Smith College Employee Who Called Police On Black Student Eating Lunch Is Placed On Leave

College Hall at Smith College in Northampton. (Creative Commons)
College Hall at Smith College in Northampton. (Creative Commons)

Smith College on Friday placed on leave an employee who called campus police to report a black undergraduate student who was eating lunch in a common area at the all-women's school.

The employee called police on Tuesday to report that someone "seems to be out of place" in a campus building.

The person was a student who is working on the Northampton campus this summer as a teaching assistant, and posted about the incident on Facebook.

The student wrote that it was outrageous she could not sit down and eat her lunch in peace.

She added: "All I did was be black."

On Friday the school released the transcript of the call to campus police:

July 31, 2018, 1:53 p.m.

Dispatch: Campus Police, recorded line.

Reporting Caller: 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 … umm … 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.

Dispatch: Can I have your last name please?

Reporting Caller: [REDACTED]

Dispatch: I’ll send someone over and check it out.

Reporting Caller: Alright. I’ll wait over here.

Unit Clears

Responding Officer: All clear. That was a student relaxing in the living room. They had lunch here. I guess and they decided to stay for a while.

Dispatch: Received.

Smith College's president, Kathleen McCartney, on Thursday apologized to the student and outlined a series of steps in response to the incident, including a third-party investigation. On Friday, the school said it's retained Sanghavi Law Office "to conduct a thorough, external investigation."

The employee who called police, and who has not been identified, will be on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

McCartney said "the painful incident reminds us of the ongoing legacy of racism and bias in which people of color are targeted while simply going about the business of their daily lives."


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Benjamin Swasey Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.



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