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Coe Students Protest Lack of Diversity After Trustees Resign

November 22, 2021

Coe College students are calling on the Board of Trustees to better address diversity, equity and inclusion issues at the Iowa private college after two trustees resigned last month following a presidential search process that they said demonstrated the board’s lack of commitment to DEI.

The Student Senate held a protest Thursday afternoon where students, faculty members and other employees could show support for “bold DEI action,” according to a statement the Senate tweeted Thursday.

“We are at a historical and critical juncture at Coe College,” the Senate tweeted. “No longer can we afford to sit and wait for slow and incremental change. We invite faculty, students, staff, and all people to a nonviolent protest on Coe’s campus.”

Darryl Banks, a Black graduate of Coe who had served on the Board of Trustees for 40 years, resigned after the board selected David Hayes, who had been serving as interim president of the college, from among three finalists to be the next president, The Gazette reported.

“Over the past year as institutions across the country have grabbed this ‘urgency of now’ moment by aggressively addressing racial justice, diversity, and inclusion, I have become increasingly frustrated and concerned that diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within the Coe community have suffered from a lack of affirmative and aggressive focus and commitment by the board,” Banks wrote in his October resignation letter, obtained by The Gazette.

During an Oct. 1 board meeting, another trustee called Banks a “baldfaced liar” when Banks raised concerns about the search process and the board’s commitment to diversity, according to The Gazette. Alan Anderson, also a Coe graduate, who is white, resigned from the board in solidarity with Banks.

“This situation should have been addressed immediately by the Board at the meeting. It was not. This failure represents a need for the Board to assess its policies and procedures,” Carson Veach, chair of the board, said in a statement. “We regret and apologize for the mishandling of the situation that took place at that moment.”

The board has since implemented a new code of conduct. Veach also said that board members urged Banks not to resign, but he ultimately decided to do so.

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