This story has been updated to include a statement from Marc Angelucci on his status as an honoree from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
PCC found a moment of unity in the midst of troubling times when college leadership unanimously passed the resolution denouncing the killing of unarmed Black individuals, but responses to an internal email quickly drew outrage at two professors for their views, according to a partial thread obtained by the Courier.
On June 1, Dr. Gena Lopez, who leads the Ujima and Blackademia programs, sent an email to PCC’s staff and faculty emphasizing the importance for the campus to respond to its Black students’ needs. Lopez also co-wrote the resolution that was announced shortly thereafter.
According to both professors, multiple members of faculty have contacted them personally, out of fear of social retaliation, to thank them for defending “all lives matter” views.
Theresa Cummings, a business professor, shared her controversial views in a response to all academic employees. According to her, faculty should not spend time on something that “does not belong in the school environment” by sharing their “subjective” views.
“Dear Faculty, how about a resolution denouncing the killing of any unarmed person,” said Cummings in the email. “Any person; black, white, oriental, Italian, German, et al, no matter who or what nationality, or culture they are. Seems more democratic and tolerant wouldn’t you agree?”
It is worth noting that the term “oriental” is associated with anti-Asian rhetoric and stereotypical imagery in America dating back to the 1800s and was banned from use in federal documents under the Obama administration.
“It is not the place or the responsibility of our institution to take a position on this,” she continued. “Unfortunately, life is not fair and it is our responsibility to educate students to be adult and objective about what happens in life. There are no ‘safe spaces’ in life. Buck up, stop coddling students. You are doing them a disservice. Life is tough. It is harder if everyone does not take responsibility for their actions.”
To her dismay, Cummings’s response drew a backlash from multiple professors and deans alike. Talar Guedikian, an adjunct professor also in the business department, said she was “shocked” to learn that there were instructors on campus who felt this way, even as a former student.
“Keeping our opinions to ourselves is part of the problem,” said Guedikian in response to her emails. “This is very much OUR problem. It is OUR, and everyone else’s responsibility, to let those around us, including our students, [know] that these behaviors are unacceptable.”
Linguistics professor Petra Lott also stood up against Cumming’s views, saying she was “white and privileged, the product of a white supremacy.” In response to the Courier’s request for comment, Lott shared this statement with us:
When asked for comment, Cummings—who asked if she had control over what the Courier would publish—shared that she thought she made herself very clear.
“All lives matter,” she said in a phone call with the Courier. “The arrogance of anybody saying that one life is more important than another life is unacceptable. How dare they speak out and be so arrogant that they only think Black lives matter?”
Ultimately, Cummings shared that she was appalled that her right to speak brought about such a large backlash at a campus that should welcome all opinions, saying she’s been reprimanded, silenced, dismissed and called names. Cummings has not been formally reprimanded by PCC at this time.
While she shared that Floyd’s death was “an atrocity,” it appeared to Cummings that faculty was advocating for the vandalism and theft that had occurred during some of the protests.
PCC’s resolution does not include language about this.
“All lives matter, and the only person that gets to really make a decision about that is God,” she said. “And I don’t think BLM [Black Lives Matter] qualifies for that.”
When asked to further explain this view, Cummings told our reporter, “I know you’re smarter than to ask a stupid question like that.”
Cummings has not had a class at PCC since fall of 2018, according to LancerPoint, but she is still listed as an adjunct faculty member for the business department and receives PCC’s mass faculty emails. It’s unclear what her role is in the campus at this time.
Another professor and attorney-at-law, Marc Angelucci, defended her in the email thread, saying that she was “ganged up on by a bunch of tolerant ‘academics’ who are supposed to support diversity of opinion.”
He also shared multiple statistics on gun violence—including an infographic labeled “BLACK LIVES MATTER IS BITCHING ABOUT THIS?”—which depicted high Black on Black crime based on data from 2013.
For Guedikian, this action is one of many that put her over the edge.
“The fact is we now have educators who think their school is not a safe place or that they’re ‘bitching’ about something,” said Guedikian in a phone call with the Courier. “And then to later retract his statement and say, ‘Okay, if the word bitching is what you’re so concerned about, I’ll change it to complaining.’ It’s not a complaint. It’s not bitchiness. It’s not any of that.”
Guedikian compared the importance of showing up for the Black Lives Matter movement to the need of helping a burning house in a neighborhood. In response to her analogy, Angelucci said she ignored the lost lives of white individuals.
“So the 457 whites killed by police in 2017, 399 in 2018, and 370 in 2019, their houses aren’t on fire,” asked Angelucci in the email. “Nobody can even name any of them because nobody cares who they are. I’m sorry if facts ‘traumatize’ some people.”
While it’s correct that those numbers show white individuals are killed more by police overall, Black individuals—despite being 13% of the population—are disproportionately affected as 24% of those killed in the U.S., according to Mapping Violence data.
In multiple interviews and bios, Angelucci shares that he’s an honoree of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Wall of Tolerance, a wall with those who’ve pledged to stand against hate and work for justice and tolerance in their daily lives in the Civil Rights Memorial Center.
“When they invited me for that honor, they didn’t say what it was for, only that it was for my public interest work,” Angelucci said in an email to the Courier, with a copy of the certificate attached.
The SPLC does not have a record of him in their database for the Wall of Tolerance, nor is there a record of him being a donor, according to the director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center Tafeni English in a statement to the Courier.
Jeff Archibald, dean of Social Sciences, also took issue with Angelucci’s consistent back-and-forth and asked him to refrain.
“I must also point out the irony that in a conversation about systemic racism and injustice begun by our colleagues of color, you have dominated the conversation until it is now about white people,” Archibald wrote in the thread. “This is not about white people. If you want to have a conversation about violence and oppression against white people, please start it on your own time, not by hijacking a conversation around support requested by our colleagues of color.”
Angelucci, who’s also adjunct faculty in the business department, has taught law at PCC as recently as this spring semester. Here’s how investigative journalism site, Mother Jones, describes his legal career:
“In the late 1990s, Angelucci joined the National Coalition for Men [NCFM]; he later founded the Los Angeles chapter and began filing lawsuits to force battered women’s shelters to take men in too, alleging they were discriminatory,” said journalist Mariah Blake, who interviewed Angelucci at a men’s rights conference in Detroit. “One case ended in a ruling requiring state-funded shelters to do so. Angelucci has also fought to make the draft compulsory for women, and he has worked to water down the Violence Against Women Act.”
When asked for comment on his views, he shared that a professor in the thread had found his history and attacked him for being a “men’s rights activist.”
“As soon as I see anyone being silenced for their opinion, I’m going to step in and speak out for them, no matter what my own beliefs,” said Angelucci. “I don’t say ‘all lives matter’ because everyone, even BLM, agrees with that. BLM’s position, as I understand it, is that the systemic racism in the police departments amounts to black lives not mattering, which is why they focus on making black lives matter. I consider that a legitimate focus, but I question the premise of systemic racism in the police departments today because the data I see goes both ways, and that should be debated.”
In response to Cumming’s and Angelucci’s inflammatory remarks regarding “all lives matter” and open opinions, superintendent/president Erika Endrijonas reminded campus employees that she would not be able to stop their emails, despite their requests.
“As you can probably imagine, I have received numerous requests that I stop the email exchange that has further traumatized faculty and staff in our community at the very time that we are trying to mourn the senseless killing of George Floyd and express outrage at his death,” said Endrijonas in the email. “I have read those emails, and many of them are filled with raw emotion, anger, hurt, and frustration. I understand the desire to stop the hurt by stopping the emails. However, to do so could be viewed as a violation of freedom of speech, which is a foundational principle of all academic endeavors.”
The Courier questioned Endrijonas’ commitment to fighting anti-Blackness in an editorial, but it’s also concerning to faculty that the campus has to employ staff with these views, allowing them to shape our Black students’ minds, according to Guedikian.
“We’re talking about the fact that people can’t feel safe within their school because we have educators that are telling them, or insinuating, that school is not a safe place,” said Guedikian. “I would never allow for those around me, whether they were my peers when I was a student, or my students now as an educator, to ever feel as though there is no safe place on campus.”