Security officials at College of the Canyons have notified the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station ahead of anticipated protests during Angela Davis’ speech at the campus on Saturday, according to emails from the college’s safety department.
Davis, who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s as a political activist, has advocated for the abolition of the prison system while also being involved in groups such as the Black Panthers and the Communist Party USA. She’s scheduled to speak 3 p.m. Saturday at the COC Performing Arts Center as part of the community college’s Anti-Racism Speaker Series.
She is being paid $25,000 of COC’s allocated funds from the state of California through its Student Equity and Achievement Fund.
One campus safety officer, Matt Funicello, spoke at COC’s board of trustees meeting Wednesday and laid out his arguments for why he’s opposed to Davis’ appearance and said he knew he was committing “career suicide” by doing so.
In his comments to the board, Funicello made several statements that administrators at COC have since disputed, and one they appeared open to fixing in the future: his assertion that paid guest speakers only represented liberal or left-leaning viewpoints.
One of the statements Funicello made was that safety officers were “required” to work at Davis’ speech, but COC officials said that’s not true.
“Funicello made that statement in the board meeting, but it is not correct,” wrote Eric Harnish, COC’s vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations, in an email to The Signal. “Campus safety officers were asked by the director of campus safety if they would like to work overtime for this event. Those who were asked had the option to choose whether they wanted to work on their regular day off. No officers – including Funicello – were told they would be required to work.”
According to the email sent to security officers by Robert Sadeh, assistant director of campus safety, the officers were requested by Jasmine Ruys, COC’s assistant superintendent and vice president of student services, to work in anticipation of protests ahead of Davis’ speech.
“Officers, we have an event with (Davis) on Saturday, (April 15) … They are expecting a lot of protestors for this event,” read the email from Sadeh. “Jasmine Ruys has requested that everyone on the staff to work that day, 1400-2000 (2 p.m. to 8 p.m.).”
After a few security officers noted they would not be able to work on that day, and voiced their opposition to Davis’ appearance on campus, Ruys responded: “Thank you for letting us know you cannot be there. We have let the sheriff know of this event as well. If anyone else will be unable to perform their job on this day, please let us know.”
Funicello said the officers perceived the first email as a direct order and the second as an insult, which, combined with his opposition to Davis’ planned appearance, prompted his statement to the board.
However, even if he was required to work at the event, Funicello wouldn’t have had to anyway, as he’s been on worker’s compensation and out of work due to a shoulder injury.
Funicello has since clarified he was upset on behalf of his coworkers, who felt as though it was being heavily implied by their superiors they should have to work during Davis’ speech.
One officer’s response said: “I am unavailable to work that day. By the way, Angela Davis is a communist and hater of America. She was associated with Black Panthers and other violent, radical groups. It is (an) awful decision for this college to invite her to speak. May I suggest inviting Ben Shapiro or Leo Terrell as speakers?”
“Well, thank goodness I am busy that day and am unable to work,” another officer wrote. “On a side note, I can’t believe the college is having this anti-American, communist, radical, here to speak. It behooves the administration to advise the sheriff of this event.”