Professor's Racial Harassment of White Student was 'Personal'

Dion J. Pierre

 A Native American professor at San Diego State University racially harassed a white student, the California State Department of Justice concluded last week. 

Oscar Monge, a lecturer who made his name in the fight to scrub San Diego State’s Aztec mascot from school corridors and celebrations, maligned and threatened graduate student Crystal Sudano after she attempted to discredit his thesis on the racist nature of the mascot.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Monge and Sudano’s history dates back to 2011 when they crossed paths at an Occupy San Diego protest. The pair corresponded sporadically thereafter until they bumped heads in an SDSU lobby in the fall of 2016. Monge reportedly derided Sudano for wearing a shirt that bore SDSU’s contested logo. But shortly after their heated exchange, Sudano registered for Monge’s upcoming spring lecture, "American Indians through Film, Television, and Popular Culture.”

The pair spoke frequently via Facebook in the months leading up to the spring term. Their correspondence revealed Monge’s contempt for white and non-white students who did not share his social justice longings. In one exchange, he alleged that a contingent of “Cherokee Princesses,” a derogative term for whites who claim Native American heritage, had caused the anti-mascot movement’s impasse (at the time SDSU’s Student Senate rejected a resolution to replace the mascot). Monge then expressed doubt about a black SDSU Student Senator because he had heard that the student in question “was an Uncle Tom.”

When Sudano defended the black student against Monge’s bluster, he responded apoplectically. “This is precisely the sort of behavior I don’t want you to bring if you meet Native Students, to get all ‘white savior’ on them and tell them that they don’t know what they’re doing.” Sudano defended her intentions. She assured Monge that he had her support, but that his hard-line had alienated her.

This fallout led Sudano to fact check Monge’s thesis “Fail Montezuma” which triggered the mascot debate at SDSU in 2015. Her search tolled the knell for Monge’s retaliation. When word got back to Monge that Sudano had ferreted through his research for untruths and exaggerations, the professor threatened to dock her grade for truancy and unfinished assignments. Monge never did follow through on his threat, but only because Sudano dropped his course before the semester concluded.

SDSU officials have so far declined to discuss the investigation in detail and have yet to sanction Monge for his misbehavior. Their delay speaks volumes.

In a letter to California Justice Department deputy attorney general Christine B. Mersten, Monge defended his invective on the grounds that “whiteness is synonymous with evil.” His resolve in the face of a state investigation might be an indication that he has administrative support and that school officials are prepared to defend his remarks under the banner of “extramural utterances” as the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) did when Trinity College lightly sanctioned the Johnny Eric Williamson for sharing anti-white comments on social media.

Such a move would be unwise, not least because Monge’s words betray his erratic disposition. And if, as the investigation concluded, his remarks were “deeply personal” and “demonstrated animus” against whites, the university should dismiss Monge and replace him with a professor who doesn’t attempt to browbeat his students into conformity.

Critics who hope that SDSU will share in Trinity College’s fate, which saw alumni donations and student enrollment plummet after officials refused to fire Johnny Eric Williams, are likely to be disappointed. San Diego State University is a mammoth public university beholden to taxpayers and legislators in a county that no Republican presidential candidate has won since 1996. As such, the chances that legislative action and parental outrage will force the school to sanction Monge are slim. 

There is room for optimism, however. Thirteen-hundred miles away, the University of Missouri shuttered several campus dorms after parents and students rejected the campus’s racialized climate and incessant hate crime hoaxes. Such a response foretold a reckoning. Identitarian strong-arming on college campuses is chipping away at the university’s legitimacy in the eyes of the jury who matters most: cash-strapped parents who count on their children being beneficiaries and not victims of higher education.

The Monge Incident won’t undo the higher education diversity regime overnight, but it is yet another story that will fester in the public consciousness until the day comes when we all decide that we have had enough.

Image: Daniel Guerra, Public Domain 

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