Charmaine Lawson travels to CSU campuses with SQE and CFA
It has been 18 months since the death of Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson. His murderer still walks free and case remains open.
Charmaine Lawson, Josiah Lawson’s mother, spoke at Sacramento State on Oct. 15 on a panel with Justice for Josiah committee member Jill Larrabee, and Courtney Wagner, the director and editor of “Unsolved Hate,” a documentary of Josiah Lawson’s murder.
Sacramento State was one of many campus stops for Charmaine Lawson during “Week of Action,” an event put together by Students for Quality Education to remember Josiah and discuss safety and the CSU’s accountability of Josiah Lawson’s murder.
Twenty-one of the 23 California State University campuses participated in “Week of Action.” Lawson was invited to CSU San Francisco, Sacramento, Pomona and Fullerton.
“I never thought I’d be sitting here right now,” Charmaine Lawson said, “We have gotten so much attention because of students.”
Charmaine Lawson has also gained support of the California Faculty Administration. Charmaine Lawson said CFA has been amazing in the effort to hold the CSU accountable for Josiah Lawson’s murder and to better protect students.
Charmaine Lawson said that the CFA is helping by making postcards for people to sign, asking Humboldt County DA Maggie Fleming to excuse herself from the case.
“CFA has been instrumental in their action plan and their resources,” Charmaine Lawson said.
Charmaine Lawson told the crowd of CSU faculty, students and parents that she has had resistance from city officials, law enforcement and HSU administration since the beginning of the case.
For months, when the case was being first investigated, Charmaine Lawson said Lt. Todd Dokweiler told her she could only speak with police chief Tom Chapman. Charmaine Lawson said that Chapman was telling her false information and has since resigned from the police force.
“Chapman lied by saying San Jose and Eureka were helping with the case, but none of that was true,” Charmaine Lawson said.
Charmaine Lawson said Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer, defended Chapman when she confronted her about Chapman’s lies.
“She defended the presence of the city instead of exposing the city for what it really stands for,” Charmaine Lawson said. She said Diemer needs to go next.
When she tried to contact HSU President Lisa Rossbacher about her son’s murder, Charmaine Lawson said she never got a response. She said she called her twice and has yet to get a call back. Rossbacher’s resignation as HSU’s president is effective June 30, 2019.
“Lisa Rossbacher hasn’t even called me to offer her condolences,” Charmaine Lawson said.
Sacramento State CFA president Margarita Berta-Avila said one of the problems with the CSU system is recruiting potential students of color without informing them all the details of their possible future environment. The details that aren’t shared include the amount of students of color admitted and how isolated the area may be. Berta-Avila said there should be institutional policy guaranteeing new students will graduate and be safe.
“It shouldn’t be when someone is killed that change occurs,” Berta-Avila said.
Berta-Avila said the CFA got involved when Charmaine Lawson met with CSU Chancellor Timothy White. Berta-Avila said that when Charmaine Lawson stood in front of CSU administration to speak of her son’s murder, a police officer walked behind her and put his hand on his gun. Berta-Avila said that was the moment when CFA had to pursue action.
“The violation doesn’t stop — it continues off campus,” Berta-Avila said.
Jorge Quintana, a leader of Students for Quality Education at Sacramento State, said there is a difference between recruiting and having available space. Quintana said CSUs don’t hold safe spaces for students of color. Quintana said moving forward means addressing the shortcomings of the university regarding safety and to make sure protocol is followed.
“It is CSU’s responsibility to keep us safe,” Quintana said.
Quintana said if the HSU president didn’t call Lawson and CSU hasn’t done anything to help, then this is clearly an issue for students of color. Quintana said CSU hands are tied now that a student has died. Quintana said this is when educating students is needed.
“Whats most important is to remember Josiah,” Quintana said.
Quintana said CSU only cares when students are only doing good, but once they’re off campus or even struggling they stop caring. He said they have a choice on who gets admitted and who stays, but don’t have a choice of being students of color.
“Systemic racism and micro aggressions are happening all over CSU campuses,” Quintana said, “There are more police officers than counselors.”
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