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Election activists are shown on the campus of Winston-Salem State University earlier this year. | Source: Garrett Garms

A student at a historically Black college (HBCU) in North Carolina was arrested on Tuesday in the middle of a class because she would not apologize to her “white professor” over an assignment for a final exam, the young woman said after she was released from police custody.

The student, identified on social media as Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) student Leilla Marie, was shown on a number of widely shared videos being handcuffed in a classroom and led out by campus police officers stemming from a disagreement with a professor that devolved into a yelling match before the cops were called.

“They’re definitely getting a lawsuit,” Marie told her Instagram followers while recording herself live.

Marie explained during the Instagram live that the professor — identified as Dr. Cynthia Villagomez, an assistant professor of history — told her “six hours before” a group project was set to be presented that the assignment had been completed incorrectly and needed revising.

Marie said she refused to comply with Villagomez and still came to class “frustrated” but ready to present with her group.

That’s when Villagomez said failure to revise the project would “greatly impact your grade,” Marie said.


The two began yelling at each other, Marie said, before Villagomez told her, “You need to get out.”

When Marie refused, Villagomez consulted with another professor.

That led to the police being called, Marie said.

A Black WSSU officer who is a “very well-known officer on our campus” and “actually pretty cool” was “doing his best not to arrest” her, Marie said, but the opposite happened when a white officer arrived.

Marie said she appealed to Villagomez to no avail.

“Either apologize or you need to leave,” Marie said Villagomez told her.

Marie said the only thing she was guilty of was using “the F-bomb,” something she said was not “worth an arrest.”

As the student and professor both refused to apologize to each other, the white officer instructed the Black officer to arrest Marie, she said.

Marie said she was told she was being arrested for “RDO,” which is tantamount to resisting arrest, and suffered minor injuries while she was in custody all “because I refused to apologize to my teacher.”

She was ultimately released from custody “with bruises and a 2nd degree misdemeanor,” Marie wrote on Instagram where her live video was posted.

Marie had some choice words for the university and said she was “heartbroken” by her experience, especially because it happened at an HBCU. She suggested that she would be not be coming back to the university.

“I will no longer be representing WSSU,” Marie said. “I can say that with a whole lot of confidence that I don’t feel like WSSU deserves my representation.”

Marie added later: “Y’all had me arrested for not apologizing to a white professor.”

Marie said she no longer feels “safe” on campus.

“I came here for a really different experience from the one I got” and “really 100% thought I would have gotten arrested at a PWI before getting arrested at my HBCU.”

Marie encouraged people to email the school to echo her complaints.

An email sent to WSSU for comment was not immediately returned. However, WSSU said in a tweet that it was aware of the videos and conducting an investigation.

Watch Marie’s speaking on Instagram below.

Villagomez later deleted her LinkedIn Page, but a screenshot was posted to social media.

Marie’s arrest was the second unflattering viral moment for an HBCU involving a non-Black professor in as many months.

Now-former history, political science, geography & Africana studies professor Robert Pickard resigned in disgrace from Tennessee State University last month after he was shown on a viral video aggressively screaming in the face of a Black student. The optics were damning as the white man standing up over a Black student shouted down in an educational setting that is specifically intended to be free of any intimidation factor, especially from white folks.

This is America.


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