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Police Called on Black Student Eating Lunch

August 3, 2018
 
 

An employee at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., called campus police on a black graduate student because the employee thought the student looked “out of place,” MassLive reported.

Oumou Kanoute was reading and eating her lunch in a campus common space when an officer approached her and asked why she was there.

“I was eating lunch,” she told the officer. “I’m working the summer program, so I was just relaxing on the couch.”

Kanoute posted videos from the encounter on her Facebook page.

“I did nothing wrong, I wasn't making any noise or bothering anyone,” she wrote alongside the videos. “All I did was be black. It's outrageous that some people question my being at Smith Collge [sic], and my existence overall as a women [sic] of color.”

In a statement, Amy Hunter, interim director of inclusion, diversity and equity, wrote that the officer "found nothing suspicious about the student's presence."

In a separate Facebook post, Kanoute asked the college to release the name of the employee who called the police so Kanoute could "confront and acknowledge the harm done to me as s [sic] student." The college addressed the request in an update to their earlier statement.

"Under college policy, any campus police records that are released must redact the names of parties involved," Hunter wrote. "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."

This is hardly the first time police have been called on students of color who were minding their own business. In May, Yale campus police were called on a black graduate student who was napping, and that same month Colorado State University police responded to a complaint that two Native American students on an admissions tour "really stand out."

Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, issued an additional statement later Thursday afternoon. She said that faculty and staff would receive mandatory antibias training beginning this fall and that campus police would "strengthen the protocols by which they triage, assess and respond to calls for assistance."

The college's full response to the incident can be found here.

Kanoute could not be reached for comment.

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