Graduate students enrolled in University of California, Berkeley School of Social Welfare organized a teach-in on campus because they are angry that a white professor brought up black-on-black crime in discussions related to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The teach-in occurred on Tuesday at Haviland Hall, home to Cal’s School of Social Welfare, reports The Daily Californian, the campus newspaper.
Approximately 60 graduate students participated.
The professor on the receiving end of the teach-in is Steven Segal.
He is not that Steven Seagal. (RELATED: America’s Leatheriest Direct-To-Video Badass To Teach About School Shootings)
This Steven Segal spells his name differently and is a professor of mental health and social conflict in the School of Social Welfare.
Segal made his comments earlier this month during a Black Lives Matter group discussion and then the next day in a class on mental health and social policy class.
In the class, he read lyrics from a rap song. The lyrics of the unidentified song opine that activists in the Black Lives Matter movement need to stop blaming police for everything.
The 26 mainly first-year graduate students in the course were distressed and alarmed that Segal had read these particular lyrics.
“My first reaction was straight-up shock,” first-year grad student Emily Myer told The Daily Californian.
“That was followed by an acute awareness of rising anxiety and a desperate need for him to stop,” the enraged student added.
Myer is white. She counts herself among the organizers of the Black Lives Matter event that occurred the previous day, Feb. 9.
Another unhappy student said she doesn’t believe she is getting her money’s worth from Segal’s course at the taxpayer-funded UC Berkeley.
“We’re required to study the history of social work. It’s a whitewashed history of social work,” the second student, Melissa Beckles, told the campus daily.
“I know there’s an impact on the field by minorities and I want to hear about that in the education that I’m paying for,” Beckles also declared.
Beckles, who is black, is also a first-year graduate student and helped organize the previous day’s Black Lives Movement event.
During the teach-in, the five dozen or so graduate students communicated their concerns about a white professor discussing crimes committed by black people against black people to Segal and to Jeffrey Edleson, the dean of the social welfare school.
Some protesters implored Segal to reflect on his statements and say how sorry he is. Others demanded new training for faculty members and more social justice material in their social work classes.Both Edleson and Segal, a tenured professor who is celebrated for his work on mental illness, have apologized.
“Working with the students was very productive and I apologize for any misunderstanding,” Segal told the Daily Cal. “I completely respect the students and want to continue to be in dialogue with them. I know by working together we can strengthen our commitment to building the best School of Social Welfare we can.”
Edleson told the paper that he and his colleagues “deeply regret the reported incident” and “understand that a faculty-student exchange in one of our classrooms today caused offense and great distress to some of our students and made the classroom environment feel unsafe.”
The purpose of the Black Lives Matter event at Cal had been to allow participants to share their feelings about the use of police force and about various ways social workers can contribute to the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
“Black Lives Matter” and the once-ubiquitous #BlackLivesMatter Twitter hashtag have become a popular rallying cry for activists angry about the recent deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and the subsequent non-indictments for the police officers who killed the two men. (RELATED: Ivy League School Crafts #BlackLivesMatter Course)
Students studying social welfare at UC Berkeley have been coordinating with activists in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The School of Social Welfare has offered students in Segal’s classes the opportunity to switch into a different section of the same class. (RELATED: Robert Reich Sticks It To Poor People With $242,613 Salary For Teaching ONE CLASS This Semester)