My story matters: a student voice series

As of recent, the Cal Poly Pomona administration has been advertising diversity and inclusion as one of the campus community’s main priorities. 

As the The Poly Post previously reported in Issue 10, at the inclusivity and diversity town hall meeting held on Oct. 23 in the Bronco Student Center, Ursa Minor, many students took the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding the topic. One of those students was third-year chemical engineering, African American student Usiomo Ujadughele, who was racially profiled by a dean on campus over the summer. 

Ujadughele has chosen not to disclose the name of the dean who victimized him.

Taking a class this past summer at CPP, Ujadughele would regularly meet with his study group every Friday in the same building every week. 

On July 26, Ujadughele arrived to the same building with only his cell phone and keys on his person. Upon entering the building, Ujadughele entered the men’s restroom where the incident occurred. 

“While I was in the restroom, a gentleman walked into the stall next to me on my left hand side,” Ujadughele said. 

Eduardo Rangel | The Poly Post

Ujadughele heard the person open the door again, however, no one entered the restroom. Ujadughele exited the restroom around three to five minutes later and saw a man leaned against a wall, standing four to five feet to his right, looking toward the exit to the men’s restroom. Ujadughele reports that he made eye contact, smiled at him and proceeded down the hallway back to the classroom.

Ujadughele began folding a poster to prop the building door open, with his back facing the door as a police officer approached from behind him.

“The cop asked me what I was doing there. I let him know that I’m a student, (and) I was just looking for a classroom for my peers and I to study (in) and then he asked if I was a Cal Poly student. I let him know ‘yes,’ I was, and then he asked for my ID….” Ujadughele then offered to have the officer follow him to his car so he could provide his ID.

The gentleman who Ujadughele had seen outside of the restroom before was now standing four to five feet away from the classroom door as he was escorted out of the building by the officer.

Once outside, Ujadughele heard “the subject is now exiting the building” from the officer’s walkie. Simultaneously a police car then pulled up to the building and two officers exited. One of the officers asked to further help in the escorting of Usiomo to his car before being waved off.  

After asking to see his Bronco ID, the police officer requested to see Ujadughele’s driver’s license. The officer then called in Ujadughele’s driver’s license number and, “After he got a ‘clear’ from whoever it was he called in my driver’s license number to, he then asked me where I usually have class. I let him know that I usually have class in Building 3 up the hill and my classmates and I (come) down here to study every weekend.”

“He then told me …  ‘I’m not exactly sure what would happen to you if you decide to return back to this building, so (you) should try to check up there (Building 3) and see if there’s any other open rooms on campus.’”

Ujadughele then texted his study group to inform them he had been escorted out of the building by police and asked not to return to the building. 

After an hour and a half, Ujadughele returned to campus to find his classmates were still studying, so he met with them. His classmates – who were of Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent –  informed him that they had not been approached by anyone the entire time they had been studying. 

Frustrated and confused as to why the earlier incident took place, Ujadughele went outside to call his family and inform them of the situation. During this time, one of Ujadughele’s classmates was also outside on the phone and had used a book to prop open the building door so he wouldn’t get locked out.

The following Monday, Ujadughele’s classmate that had been outside on the phone told him while he was outside, the dean who called the police walked out of the building, stepping over the book that was being used to prop the building door open. According to Ujadughele, during his conversation with the dean at the Dinner with the Deans event, the dean told him (Usiomo) the reason he called the police was because the building was supposed to be locked down and no one else was supposed to be occupying it.

In the days following the incident, Ujadughele had a conversation with the dean who called the police on him, during which, according to Ujadughele, the dean changed his story several times. 

“When I met with the dean, and asked him why exactly it was that he called the cops, and exactly what it was he was doing closest to the restroom if he thought there was a threat in the restroom, his response was, ‘I had to make sure that I could show professionals exactly where the threat was at the time.’ Seeing as there are two entrances close to the restroom exit, I’d asked him, ‘Why didn’t you wait near the exit furthest away from the restroom, out of sight, if, in fact, I was a threat?’ and his response was, ‘You know, I was afraid; When you’re afraid, your judgment’s irrational. I can’t really explain why I did that, but I wanted to be able to make sure that I could show the professionals where the threat was.’”

Ujadughele’s mentor also had a conversation with the dean after the incident. The dean told him he called the police after seeing Ujadughele in the restroom because he was wearing red shoes and felt threatened. However, Ujadughele reports he was wearing black, white and blue shoes during the time of the incident. 

“I didn’t understand exactly the reference to the red shoes, whether it was supposed to assume that I was gang affiliated … or there was some kind of threat,” Ujadughele said. 

Being that the dean claimed he felt threatened, Ujadughele asked why he was in the hallway near the classroom where Ujadughele was escorted out by a police officer. 

“Anything could have happened. You could have resisted arrest, or the cop could’ve choked you, or handled you in ways that (wouldn’t) have been proper,” the dean said.

Now claiming he was trying to protect him, Ujadughele questioned the dean about this and he deflected the question and continued on about his irrational thinking due to fear.

According to Ujadughele, the dean has never issued an apology or shown any remorse for the situation. “It was more so ‘I feel’ statements and apologizing for the misunderstanding, which absolutely was not a misunderstanding,” Ujadughele said. 

Ujadughele has since filed a formal complaint with Title IX, which handles matters relating to discrimination based on sex, gender identity, citizenship status and race. After filing his complaint, both Ujadughele and Title IX noticed inconsistencies between both recounts of the incident. “It was very clear to me that he had lied as to his presence, where he was and where he said he was at the time,” Ujadughele said.

The dean has since requested to speak with Ujadughele again, which Ujadughele declined. He is no longer interested in meeting with the dean since he has yet to acknowledge any wrongdoing. 

Ujadughele remains unsatisfied with the university administration’s lack of acknowledgement or action as it relates to his incident as many similar incidents that have been reported around campus. 

After filing the report with Title IX services on campus, Ujadughele has not felt as though his best interests are being represented because he was questioned several times by Title IX case workers as to whether he was sure he wanted to file his complaint as racial profiling, as opposed to harassment. 

“(During the Title IX process) I do think that my intelligence was being insulted and being challenged …  I was given the feeling that there was a certain level of protection that was trying to be had on behalf of the university just to ensure that the reputation the university upholds and the fallacy of how much they love, respect and admire diversity was true.”

To date, no action has been taken regarding Ujadughele’s Title IX case and it is still under investigation.

Ujadughele has been deeply affected by his experience. In recounting his story, he recalls the tragic story of the Central Park Five – five African American and Latino young men who were wrongfully accused of raping and beating a woman in New York’s Central Park in 1989. Ujadughele mentions Korey Wise’s story specifically.

“Someone spends 13 to 14 years of their life in jail after just going down to a police station to watch and look after their friend, and you think I shouldn’t be afraid that I’m being accused of doing something, or I’m accused of being a threat while walking out of a bathroom or being in a classroom by myself? Yes, I’m very much so afraid because (the dean’s) irrational or his scared or his frightened ideas and actions could have cost me my life.”

The dean in question could not be reached for a comment on the story.

The Poly Post will continue to report “My story matters: A series” to bring to light the discrimination and racial injustice many students are experiencing at CPP to further push the university to listen and begin taking action. If students have a story they would like to share for this series, we encourage them to contact managing@thepolypost.com.

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