On Wednesday, July 20th, Campus Security stopped visiting professor Dr. sj Miller. Miller was en route to TU’s College of Law to continue teaching a one-week course for high school Advanced Placement teachers. University officials called the stop “a routine pedestrian check on private, university property.”
Miller was returning from an early-afternoon run on the campus track, carrying only a cell phone and a shirt, chest scars from sex reassignment surgery and tattoos clearly visible. While Miller was walking across the Newman Center parking lot, a Campus Security officer parked his car.
Miller thought nothing of it at first, saying “I had no reason to suspect I did anything.” The officer then asked Miller to stop walking. Miller says the officer would not respond when asked “Why are you stopping me?” Miller also mentions noticing that the officer “didn’t pull his gun, but he had a gun. I noticed that right away.”
The officer then asked for identification, which Miller didn’t have at the time, having left it behind before going on the run. After explaining this, Miller says that the officer called for backup “immediately; there was like no hesitation.” University officials mentioned the lack of ID, saying “Professor Miller had no identification but claimed his presence on campus should not have been questioned.”
Miller then says a second officer pulled up, asking for identification again. Miller explained the circumstances, giving the officers a list of credentials and the names of Summer Institute officials Campus Security could contact to verify that Miller is a visiting professor.
Miller described the officers as being “very rude” throughout the interaction, saying they “made me feel like I did something wrong.”
Another car showed up, and Miller was suddenly “the centerpiece of three cop cars.” Miller states that officers were still not responding to questions, which had escalated from “Why are you stopping me?” to “Are you profiling me because of my tattoos?”
Though Miller can’t be certain that tattoos or scars played a part in the interaction, Security kept Miller in the parking lot for fifteen minutes before one officer accompanied Miller to the AP teacher’s class, in which students verified that Miller was their professor, prompting the officer to leave. After the incident with Campus Security was over, Miller left the classroom in tears.
The next day, Miller says the incident “escalated immediately to the President’s office,” and a meeting was held between Miller, Summer Institute officials Jack Applegate and Frances Najera and Campus Security Director Joseph Timmons, among a few others. Notably absent, Miller mentions, were the four officers involved the day before.
Miller says Timmons asked for an account of what happened, but would also not answer Miller when asked about profiling and why officers felt a need to conduct a stop. Timmons went on to explain that TU is in a high-crime area, meaning that officers stop anyone they don’t know, and Security received a report of “a suspicious man holding a bag walking on private property.”
University officials echo this sentiment, stating that “campus security carries out several hundred pedestrian checks a year with zero prior complaints” and that “the university has offered its sincere regrets for any misunderstanding between Professor Miller and the officers involved.”
This was reiterated in a message that Associate VP of Human Resources & Risk Management Wayne Paulison sent to Miller, saying “pedestrian stops on campus are not an uncommon occurrence,” and that “[Miller’s] many inquiries have been received, considered, reviewed and evaluated by campus administration.”
Miller describes the University’s response as sounding like “We’re sorry this happened to Dr. Miller; we’re not sorry we did this.”
What strikes Miller the most about these statements and the meeting is that “not a single person has responded to apologize. Nobody.”
University officials, on the other hand, note that “the [Advanced Placement Summer Institute] program director [Najera] apologized to Professor Miller in writing following the incident.” Miller feels this isn’t adequate, saying “[Najera’s] the one that ran the institute; she’s not a University official.”
This interaction has left Miller feeling that Campus Security officers should participate in anti-prejudice training, saying that officers shouldn’t “presume guilt [based on appearances]. It’s as simple as that.”
University officials say that “officers undergo significant training upon hiring and continue various forms of training… throughout their employment at the university.” Officials also state that “TU also asks that all employees participate in human resources training that focuses on building a sense of community across our campus and includes sessions on fostering friendship, hope and a nurturing attitude.”
Miller, now working at New York University, says that, after sixteen years with the Summer Institute and two years at TU, “there’s no way I’m being re-invited [to Tulsa],” and that TU is “completely ignoring [the incident].”