Opinion2

Dr. Michael Crow has completed almost two decades as president of Arizona State University. He spent a portion of that time co-authoring a book that encapsulates what could be considered his mission statement for the institution: “Designing the New American University.”

But when a new controversy erupted on the Tempe campus and went viral via video on social media, Crow’s subordinates responded with old-fashioned euphemism.

On Sept. 23, in Room 321 of the Student Success Center, two white male students were harassed by members of the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition, which then posted a nearly 8-minute video of the confrontation that has since been taken down. (It remains available at other websites, though the graphic language contained therein is far from “quaint.”)

One of the white students, as Chase Beckerman, had a sticker on his computer that read “Police Lives Matter” and the other, who remains unidentified, wore a T-shirt reading “Did Not Vote for Biden.”

Two women of color, undergraduate Mastaani Qureshi and graduate student Sarra Tekola, appeared to take the lead in confronting the white men, demanding they leave Room 321. 

Perhaps the most revealing part of the exchange comes when Beckerman, trying to strike a conciliatory tone, asked, “Is there anywhere I can go?”

Teacola responded, “Yeah! The whole rest of the campus! The second floor, the first floor, the whole MU (Memorial Union) — every single part of the campus centers you! This is the only space that you’re not centered, and you’re still trying to center yourself, which is peak cis-white male (crap).

Beckerman then asserted, “I’m not racist, I’m just studying.”

That assertion brings a hot-tempered response from Teacola: “You are racist! Your sticker is racist because police, that’s a job! You can choose to be police. I don’t choose to be Black! OK, no — you can choose to be a cop, you can choose to kill people with a badge, and you’re protecting that (expletive), which means that you’re racist!”

Beckerman said: “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to offend you guys or anything.”

Teacola has long taken offense at ASU because school officials have not yet officially designated the space she was insisting the white students vacate as a multicultural center. 

The university maintains that efforts to establish one are being formulated, but a specific location and dedication date have not yet been established.

Tekola is a Ph.D. candidate in ASU’s School of Sustainability and is Ford Foundation Fellow. The fellowship provides a stipend of at least $24,000 annually, which ASU accepts as full recompense for tuition and fees. 

Despite the fact that the Ford Foundation describes her academic achievement as truly elite — in the top 4% of applicants — Tekola views herself as a victim.

Perhaps that is why, in addition to her role as the founder of MSC, she also is the Phoenix Metro Chapter of Black Lives Matter’s “co-minister for activism.”

Maybe that’s why ASU’s statement in response to the confrontation was so muted. It read, in part: “The Dean of Students Office is aware of the disagreement between a handful of students … (and) will be discussing it with all involved. … Differences of opinion are part of the university experience. …”

The statement does not detail if any ASU student will face disciplinary action, but Beckerman has retained legal counsel and issued his own statement, which emphasizes reconciliation and “meaningful change.”

It could also be that Chase is aware that Crow’s book is described as a “radical blueprint for reinventing American higher education” and understands the operative term is “radical.”

No euphemism there.