Black student claims white staffer called cops on her for reading

05 Août, 2018, 12:44 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • CREDIT Justin Sullivan  Getty Images

A black student at Smith College says she was minding her own business and eating lunch in a common room at Smith College when an as-yet-unidentified staff member at the college called the police, sending an officer to check on her because she seemed "suspicious".

Oumuo Kanoute, the student, is working as a residential advisor and teaching assistant for the summer. "When we fall short of our responsibility to support our students, it is a particularly hard moment for all of us". Today someone felt the need to call...

Smith College, which has acknowledged an incident that matches Kanoute's description of what happened but has not named the student, on Friday put the employee who placed the call to campus police on leave pending the outcome of an external investigation, according to an online statement.

"No students of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions", Kanoute wrote.

She added: "All I did was be black". All I did was be black. In audio snippets that she posted on Facebook, she speaks cordially to the officer.

The student did not respond to a request for comment.

The post has received more than 500 shares as of Thursday morning.

Smith, with about 2,500 undergraduates, ranks among the top liberal arts colleges in the country. "Smith College routinely outsources their summer security to the Northampton Police Department, so it was particularly traumatizing to realize that someone with a lethal weapon, and the full authority of the state of MA might have been called to respond to the incident", said Kanoute.

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But being a black woman at Smith can be a challenge, said Gelonnie Smith, the former co-president of the college's Black Students' Alliance.

Smith's administration says privacy laws prevent them from releasing the name, so Kanoute has turned to social media with a plea for help.

The private college in Northampton, Massachusetts, is one of the nation's oldest and largest women's colleges.

A survey released a year ago noted that many students complained about "incidences of injustice" associated with ethnic identity and race, according to the school's newspaper, The Sophian. She noted that the officer who spoke to Kanoute "found nothing suspicious about the student's presence". "I don't see anybody in the building at this point and uh I don't know what he's doing in there just laying on the couch".

A department chair at the time, Dennis Miehls, wrote that the school had admitted students who "do not have a reasonable chance of success in our program".

Amy Hunter, the college's interim director of diversity and inclusion, sent out a message to students decrying the employee's decision to call the police on a student for eating lunch.

Smith will also work with the campus police to improve protocols for assessing and responding to calls for assistance, McCartney said.

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