Penn State Professor Arrested, Put On Paid Leave


The State College NAACP chapter’s press release and call to action regarding the Robert Wahl case. Posted on @psublackcaucus on Wednesday, Sept. 1

Rija Sabeeh(she/her), Features Editor

On Sept. 1, 2021, Penn State sociology and criminology professor, Robert Wahl, was charged with harassment and put on paid administrative leave following an altercation with a member of the university’s African studies program. Witnesses claim Wahl fled the scene immediately following the incident, wherein he pushed the victim several times amidst a shouting match, once to the floor. Police shortly found him thereafter. He was arrested on charges of harassment and simple assault, while the victim was found lying on the ground and taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center to be treated for several injuries.

The incident is said to have started due to a disagreement on masking, and though Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers denies any racial motivation, the local NAACP chapter of State College claims it to be yet another instance of Penn State’s “all-too-familiar pattern of sweeping race-related aggression under the rug,” as stated in their call to action posted on Instagram. In the post, the NAACP demands harsher charges for Wahl, in addition to being removed from paid leave and ultimately terminated from his position. 

The NAACP alleged that “had the roles been reversed, had the perpetrator been Black and the victim White, the charges would have been far more severe.” 

This is not the first time Penn State was scrutinized for a lack of racial sensitivity. In the past year, various different instances of racial bias have been disregarded. Be it Zoom bombings during meetings of minority associations, white supremacists strolling along campus freely, or direct, hateful incidents such as this one with Robert Wahl, it seems as though repercussions for aggressors tend to be light, if handed out in the first place.

This only serves to foster and propagate an environment of disregard for Penn State’s BIPOC students and faculty. In the last paragraph of the NAACP release, it is stated that the university’s response to Wahl “clearly represents yet another instance of systemic injustice based on race, and it clearly shows a far higher regard for the perpetrator than for the victim,” allegedly due to race.