Letter to the Editor 3/5/15 – SLD

Last Thursday, students disrupted a Trustee dinner and confronted the college about the racist termination of Kemar Williams, a Vassar security guard. We demanded that the Trustees show accountability to the community by reinstating Kemar, who was fired in retaliation for speaking up against the racism he was experiencing in his workplace. After deliberating with “members of the senior administration of the college,” the Trustees issued a response, claiming that Kemar’s “termination was based on performance issues only” and that “the administration acted…without bias of any kind.” Kemar is a young, Black officer who used the college’s official channels to file a report after he heard another guard make a racist comment to one of Kemar’s supervisors. Though the guard was found guilty of making a racist remark after an official investigation, they experienced no consequences. There were, however, consequences for Kemar. Several weeks later, the same supervisor, who is friends with the guard, wrote Kemar’s evaluation, stating that he had a bad attitude and didn’t get along with his co-workers. This “unbiased report” was then used to justify Kemar’s termination.  After speaking with Kemar, as well as guards who worked with him and who trained him, it is clear that Kemar was fired for taking action against the racism he experienced on our campus. His termination is an injustice that not only robbed an individual of his job, but also challenges the commitment to change Vassar administrators promised. Last semester, President Hill outlined the measures the college was going to take to address the needs of the Vassar community, highlighting “our deep commitment to inclusion and equity on campus.” What does this commitment mean when a member of the Vassar community speaks up against the racism he is experiencing and is ultimately punished? What does it mean when charges of administrative hypocrisy are raised by students and are met with indifference? The college’s executive officials and members of Vassar’s Trustees can no longer claim ignorance of the very real racism that students, facultym and staff face on campus everyday. They can, however, begin to demonstrate institutional will and an authentic commitment to change by reinstating Kemar Williams immediately.

 

—The Vassar Student/Labor Dialogue

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