College says they are sorry after police called to check on black student eating lunch
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – A Massachusetts college president is apologizing after campus police were called to investigate a black student quietly eating her lunch in a common room.
Oumou Kanoute, a student at Smith College, posted what happened to Facebook, saying she was sitting in a dining hall when “a white staff member at the school reported [her] to the police as a suspicious black male sitting in the common room.”
In the video, an officer is seen asking Kanoute a series of questions.
“I wasn’t making any noise, disturbing anyone,” said Kanoute. “I was just eating, minding my business, not bothering anyone at all.”
Smith College President Kathleen McCartney said in a letter Thursday the college is hiring a “third-party investigator” to review the incident and said every Smith staff member will undergo mandatory anti-bias training.
Officials say an employee at the Northampton college called police Tuesday to report someone appeared “out of place” in the building.
The school later said there was nothing suspicious. McCartney apologized to the undergraduate student, who is working as a teaching assistant this summer.
In a statement, the college said:
“A Campus Police officer responded to the site and spoke with the individual, a Smith undergraduate student of color, who was on a break from her on-campus job. Campus Police found nothing suspicious about the student’s presence.”
“Someone could have easily approached me, I’m 5 feet 2 inches, literally 120 pounds sitting next to a teddy bear if you’ve seen the video, so I’m not sure how much of a threat I could possibly be to anyone,” said Kanoute. “I want them to explain their logical reasoning behind what about my behavior is so suspicious.”
Kanoute is also taking the opportunity to tell young students who find themselves in this situation to make sure their voice is heard.
“Continue to work hard and don’t let anyone define you or question why you are there,”said Kanoute. “You work just as hard as your counterparts and just make the most out of your experience.”