse has been a challenge.
Broadcast and electronic communication arts (BECA) major Damion Square, 29, told Xpress about the events that led to his professor, Kathleen Skillicorn, calling UPD to remove him from class for arriving late and being on his cell phone.
A witness said Skillicorn called UPD after Square was already leaving, prompting Square to return to his seat and wait for police to arrive.
But in an audio recording obtained by Xpress, Skillicorn can be heard telling the UPD dispatcher that Square was refusing to leave the class.
“She waited to say that after he was already going to go,” said one witness, who wished to remain anonymous. “He was scared, everyone else was scared.”
Square immediately messaged his advisor at the Black Student Union (BSU) Erika Walker for help, she arrived at the classroom a few minutes
It was then Skillicorn began to make personal comments about Square. In the recording, Skillicorn sounds as though she is on the verge of tears. She can be heard telling Square he has “cold eyes” and that “he would rather be angry all the time.”
“She started to engage with them in a way that I’ve never seen before,” Walker said. “I have to say that it was one of the most surreal experiences that I have had while teaching.”
After the incident, Skillicorn dismissed the class. UPD left without writing any citation and Walker and Damion left shortly after.
Those who witnessed the altercation were concerned by the fact that Skillicorn remains on the job teaching and said they fear for the safety of her students.
“She seemed to characterize an African American male college student as angry, which is indicative of institutional racism, if not
individual bias,” Walker said. “She was willing to put his life at risk.”
A witness in the class said Square remained composed the entire time and there was no disturbance that warranted a call to UPD.
“She said she was calling the police because she wanted to make an impact with those words,” the anonymous witness said. “They were specifically chosen.”
Square contacted BECA department Chair Nancy Sami Reist and College of Liberal and Creative Arts Dean Andrew Harris on April 12 to set up a meeting to find out what he could do to complete the class as he no longer felt safe in Skillicorn’s presence.
During a meeting the following week, Square said Reist suggested he withdraw from the course and re-enroll next semester.
“For that to happen to me while in class and in front of other students is a traumatic experience,” Square said. “For me to have
to go through what I’m going through, just to get some recourse out of this is a another trauma in itself.”
In an email to Xpress, Skillicorn said sheis not at liberty to comment on the incident at this time.
“I am very saddened by the events that transpired,” she said in the email to Xpress. “I hope there can be a constructive, healthy, productive dialogue among those involved at some point in the future.”