California DOJ: SDSU Professor Harassed Student over Perceived Cultural Appropriation

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The California Department of Justice ruled this week that a lecturer at San Diego State University harassed a student over an accusation of cultural appropriation.

San Diego State University lecturer Oscar Monge, who has long been fighting to abolish SDSU’s Aztec mascot, has been accused of harassing a student over an alleged act of cultural appropriation. The findings come as a result of a California Department of Justice investigation.

“The investigation found that Monge sent at least 15 offensive Facebook messages to student Crystal Sudano — most while she was enrolled in his class — about white people in general, and about other students who were not in his class. These messages led to Sudano withdrawing from his class when he threatened her grade after she challenged his position on the Aztec mascot,” the SDSU student newspaper wrote.

The California Department of Justice found that Monge had discriminated against student Crystal Sudano, who is white, on the basis of “race, racial harassment and retaliation.”

Monge accused Sudano of cultural appropriation after she wore her hair in a bandana. “You have to stop and think for a moment the context into which you were about to enter and you had a bandana and your hair in rez tails,” Monge wrote in a message to Sudano. “It may have been an innocent coincidence, but it can be subjected to an entirely different interpretation, within a specific context.”

According to the Daily Aztec, Monge criticized SDSU’s Associated Students association for its “whiteness.” “The AS is something else that confuses me … the way it’s structured, the way it runs And (sic) how damned white it is,” he wrote at the time.

The California Department of Justice report confirms that Monge retaliated against Sudano in the classroom. After Sudano complained about his discriminatory and aggressive behavior, Monge lowered her course grade. “Monge retaliated against Sudano…after she complained to (him) about his discriminatory and harassing conduct, and appeared to undermine Monge’s thesis in the mascot resolution debate,” the report says. “Monge told Sudano that her grade would be lowered, ultimately causing her to seek a constructive withdrawal from (his) class.”

“The messages Monge sent to Sudano demonstrate that Monge has an animus against white people,” the report reads. “The situation was further exacerbated by Monge’s position of authority over Sudano as her professor. Monge’s inappropriate treatment of Sudano culminated in adverse action. Sudano’s ability to participate in AMIND 435 was substantially impacted because of her relationship with Monge.”

“All in all,” it continues, “Monge uses ‘white’ whenever he wishes to explain someone who has done something wrong, or bad.”

Monge had until January 3 to appeal the results of the investigation. Whether or not Monge decided to appeal the investigation’s finding is unclear. The Daily Aztec reported that Monge was working with the California Faculty Association and that an appeal is likely underway.



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