December 14, 2016

Incident: Olga Perez Stable Cox, a psychology professor at Orange Coast College, was recorded in class referring to Trump’s election as “an act of terrorism.” Trump supporters responded with harassing emails and death threats, showing that her initial comment was not all that hyperbolic. After someone emails a threat with her address and a photograph of her house, she decided to go into hiding.

Cox’s initial comments were in response to a student question directly about her feelings regarding the election, submitted on a notecard. The recorded comments last 1 minute 52 seconds. At the beginning, she refers to the Trump administration as “white supremacist” and Pence as “one of the most anti-gay humans in this country.” She then goes on to talk about how hurtful it is that these attacks are coming from people we all know, people in our families, and she talks about the coping strategies she is using. The whole time she is speaking, she seems to assume that everyone in the audience shares her views on the election.

Later reports from Trump supporters state that she asked Trump supporters to stand up in class and then announced that those people were threats. The faculty union president reported a different version of the events. On this account, Cox mentioned that people in the class might be Trump supporters, and a student stood to say he was. Cox then invited any other student who supports Trump to stand with the first student.

The campus College Republicans called Cox’s statement “hate speech” and filed a formal complaint. They also organized a demonstration of hundreds of students against Cox. A later demonstration was organized in support of her. After it was alleged that Cox singled out pro-Trump students, the College Republicans increased their demands, and are now calling for Cox’s dismissal.

Cox had previously been targeted by Professor Watch List. A spokesman for Professor Watch List criticized Cox for labeling people “anti-gay” merely because they supported Mike Pence.

After the issue blew up in public,  more of the student video surfaced. In the extended video, Cox mentions that Orange County voted for Clinton, and promises to find resources for students who feel threatened or harassed.

Response: The faculty union put out a statement saying that recording the class was against school policy and Cox’s classroom policy, and calling for “respectful dialogue.” The school is investigating the complaint from the College Republicans and the allegation that recording the class was against classroom and campus policy.

Sources: Inside Higher Ed article on Cox’s decision to flee,  Inside Higher Ed article on the initial incident, Orange County Register article with a link to the second video.