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Faculty join student protests to pressure Connecticut College president to resign

Conn College staff at the faculty rally in support of students
Brian Scott-Smith
Connecticut College staff at the faculty rally in support of students

Connecticut College faculty rallied in support Wednesday of students who have called for the removal of President Katherine Bergeron.

Faculty, including sociology professor Afshan Jafar, accuse Bergeron of bullying behavior towards faculty and staff.

“Our labor exploited being asked to do more with less, while the administration just does less. The Board would have us believe our concerns are new and shocking but we know better. We know what these nine years have been like and so now we say enough. Nine years is long enough.”

Around 30 students have locked themselves into key buildings on the campus since Monday, after what they called ‘disappointing’ meetings with the school's Board of Trustees last weekend. Another 300 students are estimated to have joined faculty at Wednesday’s rally.

More students took their protest off campus, waving placards and banners in front of the main entrance to the school.

These are part of larger protests after the school’s chief diversity officer resigned in protest almost a month ago over a canceled school fundraiser at a Florida club that faces allegations of racism and antisemitism.

Theatre Professor Virginia Anderson told the crowd what was happening now will be remembered. “History has its eyes on you. And trustees, if you are watching, if you are listening, history has its eyes on you with what we have passively accepted,” Anderson said. “No more. No more.”

The Board of Trustees has employed an independent consulting firm to explore the alleged bullying behavior and financing of the college’s Department of Institutional Equity and Inclusion. The board released a second school-wide letter on Feb. 27, saying they learned a lot from their meetings with staff, students and faculty and have a duty to reflect upon what they have heard before taking action.

However, the board and the school have refused to identify the consulting firm they are using, or provide a timeline for their investigation, which has added to comments about the school’s lack of transparency in how they communicate.

In addition, a college theater production of the Sondheim musical “Into The Woods” scheduled for March 3-5 has been canceled by student cast and crew at the last minute in support of the protests.

Bergeron responded by sending an email urging the students to consider finding other ways to support each other without canceling the production.

"I am proud of the Conn students, staff, and faculty for demanding change," said Rodmon King, who resigned from the school and has already started a new job as assistant dean of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at University of Massachusetts this week. "I believe that it is vital that they sustain their activism through and beyond Spring Break."

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.