Students lock themselves in buildings to protest college’s diversity scandal

Tension ran high at Connecticut College this week as students locked themselves inside campus buildings over several race-related issues, including the Dean of Diversity, who abruptly resigned in February after the school planned a fundraising trip to a social club with an alleged history of discrimination .

On Wednesday, hundreds of staff and students gathered outside Fanning Hall, where the President’s office is located, to cheer on the occupiers and call for President Katherine Bergeron’s ouster.

The diversity scandal came to a head after the school planned a Feb. 8 fundraiser trip to the Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Fla., which students and former Dean of Institutional Justice and Inclusion Rodmon King accused of having a racist and anti-Semitic past have. According to the editors of the student newspaper The College Voice, when the club opened in 1919 it reportedly had a pattern of excluding blacks and Jews from membership.

“We don’t want to accept donations from people who are racist or anti-Semitic,” Leila Merhi, a student at Connecticut Public Radio, told Connecticut Public Radio.

The College Voice claimed that Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron was aware of the Everglades Club’s shady history and yet chose to hold a fundraiser there. The event was eventually canceled on February 6.

“Full participation is a core value at Conn, which is why I regret our decision to plan an event in a location whose history and reputation suggest otherwise,” Bergeron wrote in a letter to the college community two days after the cancellation , The College Voice reported. “We made this decision believing that our values ​​are clear. But the decision to continue felt different and we now realize we were wrong.”

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On February 7, Bergeron announced that King, a black man, had resigned from his position, but gave no explanation as to why he left.

“Over the past year, I have witnessed President Bergeron yelling at, slurring, cajoling and silencing my colleagues during cabinet meetings,” King wrote in a same-day letter to the chair and vice chair of the Connecticut College Board of Trustees, who the day “These bullying behaviors are clearly violations of the basic respect that should be shown to every professional. …This has led to a toxic administrative culture of fear and intimidation. People try to avoid triggering [Bergeron’s] Anger and this affects their ability to do their job.”

Students believe King was not the only faculty member of color to have been bullied by school officials, and following his resignation, they continued to voice their frustration to the school administration and enlisted the support of over 120 faculty members, who signed a letter stating the need for a Change is expressed, the local outlet WTNH reported.

Nearly a week after King left on Feb. 12, the school’s board of trustees released a letter to the community about his “sudden resignation.”

“Like President Bergeron, we recognize that the quorum’s decision to schedule a fundraising event in a location that has been associated with discriminatory policies and practices was a mistake that was inconsistent with our quorum’s commitment to justice and inclusion was compatible, which is why the event was canceled,” wrote the board. “Nevertheless, the planning of the event sent an unintended message that caused disappointment, dismay and confusion in our community.”

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The Board of Trustees vowed to take diversity efforts seriously and accepted “the call to be much more effective in ensuring that all members of our community experience, not just hear about, this commitment.”

But it wasn’t enough. On February 23, Student Voices for Equity, a group formed after King’s departure, started an online petition demanding Bergeron’s resignation, transparency in the search for a new college president, more diversity initiatives and offices, demanded more blacks in the school. more readily available resources for students from marginalized communities; and greater support for diverse ethnic study programs.

The Board of Trustees attempted to calm the burgeoning storm by holding meetings with students and faculty members on Feb. 24 about the lack of diversity initiatives, The College Voice reported. The students began their building takeover the following week.

According to The College Voice, dozens of students locked themselves in several campus buildings late Sunday night, hung signs over windows calling for change, and crowded college streets. Some professors canceled classes. Demonstrations continued Tuesday and Wednesday and could last up to five days, The Day reported.

“Many students have come to realize following the resignation of our former Dean of Institutional, Equity and Inclusion that we simply can no longer stand for the tokenization, bullying and blatant racism that President Bergeron and his leadership had [an] Impact on our Connecticut college community,” Lyndon Inglis, a member of Student Voices for Equity, told the Connecticut Mirror.

Connecticut College graduate David Collins wrote in an essay for The Day that it is bad looks for a school president “who is accused of bullying and ignoring collegiate diversity issues, refusing to speak in public to emerge and address the growing crisis as both students and faculty are calling for leadership changes”.

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Bergeron responded to demands from Student Voices for Equity on Wednesday morning. She claimed finances were being reviewed to find funding for diversity programs, but she did not comment on student and faculty calls after her resignation.

The students continued to protest until the afternoon.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Vice President of Marketing and Communications John Cramer said the rest of the college community is functioning normally, “with some academic and administrative units working remotely this week.”

“The university leadership supports the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest and will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with students, faculty and staff as we address the important concerns they have raised,” he said.

King did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday.