Cherokee student detained at Marymount College for showing tribal ID goes viral
Cherokee student Nicolas Rojas showed his tribal ID to a security guard who refused to give it back or offer an explanation. Marymount California University President apologizes.
On Sunday May 6th, 2018, Nicolas Rojas attempted to visit the Marymount California University dorms with a friend who attended the school. Rojas, who is not a student at that campus attempted to enter using his Cherokee Tribal Nation ID card. When Rojas says the security guard became agitated, he began to video the incident. He tweeted it and the video has since gone viral with over 245,000 views.
In the wake of the incident, the Marymount California University has issued a formal statement and the MCU President has apologized to Rojas.
Rojas has told Indian Country Today the entire situation has been upsetting and that the school’s explanation was not acceptable for the actions of the security guard, Joseph Girgi.
“On Sunday I went to go study with my friend at her college and instead was humiliated. The guy checking IDs at the gate was fine until I handed him my Cherokee Nation tribal identification card. He then told me I had to leave, yelled at me and threatened to have me arrested. He became very hostile with me, started harassing me and put his hands inside my car, during which I started to record him, said Rojas.
Rojas says he was told to leave, but the security guard did not give back his ID, nor explain why he wouldn’t give it back.
“He told me I had to leave but he had taken my ID with him and refused to give it back until I left and parked at a different school nearby. The whole interrogation took over a half an hour and I had a project due that Monday, I just wanted to study with my friend but instead was threatened to be arrested several times without reasoning,” he said.
“As he was harassing me, he let several people in without even looking at them fully or even requesting any form of ID. I spoke to him calmly while he unprofessionally yelled at me.”
Indian Country Today reached out to Marymount California University who sent this statement via email.
Last week there was a verbal confrontation between a visitor to MCU’s residential campus and one of our campus safety & security officers and we want to acknowledge and address it.
It is our obligation to keep students safe while on our campus and as a standard procedure all visitors to our residential community are required to leave a valid picture ID with security as they enter the premises. The ID is returned when they depart. As it happened on May 6, our Campus Safety Officer was not familiar with the type of ID that was presented and his reaction captured on video was based on that lack of familiarity as well as to comments made by the visitor prior to the start of the video recording.
It is the responsibility for all of our employees to be professional at all times, and we regret that this was not the case when this situation took place.
Since that time, we have provided training and counseling for our security personnel in order to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.
“As an institution of higher learning and a community that is inclusive and welcoming to all, we sincerely apologize to Nicolas,” said Marymount president, Brian Marcotte.
Rojas said he reviewed the statement from the University and said there were inaccuracies, and other visitors to the University have reached out to him stating they did not have to leave their ID’s with security. He had also been to the University previously and did not have to leave his ID.
“I was notified by many Twitter users that attend Marymount that this guard is extremely strict on certain students. I don’t understand why he held onto my ID considering he already told me that I would not be allowed to enter the campus. He took my ID with him as he was threatening to have me arrested.” Rojas’ ID was returned after a Resident Advisor showed up and demanded the ID back.
An MCU student by the name of Ashley (who asked that her last name not be revealed) says she reached out to Rojas because she had seen the video and that Rojas was one of many students given problems when trying to visit.
She told Rojas the security guard had given her problems on many occasions and had previously denied her entry even though she was an MCU student.
“I was going into the dorm. He asked for my ID and I gave him my student ID. He said I had to go because my ID was fake. I knew it wasn’t because the school gave it to me. He was telling me to leave or he would call the cops. I just went inside and he was yelling that the cops were coming for me and my car,” Ashley told Indian Country Today.
Rojas says he is hoping this can be a learning moment and is hopeful changes can be made.
“Ideally I would want campus wide diversity talks, and all guards to have a day of retraining. I personally feel that many institutions are not a welcoming places for minorities, and this demonstrates the hostility many of us face just trying to even enter a campus. Campuses should be places of sanctuary for all attempting to further themselves through education.”