Police question student speech after Va. deaths

Wes Minor

After the Virginia Tech shootings in April, the questions about security on college campuses came to the forefront of the national discussion along with fears that such an event could happen elsewhere.

Often, after tragic school shootings such as the Virginia Tech and Columbine incidents, fear leads to heightened public suspicion.

CSUN English student Jeff Padilla experienced the ramifications of this heightened suspicion firsthand when some bad news about his graduation plans came on the wrong day.

Padilla, who will have completed his bachelor’s degree by the time this is published, has been attending CSUN since 2002 while balancing a paying job and volunteer work.

During the Fall 2006 semester, Padilla started on a plan to complete his degree by taking his last two classes this summer after two semesters of being a full-time student.

According to Padilla, his CSUN advisor had repeatedly told him that this plan would work, and that he could take his final two classes in the summer.

It wasn’t until Padilla tried to register for the two classes that he found out he was restricted from taking them concurrently.

In the summer of 2006, Padilla established a non-profit organization, Compassion Through Action, to provide aid to the homeless community on Skid Row. The organization’s activities were put on hold while Padilla started taking classes full-time to complete his degree, and he was looking forward to getting things running again this summer.

When Padilla realized he wasn’t allowed to take the classes concurrently, he went to the admissions and records department on April 17, the day after the Virginia Tech shootings, for an explanation. It was there in Bayramian Hall that Padilla became angry and raised his voice at an admissions employee who told him there was nothing that could be done.

“[The university] was postponing my life,” said Padilla.

Furious that he would have to take more classes during Fall 2007, Padilla went to wait outside his next class. It was there that Padilla vented some of his anger to his friends. In the course of Padilla’s rant, a classmate standing nearby heard something that must of set off alarm bells in his or her head.

The comment he made was related to Virginia Tech.

Padilla said he doesn’t remember what it was, but his friends later told him he said something along the lines of, “Universities do so much to keep students from reaching their goals, and then people wonder how an irrational madman could do what he did at Virginia Tech.”

That unidentified classmate took what Padilla said to the campus police.

Two days later, on April 19, a police officer met Padilla in front of his class and took him for questioning.

According to Padilla, the questioning only lasted 15 minutes.

On April 20, CSUN police officer Yolanda Abundiz informed Padilla that they had decided he was not a terror threat, but a record of the report would be kept on file.

While Padilla does not want his name associated with a campus terrorism investigation, he understands there’s nothing he can do about it.

“The root of the problem was the irrational decision of [the accuser],” said Padilla.

When Abundiz informed Padilla of the decision, she also referred him to the Associate V.P. of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, William Watkins, to help solve his enrollment problem.

Padilla ultimately was able to take the two remaining classes concurrently after receiving permission from one of the professors, and will now be able to get back to his passion, helping the homeless.

“The irony was, it was an easy fix,” said Padilla.