In Other Ivory Towers: Conn. College students call for president’s resignation after controversial fundraiser

Luke Chinman

Students at Connecticut College are calling for President Katherine Bergeron’s resignation following a week of contention over the college’s plans to hold a fundraiser at a controversial private country club. Rodmon King, the Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion, resigned on Feb. 7, the day before the fundraiser was scheduled. The event — though it was canceled — would have been held at the Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Fla., which has drawn criticism for its historic exclusion of Jewish and Black people, according to the New Times Broward Palm Beach.

“Full participation is a core value at Conn., which is why I regret our decision to schedule an event at a location whose history and reputation suggest otherwise,” Bergeron wrote in a message to the campus community on Feb. 8. “I want to apologize to all who saw our plans as contrary to Conn’s values or to the inclusive institution we aspire to be.”

The previous day, Bergeron announced that she had received King’s resignation, effective immediately, but gave no indication as to why he was leaving his post. According to The College Voice, Connecticut College’s student newspaper, a significant number of the school’s Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion (DIEI) staff members have left their posts in the past four years.

On the evening of Feb. 7, hundreds of students gathered at Unity House, the school’s multicultural center, to protest the fundraiser as well as DIEI’s low funding and high turnover.

Some students alleged that King resigned because of the scheduled fundraiser and a toxic work culture among the college’s senior leadership, The College Voice reported. In response, Vice President for Marketing and Communications John Cramer told The College Voice that King was asked only to provide input on a College statement in the case that the event’s location drew questions from the community — but not to defend the event, as some students suggested.

“It’s affecting day to day life — everywhere you walk, you’re going to see a flier about it,” Lucie Englehardt, a senior at Connecticut College and the managing editor of The College Voice, said in an interview with the Record. “It’s a big deal because the lack of support for institutional equity and inclusion has been a big problem for years.”

In a letter to the Connecticut College community on Feb. 12, Chair of the Board of Trustees Debo Adegbile acknowledged that the scheduled fundraiser was a mistake and recognized concerns expressed by students over the last week. Following protests, Adegbile said that the Board was committed to funding a review of DIEI commitments at the school, providing additional resources to their Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, and hosting further opportunities for campus dialogue.