Kenan Christon, his lawyer and supporters held a press conference outside of Galen Center Tuesday morning to address grievances against USC and its office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards (SJACS).
Christon, his mother Persephonie Christon, civil rights activist Najee Ali and his lawyer Anton Diffenderfer all spoke. All acknowledged Christon’s mistake starting the altercation, but claimed the judgment was overly punitive in part due to Christon’s race.
Persephonie Christon spoke about her son first at the press conference. She fought back tears saying, " He made a mistake, he did something that him and the other student were absolutely sorry for, they apologized to each other.”
She continued saying, “we’re confused why Andrew Barton would give this type of recommendation for a punishment. It’s 18 months for something the police department didn’t even take the time to deal with.”
The altercation occurred on Sept. 5 with an unnamed student at USC. The student, who was a high school classmate of Christon’s girlfriend, responded to a post of hers on social media. This caused Christon to message the student and ask him to cease commenting on his girlfriend’s posts, after which the conversation escalated. Shortly thereafter Christon coincidentally came face-to-face with the student and a physical altercation ensued.
While no charges were filed by the authorities, the SJACS office found seven violations of the student code of conduct and suspended Christon until Dec. 14, 2022.
Christon’s appeal of the suspension articulates concerns with the investigation done by Andrew Barton, the judicial officer who found Christon responsible for the violations. There is no timeframe for the appeal, according to Diffenderfer.
Christon’s camp pointed out what they described as a lack of thoroughness from the investigator. They felt Barton did not: interview all the relevant witnesses, view the videos taken by the other student, properly represent their conversations, ask relevant questions to those he did interview, back up claims of trespassing against Christon or outline his evidence gathering initiatives.
Persephonie Christon ended her speech stating they just wanted people to know what was going on and that her son is not deserving of the punishment he is receiving.
Ali— a civil rights activist— spoke next, “calling upon USC to reinstate Kenan, that way he can continue with his life and being a member of the Trojan family.”
Ali likened him to Munir McClain, a former Trojan football player who transferred schools after a federal investigation into unemployment benefits. Ali also held a press conference for McClain outside of the Galen Center last fall.
Ali stressed that he had been here “a few months ago unfortunately with Munir McClain, another USC football player who was punished unfortunately and had to transfer, we don’t want that in this situation.”
Ali felt both had not been treated fairly by the University, and warned it could become harder to recruit black players if this continues.
Ali was followed by Christon himself speaking on his own behalf.
Christon began his statement by apologizing for being involved in the altercation. But like the speakers before him, he focused on the fact the punishment was an overreach.
“It seems like this has just stopped my future, Christon said. “It doesn’t seem fair, it doesn’t seem like this is about who’s right and who’s wrong. I feel like because I am a person of color and I did a wrong, it’s being held against me.”
Ali supported Christon’s statement adding that, “we’re seeing black student athletes punished very harshly and very severely, but the white students have no punishment whatsoever.”
Ali called on USC to revamp their disciplinary system and questioned how many people of color are in the room when suspensions are given.
This point was expanded on by Diffenderfer when he came to the podium to address questions after Christon spoke.
Diffenderfer, when asked, stated that no punishment had been dealt to the other student involved in the investigation and that USC has not provided the reasoning for the discrepancies in punishment.
Christon and his family now wait an indeterminate amount of time in the appeals process before making their next decisions.