Cal State Long Beach Officials Reveal More Details On Incident Involving Student Flashing Knife in Class

Authorities released new information during the first in a series of forums held at Cal State Long Beach Thursday afternoon meant to create dialogue with students about a recent incident, during which a student allegedly flashed a small knife during a class.

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University Police Chief Fernando Solorzano told attendees the student in question is a community service officer—in addition to being a family member to a personnel from the university police department, as CSULB officials previously announced.

According to CSULB’s website, “the CSOs answer calls for escorts, unlocks of buildings and securing of buildings, and they provide additional crime prevention patrols to the parking lots, buildings, and Residential Life facilities.”

The reported incident happened on Thursday, February 25 during a sociology class, according to officials. The professor allegedly perceived a threat when a male student was seen holding a small knife measuring 2.5 inches and asked the student to leave, which he did.

The professor, who was teaching a course on class, race and gender at the time of the incident has taken a leave of absence. Officials could not confirm the length of the leave or if it was in direct connection to the incident.

The student is still attending classes and still employed by the university police department, though he has not being given hours to work, Solorzano said.

In a letter sent out to the campus community last week, CSULB President Jane Close Conoley said the alleged perpetrator underwent a threat assessment, as is the usual protocol.

“In our best professional judgment, he did not pose a serious or imminent threat to our campus," she wrote. "This is why a 'timely warning' was not issued.”

During the forum, Solorzano elaborated on the assessment and the reasoning why a notice was not issued.

“We didn’t meet the elements of a crime for a Clery crime,” Solorzano said in reference to the Clery Act, which mandates the disclosure of crimes on campus. "Hence, we did not have the criteria for a timely warning. What is that criteria? The criteria has to do with identifying if there’s a crime, one. Two, identifying the clear geography, and three, do you have an ongoing imminent threat to the campus community?”

University officials did not communicate to attendees at the forum if the assessment was made before or after the incident was transferred to the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) once a conflict of interest was determined.

The forum was moderated by Carmen Taylor, vice president of student affairs, and included a panel of faculty members, including the chairs of the departments of Chicano and Latino Studies, Africana Studies and American Indian Studies.

While administrators attempted to create a structure of allowing students to voice their concerns, while being able to respond to questions and concerns, many attendees—some of whom expressed outrage during the event and sometimes interrupted officials—felt the forum lost focus.

CSULB spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp acknowledged the nature of the meeting and said university officials are currently re-evaluating the way the next meeting will be held, which is scheduled for March 23. Uhlenkamp said he was unaware of any other details regarding the upcoming meeting, including its scheduled time and location.  

“We knew that students were voicing frustration and we knew this was an opportunity for them to share their concerns and I think [...] it turned away from the forum to do that, so I think we are re-evaluating the nature of the meeting," he told the Post on Friday.  

Uhlenkamp dispelled allegations on social media that the student brandished his knife in front of a black female student in a threatening manner.

“The reports on social media are incorrect; if they were correct then we would have expelled the student,” Uhlenkamp said. “There would have been some sort of action taken against the student."

Uhlenkamp said the idea that the student brandished a knife was incorrect based on an assessment of the incident undertaken by university officials. 

This story was updated on March 12 at 10:00AM regarding a clarification later sent to the Post by Uhlenkamp, who said the incident had initially been "assessed" rather than officially investigated by the university. The incident remains under investigation by the university and police. 

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