Cynthia Villagomez is the Winston-Salem State University professor who is seen in a viral TikTok and Instagram video that shows student Leila Hamoud being arrested in December 2022 by campus police after a disagreement over an assignment.
Winston-Salem State University is a historically Black college. Hamoud, the student, was arrested in the classroom and accused of disorderly conduct, according to CNN. The video was posted to TikTok by @okayybriaa.
WSSU languages department professor Cynthia Villagomez currently has a 2.3 rating on Rate my Professor, although many of the reviews were left after the incident blew up on social media on December 16, 2022.
“We understand that the weaponization of police is a prevalent problem in our community; however, that is not what happened in this incident,” Chancellor Elwood Robinson wrote in a letter to the campus community.
“We strive for a safe, inclusive, thriving, and intellectual community where all our faculty, staff, and students feel respected and supported. To that end, we will take swift and appropriate measures against any situation that contradicts those ideals.”
Here’s what you need to know about the viral video incident involving WSSU professor Cynthia Villagomez and student Leila Hamoud:
1. The Viral Video Showed the Student, Leila Hamoud, Being Handcuffed by Police Inside a Classroom
A post shared by The Shade Room (@theshaderoom)
The video shows the student being handcuffed as the student cries and yells at Villagomez, “I hate you, I hate you. I swear to God, I hate you.”
Hamoud continued: “You’re the worst teacher ever. You get me taken out in handcuffs because I won’t apologize? Because I won’t apologize, you started yelling at me. You tried to embarrass me about my paper.”
The Shade Room, which posted the video to Instagram, wrote, “Leila says she was taken out of the classroom for not apologizing after raising her voice at Dr.V, who yelled at her first. Also, in the video, many students came to Leila’s defense, calling and calling out Dr.V, for escalating the situation.”
Leila Hamoud later recorded her own videos explaining her side of the story.
In that video, Hamoud says the class had a group final in which they had to write a paper and skit. Six hours before the presentation, she alleges that Villagomez told her the paper was “completely wrong.”
Hamoud said she told Villagomez, “I said, ‘I’m not going back and redoing this essay.'” She still came to the final to present with her group. Hamoud says she didn’t say anything to Villagomez at first, but the instructor started “getting loud” and saying it was her class and the paper was wrong.
Hamoud said she got “loud back.” The professor then told her to “get out and leave,” she says, but Hamoud refused, saying, “I’m not going to leave…I refused.”
At that point, she said that Villagomez grew upset and started “talking to another teacher in the hallway. That’s when they decided to call the police.”
She said it hurt to be “provoked by people not from Black descent,” especially at a historically Black college.
She said a white and Black officer showed up, and the white officer said “he was going to have to take me out” of the classroom.
2. Cynthia Villagomez Rate my Professor Comments Contain Negative Remarks
On Rate my Professor, Cynthia Villagomez has a 2.3 rating out of 5.
At least 317 people had rated her “awful,” although most of this is in reaction to the viral video. People wrote comments like, “Horrible Professor. Yells at students and expects adults to not yell back. Arrested a student for yelling back.”
Another person wrote: “Saw a video on tiktok of her arresting a student for not apologizing. If the professor does not get fired, the best way for her to lose any type of career in teaching is to make sure nobody signs up for her classes ever again. If you have her as a professor for next year, change out of her class. No students, no class, no money.”
The university spokeswoman told WXII 12 News it was not Villagomez who called police on Hamoud. It was another staff member who heard the commotion.
3. The University Spokeswoman Said the Incident Erupted Over a ‘Disagreement’ Regarding an Assignment
Haley Gingles, chief marketing and communications officer with WSSU, gave additional details to WXII 12 News.
Gingles told the television station that a “disagreement” over an assignment occurred between the student and professor relating to a final exam around 8:30 a.m.
Police were called by another university employee who overheard the disagreement, according to Gingles. It was not Villagomez who called the campus police.
She told journalist Louis Tran, “Once campus police are on the scene per our university policy and per police and public safety policy, their first and primary role is to make sure everyone is safe that’s involved in the incident. That is what they did.”
Gingles added: “They wanted to assess the situation, see what was going on and then provide a positive resolution if necessary and then if not, they are required by their policies to then take the necessary procedures. They made the call to arrest the student and have them escorted off of campus.”
The university is still reviewing the incident, she told Tran.
Gingles told CNN that any discipline agaisnt the student “will be under review at a later time.”
Of the professor, she said, “She is very emotional and shaken by all of this. There have been several threats to her safety, which of course are cause for alarm.”
4. The Chancellor Says There Was a ‘Significant Commotion in Carolina Hall’ & an Employee Called Police After trying to ‘De-Escalate the Situation’
The chancellor, Elwood Robinson, wrote a lengthy letter about the video and incident to the campus community.
“As many of you know, there was an incident this morning involving a student and a faculty member that has escalated on social media. We now have more information regarding the event and want to share some key information with our campus community,” it reads.
The letter continues:
Regarding the incident, the university has a process we must follow when there is a reported disturbance anywhere on campus. We received a report that there was a significant commotion in Carolina Hall this morning, and as such, a WSSU employee nearby called for the assistance of law enforcement after they tried to de-escalate the situation.
In accordance with law enforcement procedures, our officer’s first priority is to assess the situation and provide every opportunity for a positive resolution. As situations escalate, their responsibility is to ensure the safety of the students, faculty, and staff members that are present.
We understand that the weaponization of police is a prevalent problem in our community; however, that is not what happened in this incident. We strive for a safe, inclusive, thriving, and intellectual community where all our faculty, staff, and students feel respected and supported. To that end, we will take swift and appropriate measures against any situation that contradicts those ideals.
We know this situation has caused a great deal of trauma to those involved and our campus community at large, but please know that every available resource is being extended to bring a resolution.
We have coordinated several university departments in response to today’s incident, including the Office of the Chancellor, the Dean of Students, the dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, Business, and Education, and Police and Public Safety.
Our staff is working diligently to ensure all resources are available, all processes are followed, and all grievances are addressed. While we would like to share all the details we have, under privacy laws (FERPA, personnel records) and to protect the process integrity, all information cannot be shared publicly.
We know you want immediate answers; however, the speed of our processes does not match the speed of social media. Ultimately, we are committed to ensuring due diligence and fairness. We do ask for your patience as we must take the necessary time to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
We greatly appreciate those of you that have reached out to express your advocacy and care for the university. Please be assured that we hear you and welcome all perspectives.
As with any incident on campus, personal support resources are available.
5. Villagomez Teaches About Middle Eastern History at WSSU
On LinkedIn, Villagomez describes herself as an assistant professor at Winston-Salem State University.
She was previously an associate professor and History Department program director for eight years at WSSU.
In 2021, the university announced that Villagomez had obtained a grant. “Winston-Salem State University has been awarded a $500.00 mini-grant from the American Historical Association led by Dr. Cynthia Villagomez, History Academic Coordinator, History, Politics and Social Justice,” the announcement read.
Villagomez has been listed with these specialties by the university: “The Middle East in Global Perspective. Promoting Inter-Cultural Communication through Knowledge of Current Affairs: To provide increased understanding on what is happening in the Middle East.”