In the month since the classroom exchange between Sacramento State History Professor Maury Wiseman and Ms. Chiitaanibah Johnson regarding a disagreement over the term “Native genocide,” school President Robert Nelsen has released a statement on the university’s website declaring that no policies were violated by Wiseman when he said there was no Native genocide, and the matter is officially closed.
“I have spoken with many faculty, staff, students, and community members about the Sept. 4, 2015, classroom exchange between Professor Maury Wiseman and Ms. Chiitaanibah Johnson. I also have read various descriptions and analyses of the incident. Using the Sacramento State guidelines… I have concluded that neither Professor Wiseman nor Ms. Johnson violated any University policy. We are, therefore, closing the inquiry into the incident.”
“While people may agree or disagree with the decision, we can all agree that change must happen. We cannot and should not stop the conversations that the incident has provoked. To the contrary, we as a university must learn from this incident and the discussions surrounding it. My most sincere hope is that our university can become a national model of inclusive dialogue regarding issues such as genocide and its lasting effects.”
Sac State student Chiitaanibah Johnson, who says she was told by Wiseman that she would be kicked out of his class for arguing the point with him, believes there should be repercussions for Wiseman’s behavior, even if the University says no policies were violated.
“If the university wanted to hold him responsible, at least they are more than capable of doing so, they just don't want to at this point,” she says.
In his online statement, Nelsen also commended his university for reaching out to the Native community and praised the efforts of those facilitating outreach for better understanding of Native culture at Sac State.
I am very impressed that the History Department is reaching out to Native American tribal leaders, and I was equally impressed by the panel discussion last Thursday regarding "Native Americans/American Indians: Myths and Misconceptions." The questions raised by the panelists and members of the audience were thoughtful, direct, and honest. I was particularly pleased to hear that Ethnic Studies is planning to offer a minor in Genocide and Holocaust Studies.
Though the University held panel discussions and dedicated time for teaching about Native culture, Johnson says she is not impressed. She also says panelists were not even going to address the “Native genocide” incident between Professor Wiseman and Johnson.
“The panel and "Native American day" they held were events that were haphazardly thrown together at the last minute,” she says. “Many panelists were contacted the night before. They were not going to mention the incident in the slightest if it weren't for a woman in the back who asked about it during the last 10 minutes.
“An event in the multicultural center was basically thrust upon them by the President’s office without any real instructions on what was supposed to happen. "Honest, thoughtful" dialogue is another way of saying the panelists said what the university wanted them to without holding themselves accountable for dealing with the professor's actions directly.,” says Johnson.
Professor Wiseman has yet to respond to ICTMN’s requests for comment.