Smith College suspends employee who called security on Black student who ‘seemed to be out of place’
Smith College was hit by a wave of criticism following multiple reports that an employee called the police on a black student who was eating lunch in a common area because she “seemed to be out of place” reports the NY Daily News.
Now, that employee has been suspended and the college has enlisted an outside investigator to review the disturbing incident.
As previously reported by The Grio, student Oumou Kanoute had just finished eating lunch on July 31 when she decided to kick back on a sofa and do some reading. But she was startled a short time later by a campus police officer who approached her to ask what she was doing.
“Why are you here,” the officer can be heard on a cell phone recording that Kanoute took.
“I’m in a summer program. I’m eating lunch,” she said.
Kanoute, a sophomore who also works as a summer teaching assistant at the college, said the incident made her “nervous” and she took to Facebook to share the distressing encounter.
“No student of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions,” she wrote. “I worked my hardest to get into Smith, and I deserve to feel safe on my campus.”
Smith College has retained the Sanghavi Law Office to conduct “a thorough, external investigation.” Administrators have also confirmed that the employee who racially profiled Kanoute has been suspended.
Additionally, the college has released a transcript of the call to campus police.
“I was just walking through here in the front foyer of [REDACTED] and we have a person sitting there laying down in the living room area over here. I didn’t approach her or anything but um he seems to be out of place,” the caller said. “I didn’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.”
According to the New York Daily News, Smith College president Kathleen McCartney apologized to Kanoute and ordered anti-bias training for all employees.
The name of the employee has not yet been released.