University launches probe after Black assistant professor says she was harassed by campus security

University launches probe after Black assistant professor says she was harassed by campus security
© Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University (SCU) in California is conducting an investigation after a Black assistant professor at the school said she and her brother were harassed by campus security in a recent encounter.

Danielle Fuentes Morgan, an assistant professor within the school’s English department, detailed the experience in a Twitter thread on Saturday afternoon that has since gone viral. During the incident with campus security, Morgan said her brother was harassed and followed by an officer to her on-campus residence, where she was also asked to prove her identity, because they thought her brother looked “suspicious." 

University President Kevin F. O'Brien said in a statement on late Saturday that he has been in touch with Morgan and her family and has asked Belinda Guthrie, the school’s Title IX Coordinator and Director of Equal Opportunity, to investigate the incident.

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“If an outside investigator is needed, we will retain one,” he also said, while adding that the school’s campus safety officers will start receiving ongoing training on racial profiling in the weeks ahead. 

“Racial bias or profiling has no place on our campus. This is our home. Only when we can all feel at home here can we all thrive and realize the promise of our mission,” he said.

In her Twitter thread detailing the ordeal on Saturday, Morgan said the incident with campus security began shortly after her brother, who was in the area visiting, had sat outside on the campus and set up his books and computer for a work meeting. 

But Morgan said it wasn’t long after her brother, who is also Black, began the meeting that he was approached by campus security.

“Campus security came up to my brother in the midst of his meeting and told him to move along. He's been Black his whole life so he said ok. They followed him,” she wrote. “He moved toward the street which he thought was no longer on campus. They told him to leave. By this point there were four campus security cars.”

Morgan said that one officer even followed her brother to her house, which is on campus.

“I opened the door and my brother said, ‘I'm so sorry about this. They're demanding you come out and vouch for me.’ I, of course, knew exactly who ‘they’ were,” she said.

Morgan said she called for her husband, who is white, moments after opening the door after the officer “aggressively demanded” to see her campus identification to prove she lived at the residence.

“We both came out and he kept creeping toward us all. We asked that he socially distance and he finally stopped after we moved back quite a bit. He asked to see my ID, and my husband said that I wasn't obligated to show it. The guy called his supervisor,” Morgan wrote in the thread. 

During the incident, Morgan also said she pressed campus security about what their motive was behind the confrontation and an officer, she said, responded that her “brother was ‘in the bushes’ and it was ‘suspicious’ and they thought he may have been homeless.”

“My husband asked why they brought four cars. They said for safety. He asked for whose safety. They said ‘the officers's safety.’ He told them that he didn't care about their safety  and was concerned for his brother-in-law's safety,” she wrote. 

“At this point, they told us they didn't have any guns on them, so my brother wasn't in danger. I was aghast that they explained he wasn't in danger because they weren't armed, not because he wasn't a threat or because they wouldn't hurt him, but because they COULDN'T,” she continued.

Morgan said the officers’ attitudes toward her and her family “100% defused” after some of her neighbors began to stand outside during the incident. 

The Hill has reached out to Morgan for comment.

The incident comes as widespread protests against racism and police treatment of people of color continue in the nation following the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more African Americans.