A Native American student at Cal State Sacramento University claimed that she was disenrolled from her United States History class because she insisted that Native Americans were the victims of “genocide.”
On Sunday, the university issued a statement on Facebook stating that Chiitaanibah Johnson was not disenrolled in the course by the professor, Maury Wiseman. The statement read:
Sacramento State was very concerned upon learning about this incident and the allegations surrounding it. The University would like to make it clear that our student, Chiitaanibah Johnson, was not expelled or disenrolled from this history course. Under University policy, a professor cannot unilaterally disenroll a student from a class. President Robert S. Nelsen is looking into what was alleged to have happened. “I take this matter very seriously. I intend to talk to Chiitaanibah Johnson as we work to gather all the information necessary to resolve this situation positively.”
Johnson, a sophomore, told the Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN), “The whole thing started on Wednesday. He was talking about Native America and he said the word genocide. He paused and said ‘I don’t like to use that word because I think it is too strong for what happened’ and ‘genocide implies that it was on purpose and most native people were wiped out by European diseases.'”
Johnson continued, “I wrote it down. I was enraged for what I felt were obvious reasons. I didn’t say anything [on Wednesday] because I knew that if I didn’t have anything specific to back it up in terms of tangible or solid evidence that he would not take my comments into consideration.”
Two days later, Wiseman was lecturing about the Iroquois Confederacy and the Portuguese expeditions, and offended Johnson again.
Johnson spoke up, eventually reaching the topic of genocide, telling Wiseman, “You said genocide implies the purposeful extermination of people and that they were mostly wiped out by European diseases. That is not a true statement.” She said that Wiseman said, “Genocide is not what happened,” prompting her to stand and quote a United Nations definition of genocide that read, “Genocide is the deliberate killing of another people, a sterilization of people and/or a kidnapping of their children.”
Johnson asserted that the professor replied, “That is enough,” triggering her to fire back, “No. You have to tell the truth.” Johnson said Wiseman concluded, “If you want to come talk to me after class, now is not the time, you are hijacking my class.” According to Johnson, the class backed the professor.
The two had a heated argument, according to Johnson, followed by Wiseman dismissing the class, apologizing for the interruption.
Johnson claimed Wiseman then addressed her, saying, “I do not appreciate this in my classroom.” Johnson claimed the professor then shook his finger at her and snapped, ”I don’t appreciate you making me sound like a racist and a bigot in my classroom,” then said she would be disenrolled.
Johnson charged, “All of the research I had done was very traumatizing….I know these things are true. I have been told about them personally from my great-grand parents and grandparents and my mother who was in boarding school.”
She concluded, “I felt like I approached the situation in a way that a student of the university level is supposed to approach a disagreement with the professor. I have been dealing with this kind of racism since I was a little girl.”
One former student of Wiseman’s, commenting on a Reddit thread dealing with the incident, wrote, “I took a class with Maury Wiseman and I can tell you this was a matter of a disruptive student. He is the most laid back professor ever, not ideological at all.”