Officials at the University of La Verne in California have reacted to a fake hate crime controversy that occurred in February. After initially claiming that she had been assaulted by a masked man in a stairwell on campus, student Dominguez Peña is now facing criminal charges for allegedly faking a hate crime. Professor Judy Holiday claims that racism in America resulted in the woman feeling “compelled to do something illegal and immoral to bring attention to the problem.”
According to a report by Campus Reform, the University of La Verne has issued a statement on a reported fake hate crime hoax committed by student Dominguez Peña. The student initially told police officers that she was assaulted by a masked man in a stairwell on campus after finding a “smoking backpack” in her car. In response to Peña’s claims, the University of La Verne officials shut down the campus for 24 hours.
In March, Peña was charged with six counts of filing a false police report, one count of false impersonation, one count of making criminal threats, and one count of filing a false claim with the state victim’s compensation fund.
In a statement made to Campus Reform, University of La Verne Office of Strategic Communications Executive Director Rod Leveque said that the hoax was “extremely” upsetting. However, Leveque refused to comment on whether or not Peña has been disciplined by the university for her actions.
“The incidents last year were extremely upsetting to the university community. We take a lot of pride in being a diverse and inclusive campus, and we hope that the conclusion of the criminal investigation will allow us to continue to come together and focus on our mission of providing an excellent education to our students,” Leveque said.
University of La Verne Professor Judy Holiday said that she was “distressed” over the impact that the hate crime hoax on the university’s reputation. “It was very distressing to hear that a student fabricated racist threats, especially as those threats did so much damage to the reputation of other individuals and the university,” Holiday said.
However, Holiday went on to defend Peña, arguing that Peña was motivated to fake a hate crime because of her experiences with racism as a minority living in the United States.
“It was also distressing to think about the fact that racism in the United States is so profoundly a part of the lives of people of color that a student felt compelled to do something illegal and immoral to bring attention to the problem,” Holiday said.
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