Students turn their frustration into action

When Elizabeth Fischer enrolled in a children’s literature course, she was excited to learn about multicultural stories, but now she has her own story to tell.

During the fall, Fischer was a student in Miguel Lopez’s class, Culturally Sustaining Literature for Elementary and Middle Grades. She quickly grew frustrated by what she felt was  a hostile learning environment. 

Fischer and her roommate, Jessica De Mott, took the initiative to report Lopez’s behavior to the university. He was placed on administrative leave soon after. 

Through a spokesperson, the university said it couldn’t provide any information about the matter.

“In order to protect the privacy rights of all involved and as required by state and federal laws and CSU policy, we are unable to provide any information about pending complaints and ongoing investigations,” said university spokesperson Walter Ryce.

Email messages sent to Lopez at his university address by the Lutrinae were not answered. 

De Mott was taking the same literature course as Fischer, but with a different professor. She could see her roommate was under more stress from the course than De Mott was feeling. 

Following an assignment that Fisher said she spent over 20 hours working on and “didn’t have time to eat or take a shower,” the two decided to bring Fischer’s experience to the dean of liberal studies.

After creating a Google form and sharing it with students on MyRaft, as well as distributing flyers with a QR code to the survey, Fischer felt validated in her frustration after reading the results. “Seeing that there were so many students who had similar struggles, it made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for feeling how I felt, and that I wasn’t alone. Also the thing is, the complaints got worse and worse with bigger issues.”

The two students created a presentation containing testimonials and responses to surveys from students who had taken Lopez’s class, and claims of what appeared to be an abundance of Title IX violations. They presented the documents to the Liberal Studies dean and Title IX officials.

Lopez was accused of racial discrimination and unfair preferential treatment toward female students who happened to speak Spanish. The survey also alleged this was a common occurrence in past semesters.

According to responses from their survey, Lopez had a tendency of degrading students and speaking to them in a derogatory manner. “I personally dread going to his class. I feel like having a panic attack before and after every class,” said a student who completed Fisher and De Mott’s survey. “Last class he made us all feel like idiots from our past education not ‘teaching us how to read.’ For that entire three-hour class he continued to degrade us about our education.”

A common theme among the responses Fischer and De Mott received was that Lopez tended to shut down and criticize student’s opinions. One student said Lopez simply did not value hearing his student’s thoughts on the reading material, “rather, he would talk about his opinion on the reading and if one of my fellow classmates tried to participate in the discussion, he would criticize their opinions as if they were not prepared.”

Another testimonial coming from a fellow student who had Lopez in multiple classes also stated he noticed some things that would be said in class that could be seen as out of pocket.

“For example, in LS 310 he opens the class with this dialogue of saying that whiteness is bad and it got to the point where I vaguely remember him stating that if you’re white you can’t answer this question because it doesn’t apply to you, and it was a very odd thing to say. It was also a question only meant for Latino students,” said fifth-year Riley Romero. 

While it was a shock to attend class one day and see another professor, many of Lopez’s former students said they felt a sense of relief following his absence.
 “Someone almost started crying in one of my classes when I told her,” Fischer said. “It was so sad because you could see the pain that she had experienced.”

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