Arrested faculty member ends hunger strike after 46 hours

Rouhollah Aghasaleh found a quite place in Nelson Hall to practice his religion, Sufism. Aghasaleh was the only faculty memeber arrested with protesters on the final night of the ocupation. | Photo by Peyton

All reporting was done prior to the print date 5/3/24.

Rouhollah Aghasaleh is an assistant professor in the Department of Education and affiliated faculty in the Department of Critical Race Gender and Sexuality Studies. Aghasaleh completed an undergraduate and master’s at the University of Tehran, a doctorate at the University of Georgia, and a post-doctorate at Georgia State University. Aghasaleh has worked at Cal Poly Humboldt since 2020. They participated in the protest not as an organizer but as faculty members concerned for the safety of their students.

Aghasaleh, who has been an activist since high school, said that although there is violence against protesters there, Iran has established laws that prevent police from entering universities. To Aghasaleh, the concept of a University Police force makes little sense. “Academia is a safe place in that country, so for me, this is still strange. I haven’t been able to digest this thing. I don’t think this is a good practice,” said Aghasaleh.

Aghasaleh said that in their role as a standing member of the University Senate, they work closely with Jenn Capps and other admin and know her and other admin on a personal level.

“All of these meetings she could have just sat in her home just like the president and the chief of staff… She shows up here and she listens. This was a very civil meeting,” said Aghasaleh in regard to Jenn Capps’ presence at the protest.

Aghasaleh clarified that admin is not a homogenous group and advocates for investigation on who is responsible for allowing law enforcement to arrest the protesters. Aghasaleh said they were amazed when the students offered to clean up after the protest. This was not able to happen in the eventual fallout of the protest.

“They analyze multi-dimensional oppression, that every injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere. So they understand that genocide in Philistine is not disconnected to oppression of working class in this country,” said Aghasaleh.

Arrested faculty member ends hunger strike after 46 hours Aghasaleh walked around the quad on the third night to keep watch, sort the donation-based snack table, and talk with students.

“I have this thing with myself, that when I die, I have enough time to rest. So as long as I’m alive I should be helpful,” said Aghasaleh.

Aghasaleh’s research is on the topic of embodiment in teaching and learning. To Aghasaleh, a protest where students occupy a space to make a demand is a perfect example of that research in action.

“This is very different from writing an article, or doing a speech, or doing a march. I commend these folks for leading this, and for taking risk,” said Aghasaleh.

The day after the protest Aghaseleh was put on suspension and is not allowed on campus or permitted to teach their classes.

On the final day of the protest, the University told the campus that termination would be a possible outcome should they remain in the quad. Aghaseleh has not been fired from Cal Poly Humboldt as of 1 p.m. May 2.

“I have nothing to lose. I am a refugee. I came to this country 12 years ago with four luggages, if they arrest me and they deport me I leave with two luggages. That’s fine, earth is too big. I can land somewhere else,” said Aghasaleh. They clarified that they fled to the United States after being persecuted as a human rights activist in Iran.

Aghasaleh was the only faculty member arrested early Tuesday morning during the police intervention with protesters. Aghasaleh was bailed out and released to a cheering crowd of supporters. After being released they committed to a hunger strike which lasted from the time of arrest and until 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Oriental Buffet in Valley West with colleges and students filing multiple tables.

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