UTSA President Taylor Eighmy announced Wednesday night that an investigation into a professor’s possible discrimination against a black student, who was escorted out of a biology class by university police at her teacher’s request, found that racial bias was not a factor.

“Because the student feels the faculty member’s actions were not based in racial bias, she has elected not to file a formal complaint of discrimination with [Equal Opportunity Services] regarding the incident,” Eighmy wrote.

A video of the investigated incident, which was taken Monday in senior lecturer Anita Moss’ biology class, went viral, collecting more than 4 million views as of Thursday morning. The video shows Moss standing by as university police enter the lecture hall and escort the student out.

The student who recorded the video, Apurva Rawal, described the incident on Twitter, saying “a girl had her feet up and the professor called the police after calling our class uncivil.”

“The professor stopped class entirely and stepped out to call the police just because one student had her feet up on a seat in front of her,” Rawal wrote on Twitter. “Mind you she wasn’t talking or interrupting lecture.”

A student responded on Twitter, claiming she was the person who was escorted out of the room. The student has not responded to request for comment.

“Upon entering class I was told I needed to leave or would be escorted out by officers,” she wrote. “I never disobeyed the student code of conduct. Not once.”

UTSA asked interim Dean of the College of Sciences Howard Grimes to look into potential issues with classroom management. Grimes’ report details the full timeline of events that led up to UTSA police entering the classroom Monday.

Anita Moss Credit: Courtesy / UTSA

Earlier in the school year, Moss had asked students to stow their cell phones, stop talking, be respectful, and take their feet off chairs in front of them, the report states.

Students told Grimes that Moss would periodically stop her lecture and approach students with their feet on a chair and ask them to remove them. This escalated throughout the course of the semester, Grimes wrote.

Last Friday, Moss walked up to the student, who would on Monday be escorted out of the class, and asked her to put her feet on the floor. The student did so. Moss later spoke with a fellow faculty member, who suggested Moss calling the campus police as a potential option.

On Sunday, Moss attempted to send an email to the student she spoke with on Friday, telling her not to attend class until after they discussed her behavior privately. But Moss accidentally sent this email to another student in the class. The student, who would later be escorted out of class, never received Moss’ email and showed up to class on time on Monday.

Moss approached her to say she needed to leave per her previously emailed instructions. The student told Moss she was confused and said she shouldn’t have to leave the classroom. Moss threatened to call campus police.

“Escorted Student apparently said that ‘this class is very important to me and attending this class is part of my grade and I do not want to miss the lecture as we have a test coming on Wednesday,’” Grimes wrote. “Dr. Moss responded with a demand for Escorted Student to either leave the class or ‘I [Dr. Moss] will call the police.’ Escorted Student responded with ‘do what you need to do’ and sat down to attend the lecture.”

Moss then called the police. The video shows what happened when the police arrived.

Grimes concludes that Moss failed to manage her classroom effectively and that calling the police was a “lapse in judgment.”

By Thursday morning, more than 6,000 people signed an online petition demanding UTSA fire Moss for discriminatory behavior. Grimes noted that none of the students interviewed for the report, nor the student escorted out of the class, felt Moss should be terminated.

As a result of Grimes’ findings, Moss was relieved from her duties as an instructor for the remainder of the fall semester. Another instructor will take over for Moss and an unarmed safety officer will be assigned to the class for the rest of the semester.

Before returning to the classroom, Moss will work with UTSA Teaching and Learning Services on classroom management, university officials said. TLS and other university officials will continue to monitor Moss. If the dean approves, she will return to the classroom for the spring 2019 semester.

Over the next three years, Moss will continue to check in with TLS to perform a “quick course diagnosis” and make any necessary improvements.

President of UTSA Taylor Eighmy gives the keynote address.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

In his Wednesday night letter to students, Eighmy reiterated that the results of the investigation don’t impact his decision to create a more inclusive campus environment.

“After hearing from so many more students, faculty, and staff regarding their feelings of marginalization, disrespect, and fear, I am more convinced than ever that this is a top priority for UTSA,” Eighmy wrote.

The UTSA president committed to enacting systematic change with the end goal of more inclusivity. He promised to double up on efforts to examine how students from underrepresented groups are treated at UTSA, and place a greater emphasis on safe reporting and hiring more faculty, staff, and administrators of color.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.