A Virginia art professor was trying to enjoy her breakfast when she was interrupted by campus security.

Last month, Caitlyn Cherry was sitting in her empty classroom at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) with a meal when another educator poked his head in the door and left without speaking to her, according to WWBT. Moments later, security confronted her.

“I say hello, and he sort of comes in, doesn’t do anything, doesn’t verbally acknowledge me and walks back out of the room,” Cherry said.

The Commonwealth Times identified the other teacher as Javier Tapia.

Thankfully, Cherry, a visiting adjunct at the time, had her identification badge.

“Had I not have had my ID … I don’t know what could have happened,” she said. “I feel a lot of different ways about this, particularly as a Black woman, because now the situation escalates to the point of people dying.”

After a brief investigation, the university determined Tapia hadn’t committed a crime. Although he wasn’t formally disciplined, Tapia will not teach for the remainder of the semester. The university later hired Cherry as a full-time employee.

VCU students rallied behind the art professor.

“Students have stopped going to his classes. I know that his TAs quit," senior Brianna Scott told WWBT.

“The immediate reaction, of course, has been outrage,” graduate student John Chae added.

Students also swarmed school administrators with emails and a list of demands. A sign stating “PAPR (painting and printmaking) students support Caitlin Cherry,” was posted on the windows of the school of arts.

“We do want accountability from the professor. We would like him to apologize,” Scott said. “He thought that she didn’t belong in that room. Didn’t even give her the benefit of the doubt. Didn’t even speak to her. I think that was the most frustrating thing for her.”

Scott also wrote an article about the incident for RVA Magazine.

“Entitlement over spaces and who can be in them is an issue that America needs to address: because it’s not new, and it’s getting Black people killed,” she wrote.

The senior continued, “While it’s a more extreme version of these situations, the shooting of a Black man, Botham Jean, in his apartment in Dallas, Texas, is a perfect example of power and entitlement. If someone can have such a strong sense of ownership that they can claim someone else’s home as their own, then kill them, where are Black people safe?”

VCU eventually released an apology encouraging diversity and also updated its “diversity and inclusion” guidelines to include plans for a diversity task force.

“VCU and the School of the Arts value and celebrate diversity in all of its forms; support thoughtful, informed and inclusive action; and are committed to empowering community values in which individuals of different perspectives, life experiences, cultural backgrounds, and social identities feel safe and are welcomed,” the school wrote.

University president Michael Rao also addressed the incident.

“A recent incident between two faculty members in the VCU School of the Arts has caused us deep concern and reminds us of the work we have to do to live up to our core values related to diversity and inclusion,” Rao said in a statement. “Our university opened an inquiry into the incident, met with and provided support for those involved and now has concluded its inquiry.”

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