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Connecticut College students occupy administrative building on campus and call for president's resignation

Connecticut College sophomore Leila Merhi.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
Classes were canceled or held remotely after an estimated 30 Connecticut College students locked themselves in Fanning Hall, home to the school’s administrative offices. Students want president Katherine Bergeron replaced because of her plans to attend a fundraising event at the Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Bergeron canceled her trip to the club which has a history of anti-Black and antisemitic policies. Rodmon King, Connecticut College’s dean of institutional equity and inclusion resigned in February over the school’s plan to attend the event.

Connecticut College students in New London have been occupying Fanning Hall, an administrative building, on campus since Sunday evening.

The protests were sparked immediately by a canceled fundraising trip by college president Katherine Bergeron to the Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Florida. The club has been accused of racist and antisemitic actions.

Plans for the trip led to the resignation of the school’s dean of institutional equity and inclusion, and students now want Bergeron to resign.

But while the club is the immediate cause for the protests, students say the protests are also advocating for more resources to marginalized students and diversity, equity and inclusion staff. They have also criticized Bergeron’s leadership style.

Leila Merhi, a sophomore at the school, said funding sources are a reflection of the school’s values.

“We don’t want to take donations from people who are racist or antisemitic,” Merhi said.

Student Voices for Equity is participating in the protest. Lyndon Inglis, a member of the student organization, said the protesters have several demands, including Bergeron’s resignation.

According to Inglis, one of the root causes of the protests is the sense that the college is racist against students who aren’t white. Inglis blames President Bergeron and leaders at the school, and says the alleged actions have impacted the Connecticut College community.

“Many students have realized from the resignation of our former dean of institutional, equity and inclusion that we just can no longer stand for the tokenization, bullying and blatant racism."

Inglis says the students have seen several non-white staff members leave the school over the years, which has left students of color feeling unsupported by the school and Bergeron. Inglis said the staff members left because they felt they lacked support from the school, and the departments these staff members used to operate are now being run by students, who he said are not qualified to do so.

John Cramer, Connecticut College vice president of marketing and communications, said in a statement that the school’s administration is communicating with students.

“College leadership supports the right to free expression and peaceful protest, and will continue to pursue constructive dialogue with students as well as faculty and staff as we address the important concerns they have raised,” Cramer said.

But Merhi said Bergeron’s recent emails show that she is not taking student concerns seriously.

“She has sent a couple of emails pretty much indicating that she’s hoping this thing will blow over and that students will back down,” Merhi said.

This isn’t the first time Merhi has had an issue with Bergeron. Merhi pointed to several voyeurism incidents on the college campus but said Bergeron, while stating she would take action, including increased resources to address sexual violence, never did.