A Letter of Grievances and Demands to Washington College 

 The following content is a full list of demands made by the Black Student Union and emailed to the Washington College campus:

On Friday November 8, an email was sent notifying the campus about the cancellation of The Foreigner, an SCE directed thesis. The cancellation of this play raised tensions on campus. There were accusations of censorship from members of the Chestertown community, on campus, and greater off campus community. This play induced conversations as to what it means for a play to satirically depict the KKK on stage and in uniform, without considering the rather serious racial climate in Kent county, the eastern shore of Maryland, and the country that we find ourselves living in. The cancellation of this play led many members, especially students of Washington College to critically examine how a play in the works for about 23 months let such a big issue concerning racism and micro-aggression fall on a blind side.   

On Monday November 11, at around 8 pm, two black students walking towards Reid, were verbally assaulted by passengers in a white pick-up truck calling them racial slurs. Rightfully scared for their lives, they both ran as quickly as they could into the nearby bushes and trees lining the intersection. This incident coupled with the wrestling of the idea of the play created a tense and an unsafe atmosphere for many students of color on campus. With no designated safe space to turn to, many of us gathered in clusters of friend groups, in the library, in Hodson Hall, and in each other’s room with extreme fear of walking around campus alone. It should be noted that this incident was reported right away to Public Safety who told the students an investigation would be launched to find the perpetuators. No announcement of this incident was made to the campus. Students of color had to stand up to be advocates for their fellow students of color to warn them about walking alone at night on campus.   

The days following this incident, students had to go to class and perform other academic duties in a constant state of panic, fear, and anxiety. Neither faculty, nor staff, nor students on campus were aware of the plight of their fellow members of this campus community.   

On the evening of Friday November 22, two different groups of students of color were verbally assaulted yet again on campus. These two incidents incited a series of emails to the President, and other senior staff members as to why nothing was done to protect the welfare of students of color on this campus only for that to encourage another attack.   

On Saturday November 23rd at 11 A.M., the first ever WAC alert about a racial incident was sent to the entire campus. Starting at 4:30pm, a meeting was held with a number of students of color on campus. In attendance was President Landgraf, Dean Feyerherm, Brandon McFayden, Dean Vassar, Amy Sine, Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina, and Wendy Clarke. At this meeting, the administration promised concrete actions will be taken to ensure students safety on campus. One notable promise made, was the immediate issuing of a WAC alert if any hate and bias incident was to again take presence. An email from the president’s office was sent out on Monday morning condemning these attacks.  

On Tuesday November 26, two students spotted KKK carved into a tree outside the Kirby Stadium. The incident was reported to Public Safety.  

On Sunday February 16, 2020 one student was racially assaulted on the street by Cullen. No WAC alert was sent out. An email was sent out on Monday February 17, 2020 through the Public Safety email handle to notify the campus of the incident hours after it happened. 

On Thursday February 20, a white truck threatened a student walking from Minta Martin towards the cater walk by revving its engines in a probable attempt to hit her. 

On Thursday February 20, at 10:00 P.M. to 2:00 A.M., many students of color gathered in a residential suite as a sign of no physical safe space to turn to. At this gathering, frustrations poured to the lack of WAC alerts in both incidents which occurred in less than a week, and also the lack of security measures to ensure such perpetuations of hate do not occur on our campus. 

Instead of working towards thesis deadlines, finishing up homework, studying for exams, and sleeping soundly like our fellow Washington College students, we were forced to chalk the campus, and plan for a protest the following day to make our voices and concerns heard. 

On Friday February 21 at 3:15pm, students, alumni, and some community members marched down to Gibson Theater in an attempt to stand during convocation and kneel during the national anthem. This attempt was shut down as we were told that convocation will not start if we choose to stand.  

As a marginalized students on campus, these racial incidents and actions increased conversations around our shared experiences. Amongst ourselves, we shook and shivered with surprise and fear as we heard each other’s experiences dealing with micro-aggressions and racism on campus, from the classrooms or from our interactions with fellow members of the College community. These experiences range from being blatantly called the n-word, to calling the police on us because we forgot to swipe in, to being kicked away from social gatherings because of the color of our skin, to having to deal with condescending attitudes of faculty, staff, and fellow students on campus because we are not seen as deserving of an education at Washington College. For us, this is downright dehumanizing and racist because we deserve to be here just as everyone else and our safety should be of paramount concern to this college. We, as students of color continue to hear the narrative that the diversity of this campus keeps growing and that somehow the college has made tremendous progress towards substantial diversity over the last 5 to 10 years; however, we continue to battle the same issues that students of color fought for on this campus 2 decades ago. It is tiresome to us that the work that the alumni of color did before us were in vain. In fact, it is discouraging, because 10 years from today, other groups of students of color who are to grace this campus, may have to face the same racial issues that we are now facing. In our respectable opinion, there is nothing to brag about our diversity if marginalized students here are made to feel inferior and excluded.  

For most of us, we cherish and hold dearly the world class education coupled with unequivocal experiences and opportunities that Washington College has offered us. However, with our academic life on hold and or on decline, we have had to step up and be advocates for our concerns and safety on this campus. We relish at the hope that many more marginalized students will benefit from this great education, yet we cannot reconcile this fact with the non-inclusive environment of Washington College. With this letter of demands, we hope that future generations of students will not have to choose between advocacy for inclusion and their academics. 

We are thereby requesting Washington College to create a safe and inclusive environment for all students. We thereby ask of these demands.  

  1. Creation of a central and physical safe space.  

FACT: The only operable safe space on campus is in Caroline House which acts as the Black Cultural Center. This space can barely hold 10 or more persons at a time. There is no access to this building unless one is a resident of Caroline House.   

DEMAND: We demand a bigger space which will cater to the various inter-cultural, diversity-oriented groups on campus. We want at least a prayer room, meeting spaces for inter-cultural groups and clubs, a bigger Black Cultural Center, and workspaces for inter-cultural ambassadors and student leaders for these various clubs.  

WHEN: We expect this space to be fully furnished and in operation before the start of the Fall 2020 semester, Monday August 31, 2020.  

CHARGE: We therefore charge the office of Student Affairs and the Intercultural Affairs Office in implementing these changes which must be approved by the standing Diversity Committee.  

2.              Diversifying Courses  

FACT: Many students from Washington College graduate without having an in-depth in class discussion about race, micro-aggression, inclusivity, or bias behaviors.  

FACT: Whenever a discussion of race comes up in class, it is expected for the one or two students of color to be at the forefront of the discussions.  

FACT: A majority of faculty at Washington College, regardless of discipline, do not make efforts to diversify their courses in terms of context and material to promote inclusivity in classrooms. 

FACT: Only students of color are burdened to navigate race relations on and off campus.  

FACT: The classroom is the only space on campus that can be effectively designated to teach various students about race, micro-aggression, diversity, inclusivity, and biases.  

DEMAND: We demand that faculty be given resources, trainings, and mandated requirements to diversify their courses. 

We demand that resources and support are offered to the standing Diversity Committee as they navigate ways to integrate diversity into classrooms across all disciplines.  

WHEN: We expect these changes to take place effective the 2020/20201 school year.  

CHARGE: We thereby charge all Academic Department Heads, the Office of the Provost, the Curriculum Committee, the Faculty Council, the Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning, and the standing Diversity Committee.   

3.              Diversity mandated trainings 

FACT: All first year students are required to undergo training for alcohol and sexual assault, yet this mandated session/training does not include micro-aggression and anti-bias awareness.  

FACT: The dining hall staff called the police on two black students who had forgot to swipe in because they did not “look’ like students.  

FACT: Some professors are not equipped to handle and mediate conversations around diversity in their classrooms.  

FACT: Some professors ignore the opinions of students of color in their classroom discussions.  

FACT: A diversity training for Washington College fraternities and sororities was based off a satirical representation of a tv show, ‘The Office’, in which the diversity training was offensive and repugnant.  

FACT: At an off campus social gathering at an athletic house, black students were turned away and were told “no n-words allowed”.   

DEMAND: We demand that when hiring new staff and faculty, there should be a requirement to write a diversity statement. We demand for all faculty and staff to undergo routine mandated diversity training. We demand that the diversity and inclusivity training for Greek life and athletes be much more vigorous. We demand that microaggression and bias training be included in the mandated freshman orientation training sessions.  

WHEN: We expect the hiring, requirement update to be made before the start of the Fall 2020 semester; August 31, 2020. The mandated microaggression and anti-bias training for first years, Greek life, athletes, faculty, staff should be in place and programmed into the Fall 2020 calendar and beyond.  

CHARGE: We charge the Office of the First-Year Experience, Student Affairs, the Faculty Council, the Staff Council, the Office of the Provost, the office of Human Resources, the Office of Athletic Communication and Academic Affairs, the Panhellenic Council, the Inter-Fraternity Council, the Office of Student Engagement, and Intercultural Affairs to undertake the establishment of these demands.  

4.              Town Hall  

FACT: When the play was cancelled, many people associated it with censorship.  

FACT: The KKK and its ideologies still exist today and are very active in Kent County.  

FACT: Nothing about the historical and present-day ramifications of the KKK is funny.  

FACT: Cancelling this play had nothing to do with censorship but instead because this play was portrayed through a blinded white lens with no knowledge of the effect this play can have in a predominately white institution such as Washington College on the Eastern Shore.  

FACT: No conversations or discussions have occurred since the cancellation of this play to identify why it is problematic and why it had to be cancelled  

DEMAND: We demand that a town hall should be set up to discuss the issues surrounding the play.  

WHEN: This town hall should take place in two parts. One before the end of the Spring 2020 semester, Friday May 8, 2020 and the second one before fall break of the Fall 2020 semester, Wednesday October 14, 2020 

CHARGE: We charge the senior staff members of the college, the Faculty Council, the Theater and Dance Department, the standing Diversity Committee, and the Student Government Association to plan and execute this town hall.  

5.              Hiring a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer 

FACT: The Washington College senior administration does not include a Chief Diversity Officer. 

FACT: In every instance of bias and discrimination on campus, students have had to be advocates for their voices and concerns to be heard which negatively impacts their academics. 

FACT: Students were asked to help in the crafting of an email to be sent out to parents and students on behalf of the college following the February 21 protest. This is a job of a Chief Diversity Officer. 

DEMAND: The establishment of a Chief Diversity Officer position to help in the creating of resources to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all students especially marginalized students.  

WHEN: We expect this job to be made available before the start of the Fall 2020 semester, Monday August 31, 2020

CHARGE: We charge the office of the President, the Provost, Student Affairs, Human Resources, Diversity Committee, Office of Admissions, the Chief of Staff, Intercultural Affairs, and the Board of Visitors and Governors.  

6.              Establishing security measures around campus 

FACT: We acknowledge the openness of our campus is to foster essential relationships and communications with the people of Ken County. 

FACT: All drive by racial assault incidents that have occurred from the start of the 2019/2020 until today (March 2, 2020) have been perpetuated by residents of Kent County. 

FACT: In instances where restraining orders have issued to these perpetuators of hate, there is no way of knowing if they come back on campus. 

FACT: The camera and surveillance system of the college have not undergone any major upgrades or changes in the last 20 years. 

FACT: Many small liberal arts colleges like Washington College implement checkpoint security measures on their campuses during the night. 

DEMAND: We request the college to start the implementation of new and upgraded security cameras and lightening systems around campus. In addition, the administration should begin provisionary measures to include checkpoints around the main campus entrances for specified time periods during the nights. 

WHEN: Provisions should be established before the last day of the Spring 2020 semester, May 8, 2020, for the upgrades of security surveillance which will be in effect on the first day of the Fall 2020 semester, Monday August 31, 2020.  

CHARGE: We charge the Department of Pubic Safety, the Office of the President, Student Affairs, Intercultural Affairs, the Chief of Staff, and the Board of Visitors and Governors. 

7.              Establishing a reliable & appropriate system for racial bias incident reports 

FACT: The current system only identified a bias or hate incident as “defacing signs with negative images or slurs, graffiti, or violent acts.” 

FACT: Racial Bias incidents are handled in a subcommittee and not handled through the honor board  

FACT: The only sanctions involving racial bias incidents are “education, community/ residential living dialogues, restorative justice etc.” 

FACT: The Honor Code states that all members of the Washington College community commit to “healthy and respectful exchanges of ideas and acknowledgment that living in a community requires tolerance, compromise, and sensitivity to others. Civility is one of our core values. Students are expected to treat others with respect, dignity, and understanding; to establish appropriate personal boundaries; and to fit individual freedoms into the broader context of responsibility to the student community and to the values of the College.” 

FACT: Honor code violation #8 – Discrimination Based on a Protected Class: Behavior that discriminates on the basis of race, sex, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, marital status, handicap or disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, or any other legally protected classification. 

DEMAND: We request that students who are reported for racial bias incidents are directly referred to the honor board due to the violation of the social honor code. 

WHEN: Provisions should be established before the start of the Fall 2020 Semester, Monday August 31, 2020.  

CHARGE: We charge the Office of Student Affairs and The Office of the Provost to take the lead in facilitating these provisions with the collaboration of The Office of Intercultural Affairs and The Honor Board.  

8.              Fostering meaningful and substantial race discussion on campus  

FACT: We understand the importance of the racial biased incident report in noticing the campus community of offensive actions perpetuated on campus. 

FACT: The WAC alert does not do much in engaging students in serious and substantial discussion about racial issues on campus. Its purpose is to simply inform of the community of the perpetuated actions. 

FACT: After every racial biased incident have been sent out, we can observe the lack of concerns of the campus community regarding these issues.  

FACT: The college cannot continue to argue that it is sincerely committed toward creating a safer campus community for all without creating the proper structure that would make students understand the importance of these issues.  

FACT: It is important to note that all discussion regarding race, although widely advertise to the campus, always only involved the same students of color who are often the victims of these racial incidents.   

DEMAND: We demand, that the Dean of Students, with the collaboration of every department chair create a structure where all Washington College students can semesterly have wide-campus discussion about the racial climate on campus, the racial history of the college, the racial issues that students of color face in their daily life at the College and to discuss the steps that we as a community can take together to truly transform this school into a more diverse, safer and emphatic campus environment.  

CHARGE: We therefore charge the Provost, the Faculty Council, Dean of Students, Student Affairs, the Student Government Association, and the Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning.  

Signed by 

Felicia Attor’20 SGA Secretary of Diversity and Inclusion 

Ama Amponsah ’22 President of African Student Union 

Jocelyn Elmore’20 President of Black Student Union 

Calisa Gayle’20 Honor Board Chair 

Jiruwak Tolessa’20 President of Cleopatra’s Sisters 

Destiny Harris’21 Executive Board Black Student Union

Paris Mercier ’20 Honor Board Panelist & Community Youth Mentor 

Ervens Jean-Pierre’20 Vice-President of the Black Student Union 

Jonah Nicholson ’23 Secretary of BSU &Honor Board Panelist 

Sabrina Mendez’21 Executive Board Black Student Union

Kashmira Brown-Rochester’22 Executive Board Black Student Union

Gaviota Del Mar Hernández Quiñones’20 Research Assistant  Department of Political Science 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.