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Students occupy Connecticut College buildings to pressure for president’s removal

Student messages of protest in chalk on a Conn College building.
Catja Christensen
Student messages of protest in chalk on a Connecticut College building.

Around 30 students at Connecticut College have locked themselves inside key buildings on the school’s campus in New London. They cite a disappointing meeting over the weekend with the school’s Board of Trustees over ongoing issues with their president and diversity on campus.

A student banner supporting Dean King who resigned over a proposed school fundraiser.
The College Voice
A student banner supporting Dean King who resigned over a proposed school fundraiser.

The protests are in response to a canceled school fundraiser at The Everglades Club in Florida several weeks ago. The school’s chief diversity officer resigned in protest because of allegations of racism and antisemitism at the club. Since then, students and faculty have called for the resignation of President Katherine Bergeron.

Lyndon Inglis, a spokesperson for Student Voices for Equity, a newly formed on-campus advocacy group, said their intent was to occupy three buildings that would effectively close the day-to-day business at the college.

Campus police prevented an estimated 70 students from entering buildings where confidential student records were kept. Students were able to enter “Fanning, being our administrative office where the president and members of her cabinet conduct their business,” Inglis said. He noted the group would try to lock themselves into other buildings throughout the week.

Over the weekend, Student Voices for Equity submitted to the Board of Trustees a list of demands for institutional, structural and social change. They were joined by other on-campus student advocacy groups dedicated to Jewish life, as well as Asian American, Black, Latinx, and disabled students.

Students attending a Board of Trustees meeting at Connecticut College.
Hannah Foley
Students attending a Board of Trustees meeting at Connecticut College.

The student groups pressured the board to start an immediate search for a new president. They also said the college needs to better support students of differing race, sex and gender by stabilizing the Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion, and also call for more resources for undocumented, disabled, and low-income students.

“[The meeting] focused more on how [the board] is doing their work and you have to trust that they’re acting in a way that will benefit the students,” said Sam Maidenberg, an editor of the student newspaper, The College Voice. “But I think there’s a lot of distrust between the students and the administration and the students and the Board of Trustees, because of how things have gone down in the last month.”

Students, staff and faculty had the opportunity to speak directly with members of the board to put forward their concerns, however the meeting was only available to the college community. A college spokesperson called the meeting “candid and constructive.”

Catja Christensen, editor at the student newspaper, The College Voice, said students questioned the board over the school’s use of an independent consulting firm.

“They did not reveal who the consultant is,” Christensen said. “We don’t know how much money is being spent on them. There really is no clarification on who this external consultant is.”

Faculty also want to see the school start a search for a new president, accusing Bergeron of bullying behavior.

The college spokesperson said, “the independent review of the workplace-related issues that have been raised will be completed shortly.”

“A huge value of the college is that the college itself always promotes shared governance,” Christensen said, “and among students, faculty, and staff, we don’t feel like shared governance is really happening as the administration wants us to trust the process — the board trustees want us to trust the process — but they’re not telling us what the process is.”

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.