Soren Frantz / Photo Editor

Puja Thapa
Administrative Executive Editor

Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Dottie Morris and Interim Vice President for Enrollment and Student Engagement MB Lufkin engaged in a near hour-long conversation with five Keene State College students who were protesting outside the Hale Building where President Melinda Treadwell’s office is located on March 30.

The students who participated in the protest were senior Emma Provencher majoring in sociology, first-year Robin Cook undeclared, and sophomores Jessica Bergen majoring in biochemistry, Gianina Debernardo majoring in English, and Chris Coolbeth majoring in math and physics. The sit-in protest was organized to demand accountability from the college regarding the March 16 incident where two former KSC students Ndeye Khady Badiane and Tyler Dametrisu Clavelle were arrested by Keene Police Officers from the college’s residence hall. The full story on the incident, “Standoff in Owl’s Nest 5” can be found on The Equinox’s February 25 issue.

The students involved in organizing this protest and the past student protest that took place on March 16 at the student center lawn are Provencher, KSC senior Emma Connelly majoring in studio art and KSC junior Macie Flammia majoring in biology.

When one of the protest organizers, Provencher, asked if Treadwell was in her office, Lufkin informed the students that Treadwell had come in contact with a positive case in an event. Lufkin added, “She’s in quarantine, she will meet with you via Zoom tomorrow, or we’ll pick a time next week when she’s out of quarantine and she will gladly meet with you and talk with you. ”

Treadwell said, “When I heard that [the protest] was going to happen outside Hale, I immediately thought, ‘well, they want to talk to me. They want me to hear from them directly.’ And so I said, ‘I can’t because I’m in quarantine. But could you please go try to see if there’s a way to meet tomorrow or in person next week.’”

Provencher expressed that she didn’t want to meet Treadwell. She said that she doesn’t feel like she should have to reach out to Treadwell. She further said that it is Treadwell’s job to reach out. “I want whatever reaching out she does to be to everyone, not just the students who came out here. There are students who aren’t on campus, are at home this semester, but could be equally as concerned about this stuff, too. Everybody deserves to know.”

Treadwell said, “To hear they don’t have any interest in talking to me, they just want me to do what we’re already trying to work through with Khady and Tyler separately, I don’t know what I can do. So I feel stuck a little bit. I don’t know what to do…..I hope that we can get to a place where everyone can feel that, in fact, the concerns people have raised have been addressed.”nb

The students pointed out to Morris and Lufkin the lack of communication from the campus regarding the incident. Coolbeth expressed his disappointment that the college only informed the students after an entire year of the incident. He explained, “A week-and-a-half after all these [students] started putting on their stories, I got an email from the campus and it was practically unreadable. I got no information from it. And I remember being really angry. And that’s one of the main reasons I’m here today.” He suggested Morris and Lufkin on what can be done. He said, “I think we need to be more clear with the students. I think the college needs to acknowledge, ‘Hey, this happened[ed], we made administrative mistakes, how we handled it. This is what we’re going to do in the future, here’s where you can learn.’”

Morris said that the letter sent by Treadwell seemed cryptic due to the commitment she had made to the students Badiane and Clavelle. Morris elaborated, “I was present when that commitment was made, that we will not disclose…”

Provencher added her thoughts and said, “Then you see Khady and Tyler post about it themselves ….[the school] could have talked to Khady and Tyler again and said, ‘Do you still want this to be [confidential]?’, because at that point, if Khady and Tyler were changing their mind, [the school] should be asking [Khady and Tyler] about that.”

 

Morris replied by saying, “Maybe the outreach should have been made, it wasn’t because if I make a commitment to any of you all including my colleagues here, I say to you I am going to keep this between us. If you asked me to do it, you won’t hear from me….. I will protect your privacy.”

Lufkin added to the conversation and informed the crowd that the legal counsels between two parties have agreed to keep the information confidential, “We are working with Khady and Tyler’s legal counsel and the legal counsels have agreed that we’re going to come to resolution in the most productive way possible if we don’t go public with the information. That’s an agreement that we’ve made with them. We are working with them.”

Treadwell said that the school is working with Khady and Tyler, with the legal counsel trying to get them to an agreement. Treadwell explained, “They asked for all the same things that were in the petition (submitted by the faculty members regarding the incident). My focus is on mental health supports and academic completion…. we’re actively engaged in that process. I asked for mediation, they prefer to go through legal counsel. And when their legal counsel presented to us they wanted the negotiations to be out of social media, out of media, out of outside influence, and out of public sight. And so I said, ‘Fine, I’m going to ask the same of you so that we can enter into this in the same spirit.’”

Cook said, “I understand [the school’s] part about not being able to talk about it, that’s all fine and well. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to just say that earlier?”
Morris assured the students that it was said numerous times to which Cook said that she had never heard of it. Cook added, “We’ve been pressuring Melinda about this, we’ve been trying to get back the answers and not once have I heard Khady and Tyler didn’t want this to be talked about… We literally wouldn’t be here right now. Maybe we will. But the problem would be much much less than [now].”

Morris said, “I apologize that it wasn’t said at the protests, but it has been said.”

Cook said, “We’ve gotten a few emails of when a student is assaulted on campus, their name is never ever brought up. I feel like it would be pretty easy to say, ‘there was an incident in March 2020, I won’t say their names. This is how we’re going to handle it.’ That’s what we’re asking for. That’s what this all comes down to. We want communication from the school to say that this won’t happen to us.

Provencher asked if the school is paying Khady and Tyler’s legal fees. She said, “Are you even doing that because that says a lot.” Provencher said that she is happy that Khady and Tyler reached their GoFundMe goal, but is overall upset with the situation.

Bergen agreed with Provencher and added, “The fact that other people have to pay their legal fees when it was technically the school’s fault that they have these fees.”

Cook again asked for accountability and a proper communication from the school. “Since I’m a trans person, like, I wouldn’t want to go to the women’s bathroom, and my RD comes up and says I’m not supposed to be there, [and] calls the police on me. That sounds horrifying. And I just, I want some reassurance that’s not going to happen, because in over a year that this has happened, I feel like there hasn’t been much action. I don’t want to say comfort. But tell me, like this isn’t going to happen.”

Morris concluded the conversation by saying, “We need to do a better job, what I’m hearing over and over again is we need to do a better job, bottom line.”

Provencher said that it is hard to believe what the school is saying. She said, “Even that interaction we just had, it just felt like it went in circles. It’s hard to trust when it’s all about this, like PR, you know, like, obviously, this is bad for the school. Obviously, it’s in the school’s best interest for them not to go public. She added, “Now I feel like I need to ask [Khady and Tyler] because that question never came up in my mind because they went public themselves.”

Cook said, “My expectations are pretty low [from the conversation]. But I’m really hoping Dottie at least makes the first step in whatever she needs to do and acknowledging it.”

Provencher and Cook said that they are not in touch with Khady and Tyler as of recently. Cook added, “Hopefully this means something for them.”

Connelly and a few other students joined the group shortly after the conversation with Morris and Lufkin ended. Connelly said, “[The March 16 incident] can’t just be swept under the rug. And in a perfect world, I’m sure that that’s what they want to do. So that’s just not what we will allow.” Connelly also mentioned that their Instagram page, “@ksc_studentsforchange” is getting a lot of student support. She said, “We’re getting a lot of follows on ksc_studentsforchange. We’ve gotten a lot of donations to Khady and Tyler through their GoFundMe. Yeah, there’s been a lot of interaction with our posts, and then a lot of engagement and sharing.”

Regarding the protest, she said that, “I just want to show them that we are relentless. Like we will be here. We’re not done. The protest in front of the student center, that wasn’t the end of it, we are still going and we’re not satisfied with the response”

Treadwell said, “I think our students can assemble anywhere. I think the part of what we need to work on is that I don’t know why they would come outside my office, but what not to talk to me. It’s confusing, like I don’t exactly know how to respond to the student protests.”

Treadwell further added, “Thank you for continuing to care and speak your voice. I think that’s important. It matters that people feel all people on this campus feel the right to speak up.”

Cook said, “It’s very frustrating to come here time after time and to get the same filler words. Yeah, that’s what it is. They’re just, they’re talking to us, but they’re not really doing anything.”

Treadwell said, “The protesters are clearly really angry and clearly feel that nothing is happening and I’m sorry, they’re angry and there’s a lot happening.”

 

Puja Thapa can be contacted at:
pthapa@kscequinox.com

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