Colleagues are coming to the defense of a Cypress College professor put on leave after a Zoom video went viral of her in a heated discussion with a student about police officers.
The incident took place during a recorded online session and began after student Braden Ellis gave a presentation on cancel culture and police for a communications class. In the discussion that followed, the professor repeatedly interrupted him, not agreeing with his support of law enforcement, according to the video.
A letter signed by the professor — and shared on Facebook by a former Cypress College instructor — says the exchange was “taken out of context and distorted.”
The video shows the tail end of a question-and-answer session of a skill-building and role-playing exercise with multiple scheduled speakers being taught to substantiate their claims and control the floor against critics, according to the letter.
Ellis had spoken for nearly 7 minutes uninterrupted before the exchange, the professor writes in the letter.
“During his speech, Ellis made a series of seemingly unrelated claims that lacked proper support and evidence, which warranted questioning. Again, a skill we have worked on over the course of the semester,” the letter reads.
A GoFundMe page to raise money for the professor’s security and legal fees says she has been facing threats since the video went viral, garnering “national scorn from conservatives.”
“In the video, the professor challenges the student’s opinion of police officers as heroes in the Q&A portion of his presentation on “Cancel Culture” in her Communications course … Then he decided to ‘cancel’ the professor for challenging his incomplete narrative,” the fundraising page reads.
On Monday, Ellis told KTLA he felt attacked during the exchange and said that he thought the professor was being biased.
A faculty union at Cypress College criticized the administration for not defending the professor, calling it “a failure to be anti-racist,” the O.C. Register reported.
The professor’s letter said that she was advised by the college “not to speak up” and “wait until this storm passes.”
“The District has failed to protect me and allowed racialized and gendered attacks against me,” her letter reads.
Cypress College released an updated statement on Friday.
“Throughout this process, we have done the right thing for the right reasons. In this case, the right thing has been honoring the request of the faculty member in the video to protect her identity for her own safety,” the statement reads in part. “The decision to remove her from the classroom was done to protect her safety, maintain her confidentiality, and mitigate attacks from those who sought to threaten her as well as the students in her class.”