College professor on leave after viral video shows her telling family ‘go back to your home country’
A Golden West College professor and counselor identified in a viral video telling a Long Beach couple to “go back to your home country” will be on leave the next two weeks, including from her online classes, as the Coast Community College District reviews how to proceed, the district said Tuesday.
Golden West, a community college in Huntington Beach, may release further information on its website, said district spokeswoman Letitia Clark.
The video was posted Thursday on Facebook by Tony Kao, who wrote that he and his wife and daughter “encountered a bigot and a racist today in our neighborhood in Long Beach” while taking a walk. It was posted in two segments — one 29 seconds long and the other 37 seconds.
The clip went viral over the weekend and commenters identified the woman involved in the clash as Tarin Olson, a professor and counselor at Golden West. As of Tuesday, the video had about 538,000 views.
“We’re very aware the community has deep concerns, and we’re not going to let this die,” Clark said Monday. “We’re looking at past interactions with students and staff to see if it relates to the comments made on the video.”
The video, which starts mid-conversation, briefly shows the woman’s face before she begins walking away from the couple once she realizes she’s being recorded.
“I want you to tell everybody why you told us to go back to our country,” Kao says in the video.
“You need to go back to your home country,” the woman replies as she keeps walking.
“And what does that mean?” Kao responds, telling her that he and his wife were born and raised in the United States.
“Have your wife turn your phone off and I’ll talk to you,” the woman says.
Kao wrote that the woman’s comments were “completely unprovoked.”
On Monday, Olson said in an email to the Daily Pilot that she was “not in a good place emotionally after receiving so many disgusting emails …. for something that wasn’t even racist and was then skewed by a guy named Tony who filmed me without my permission.”
Olson said that in a part of the video that was not posted online, Kao asked her why she “hated him so much.” She responded that she didn’t hate him, she said.
Kao could not be reached for comment this week.
On Sunday, Olson told KCBS-TV/2 that her students know she is not a racist.
“I feel my perspective will be twisted if discussing the skewed video which cut out part of the incident,” she said in a statement to the station. “If you would like to have a full normal interview about the displacement of European Americans, then I gladly am available to enlighten the public.”
Olson has a score of 4.3 out of 5 on the website RateMyProfessor.com, which enables college students to review and rate their instructors. She has been employed with Golden West College since 1991, according to Clark.
Golden West officials issued a statement Saturday on Facebook and Twitter:
“It has recently come to our attention that there was a video posted on Facebook of a GWC faculty member making comments that the college does not condone or support. Golden West College believes in an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students.”
Clark said Monday that all faculty members are expected to adhere to a code of conduct for employees that lists ethical principles for them to follow. Among them is a policy requiring employees to “avoid conduct which is in violation of the public trust or which creates a justifiable impression among the community that such trust is being violated,” according to a district statement Monday evening.
Because the incident occurred off campus, the district is looking at its internal policies to decide the best action, Clark said.
Because this is a personnel matter, additional details will be limited as the review continues, Clark said.
In a Facebook post Sunday, Kao thanked people for offering positive messages to his family but asked them to not use his earlier post as a reason to spread hatred.
“We have no intention of seeking out or besmirching the offender’s personal life or career,” Kao wrote. “It is our hope the offender is aware and apologetic for what she has said to us, but all we can do is hope.”
Vega writes for the Daily Pilot.
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