Santa Clara University didn’t find evidence of bias when campus security stopped black professor
Santa Clara University security officers who allegedly harassed a Black professor and her brother while he was waiting for her on campus in 2020 had a “misdirected and unnecessary” interaction with the professor’s family at their home that “violated university policy” — but there is “no evidence” it was racially motivated, the university president announced Tuesday.
Danielle Morgan, a Black assistant professor at the university, was eagerly waiting to reunite with her brother in August 2020 after the pandemic kept them apart for months, but she said campus security harassed her brother while he was waiting for her on campus and then asked Morgan to show ID in her own home to prove she lived there.
The incident — which Morgan recounted in a viral Twitter thread — sent shockwaves across the campus community at a time when police were coming under intense scrutiny after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in May 2020. In the thread, Morgan exposes the tensions still surrounding the presence of police on college campuses and highlights issues of race at Santa Clara University, where only 2% of students are Black and Morgan is one of seven Black faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The officers involved in the investigation were placed on leave pending the result of an internal investigation, but as of Tuesday they’ll soon be welcomed back on campus.
In a statement to the university community, acting president Lisa Kloppenberg said the resolution process has concluded after nearly a year of investigation from an equity hearing panel from the university and an outside independent investigator. The panel, Kloppenberg said, found “no evidence that any of the campus safety officers acted with, or were motivated in their actions by, racial animus or bias toward the faculty member or her family,” and those conclusions are consistent with the independent investigation’s findings.
The panel found that the interaction three officers had with the faculty member and her family at her campus home was “misdirected and unnecessary,” and “violated university policy by their actions.” Two officers responded to the scene, and their supervisor was also investigated. A fourth officer was doing surveillance.
“The resolution process has concluded, and I ask that we all respect the results of the process, as we welcome back to campus the CSS officers who have been on administrative leave and our faculty member and her family, all of whom are valued members of our Bronco community,” Kloppenberg said. “I ask that we also respect the privacy of all parties involved, as this has been a particularly difficult time for them.”
Morgan did not return a request for comment, but a statement from her lawyer Dan Roth of Berkeley says the university’s email to the community “whitewashed the facts uncovered in the investigation.”
Roth pointed to the panel’s investigation, which found the four officers’ “explanations for their interactions” at the Morgan home “were not credible.” The panel described certain officers’ statements as “inaccurate and untrue,” and “after-the-fact rationalizations for the woefully inadequate interaction with” Morgan and her family, Roth said.
“The panel found that the officers violated university policy, and recommended remedial training,” Roth said. He said the university should implement new public safety policies, along with the recommendations made in an audit of Campus Safety Services prepared by former Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell in December 2020.
In the school’s statement, acting president Kloppenberg said that in the coming days the community will receive an update from Vice Provost for Student Life Jeanne Rosenberger to describe work currently underway to reimagine the university’s security services in light of Cordell’s recommendations.
Cordell offered the university 22 recommendations from doing away with law enforcement ranks and titles to discontinuing the use of handcuffs, stopping room searches and requiring anti-bias and implicit bias training for all hires.
Asked to comment on the university’s conclusion, Cordell said she did not participate in the investigation and therefore has “no opinion about their determination” but urged the school to implement her recommendations.
“My audit concluded with several concrete and doable recommendations to reimagine the department, in the hope that incidents like the one involving Professor Morgan will never happen again,” Cordell said. “I continue to hope that my recommendations will be implemented as quickly as possible.”