Students, staff, and faculty at Santa Barbara City College are calling for the immediate resignation of Vice President of Business Services Lyndsay Maas after they learned she used the unabbreviated n-word at a gender equity meeting on November 14. The college’s Board of Trustees held a special meeting Monday, where public speakers voiced their outrage. Many insisted this was not an isolated incident but rather a product of the campus climate toward black students and a continued pattern of racial insensitivity.
Maas used the word in reference to African-American students being called the n-word on campus. Maas was stopped by a faculty member of color “to address the harm caused by the racial slur,” wrote staff who were present at the workgroup meeting in a letter to the board. “Maas tried to explain herself, but she did not take the opportunity to listen to the experience of others,” read the letter.
In a statement, Maas said, “Last week during a campus meeting discussing how to combat racism on campus, I inadvertently used a term that has since been taken out of context, offending some people as a result. I deeply regret that offense, and remain committed to help battle on-campus racism at SBCC.”
On the date of the incident, Admissions staffer Akil Hill, who did not witness the slur but had heard about it, was waiting for a campus-wide email to address the incident. That email never came. Instead, SBCC President Anthony Beebe sent an email the following morning to managers, supervisors, and president’s councilmembers only, detailing the event, explaining on behalf of Maas, and directing all 52 recipients to attend cultural-sensitivity training within the next six months. Hill equated Beebe’s failure to inform the campus to a cover-up and was disappointed Beebe did not reach out to black staff, faculty, and students to inform them of the event, much less apologize and gather input to move forward. “You can’t offend a group of people and not apologize to them,” said Hill. In her email to fellow members of the gender equity committee following the incident, Maas commits to attending cultural sensitivity training.
Hill expressed frustration at the way events played out but insisted he doesn’t dislike Beebe or Maas. He described Maas as being a “good person,” but the issue is beyond that, he said. “We can’t reduce it down to her being a good or bad person. She made a mistake, and there has to be consequences,” he said. “You can’t continue coming to work like nothing happened.”
At the special meeting Monday, audience members held up “Black Lives Matter” signs while students of color chronicled their experiences on campus. Students talked about not feeling safe or welcome on campus and shared experiences in which they were called the n-word, were spit on, and were monitored by police in school spaces. “It’s not good, but you get so used to it,” said student Ibrahim Traore. Naiha Dozier-El, president of the Black Student Union (BSU), urged the board to take action against Maas and to respond to the number of incidents that students have reported. “Just believe us,” said Dozier-El, “believe our experiences.”
Student and former student trustee for the board Krystle Farmer told meeting participants that she resigned as trustee earlier this semester after being perpetually discriminated against. Farmer said she met with boardmembers individually and tried to share with them how black students were feeling on campus. “I did it the right way,” said Farmer, explaining how, during her time at SBCC, she had joined the BSU and school government opportunities, and also sat as a trustee. “I was still harassed, still discriminated against,” she said about her experience as a black woman on campus.
The college responded with a statement. “Under no circumstance is the use of racist language acceptable. That type of language is contrary to the vision, mission, and core values of SBCC.”
At this time, Maas has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.