Aaron Wall, Student Services Coordinator
Sacramento State leaders have denounced an incident of apparent antisemitism earlier this year at the university’s radio station, while also apologizing for the “failed” process used by students to report the actions.
Three students allege that in February, KSSU radio station student services coordinator Aaron Wall performed a Nazi salute. At the time, the students were recording an episode for their ongoing art history podcast. That week’s episode centered on World War II and antisemitism. Wall, who was assigned to the project as a sound engineer, reportedly made the gesture as Sacramento State senior Anya Thompson referenced Adolf Hitler. The State Hornet, Sacramento State’s student newspaper, first reported the incident on Thursday.
In unaired audio from the podcast, Wall can be heard saying, “Sorry, my bad. I shouldn’t have done that,” a few seconds after Thompson’s reference. Wall did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “We just sat there stunned,” said Thompson, who is Jewish and a studio art and art painting major. Thompson described what followed as a “jumbled mess.”
The students filed a complaint through the university’s reporting process, with the goal of being assigned a new sound engineer. Thompson and her co-host Madeline Madrid said there was no option to select for antisemitism or discrimination against an ethnic or religious group. They were assigned a bias report officer who conducted interviews on the incident. In the weeks that followed, Thompson said they could not come to a resolution. In response to their request for a new sound engineer, the students were told that option was “unrealistic.”
“We don’t want (Wall) fired,” Thompson said. “We don’t want anything bad to happen. We just don’t want to work with him.” Nearly six weeks after the incident, and a day after the State Hornet story, school leadership responded to the gesture in a video statement by the university’s president, Robert Nelsen, and Associated Students, Inc. president Salma Pacheco. “That is not something that should happen in our campus,” Nelsen said in the video, released Friday afternoon. “It should not happen in this city. It should not happen anywhere. We will make sure it never happens again.”
Nelsen also said the university will fix the reporting process and “already knows what went wrong” with the students’ attempt to report Wall’s gesture. “To our students, you did everything right,” Pacheco said. “You went through the process. You filed a bias report. You did everything right and I am so sorry the process failed you.” Since Friday’s video statement, Thompson said conversations have improved. The students were recently told they can use a separate recording studio. Thompson hopes they will soon be assigned another sound engineer.
Brian Blomster, director of news and communications at Sacramento State, said Wall’s employment is being handled through the human resources department.