How is arresting a Black student for yelling at their professor acceptable?

Hey Advocates, 

We are getting closer to 2023, and I hope you all take the time to rest and be surrounded by loved ones. Happy Holidays! 

As I look at my calendar for the next couple of months, I look forward to working with schools and organizations in various capacities. I'm also excited about the upcoming events hosted by the Leading Equity Center.



Last week another disturbing video went viral. The video shows a Black Winston-Salem State student being arrested by university police over an argument with her professor about an assignment. Leila Hamoud, the student, was arrested and charged with disorderly contact. According to this Insider Higher Ed article by Scott Jaschik, “Arrest of Student in Class Roils Winston-Salem State,” professor Cynthia Villagomez gave Hamoud a choice. “Either apologize to her or leave the classroom. Hamoud said she refused and was soon arrested.” 

Jaschik also reported that Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson made a statement where he acknowledged that the situation “has caused a great deal of trauma to those involved and our campus community at large.” Also, stating that the “weaponization of police is a prevalent problem in our community,” however, “that is not what happened in this incident.”

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), and their statement is a bit puzzling for me. In Chancellor Robinson’s statement, he says, “We strive for a safe, inclusive, thriving, and intellectual community where all of our faculty, staff, and students feel respected and supported.” Yet how does arresting a student over an argument convey that? 

Haley Gingles, chief marketing officer at the university, said that efforts by other faculty members to de-escalate the situation were unsuccessful and led faculty members to call the university police. However, in a society where Black folks are overpoliced and overly represented in incarceration rates and the prison system, how is arresting a Black student for yelling at their professor acceptable? 

My answer? It’s not. It seems unreasonable for a student to be arrested for not agreeing to apologize and raising their voice, especially if the professor raised their voice first. Yes, raising our voices and yelling is not respectful, but why was the situation escalated to the university police? 

Additionally, if we zoom out of this specific instance, it has been proven that Black folks, especially Black men, are seen as synonymous with violence because of implicit bias. There are countless videos of “Karens” yelling and saying worse things, sometimes even in front of police, then, “You’re the worst teacher ever,” and are not arrested, but a Black woman, in this case, is arrested for arguing? 

Why did the university police choose to arrest Hamoud? How does implicit bias play a role in their decision-making while working at an HBCU? How did the faculty members account for the impact of calling the university police, if at all? 

How is this response creating a “safe, inclusive, thriving and intellectual community where all of our faculty, staff and students feel respected and supported” if it sets a precedent that when a Black student raises their voice and argues back with their professor they run the risk of being arrested? 

So what do we do as educators? We work to check ourselves and respond better to situations where our response can define someone’s future. 

I encourage you all to sit down with yourselves and acknowledge your biases and do the work to show up as better educators and better versions of yourselves. 

Content created this week:

Show Highlights

  • Defining Nerds
  • Nerdy vs Dorky
  • Nerdy Black girls exist
  • Relationship building strategies

Session Description

Mental Health impacts our outlook on life and the world we live in, our ability to adapt to new situations, cope with difficult times, persevere when struggling with multiple setbacks, and in making conscious decisions about our overall health. In this session, Justin Thomas discusses the importance of mental health training for school staff. Subscribe to the show!


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