Smith College says it will be conducting an investigation after a school employee called campus police on a black student who was eating lunch in a campus building.
A woman who identified herself as the student, Oumou Kanoute, wrote on Facebook that she was eating her lunch on Tuesday in a common room — on a break from her summer campus job as a teaching assistant and residential advisor — when she was approached by a police officer.
A college employee had reported that someone who “seemed to be out of place” was in the building that was also in use by the college’s summer programs, Smith College later said in a statement.
The college added that there was “nothing suspicious about the student’s presence.”
Kanoute shared two short videos of her interaction with the campus officer, explaining to him that she was a student.
The officer apologized to her, she said.
“I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t making any noise or bothering anyone,” the rising sophomore wrote on Facebook. “All I did was be black. It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a woman of color. I was very nervous, and had a complete meltdown after this incident. It’s just wrong and uncalled for. No student of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions. I worked my hardest to get into Smith, and I deserve to feel safe on my campus.”
Kanoute said in another post that she wants to know the name of the person who called the police so “they can confront and acknowledge the harm done to me as a student.”
A similar incident occurred at Yale University in May when a white student called the police on a black graduate student who was taking a nap in her dorm’s common room.
Smith said that under the college’s policy, any police records that are released must have the names of people involved redacted.
“This policy recognizes the potentially adverse consequences of releasing identifying information, especially in those cases where doing so may discourage the use of this critical safety resource,” the college wrote.
In its statement, Smith said the incident “has raised concerns” in the school community about “bias and equity.” According to the college, students of color make up 32.4 percent of the undergraduate student body. College officials have reached out to Kanoute, according to the statement, and an investigation will be conducted into the incident with the employee who made the call, human resources, and campus police.
“Smith College does not tolerate race- or gender-based discrimination in any form,” the school wrote. ”Such behavior can contribute to a climate of fear, hostility and exclusion that has no place in our community.”
Read the full statement from the school below: