Smith College Campus Police called to check on black student eating lunch

Hampshire County

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Smith College is looking into an incident in which campus police were called to investigate a person who “seemed out of place” in a building on campus.

That person later identified herself on Facebook as an undergraduate student who was on lunch break from her summer campus job.

“I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t making any noise or bothering anyone,” Oumou Kanoute said in the public post (below). “All I did was be black.”

Students told 22News they want the college to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, and to implement new training and policies to address allegations of discrimination.

“She’s just horrified and she’s very scared,” said Whitney Mutalemwa, a friend of the student. “I just feel sad for any student of color that has to come to Smith, and have too, and has to witness this.” 

Smith College released a statement on Facebook Wednesday, saying the incident has raised concerns in their community about bias and equity.

“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.”

Out of the more than 2,100 students, nearly half are white and 5.4 percent are black.

“I think that some of the concerns are definitely not having their voices heard, on campus. And not having spaces where they feel they can express themselves and feel like they really belong here,” said Meghan Barstow. 

Northampton Attorney James Winston said Smith College could face legal ramifications.

Attorney James Winston of Northampton told 22News, “Where the conduct is so outrageous and is calculated to cause emotional distress. Smith College is going to have to look at their training for sure, for all staff, including campus police.”

The college is now conducting an investigation into the matter.

“We have reached out to the student to offer support and discuss next steps, and will conduct an investigation of the incident with the employee, with Human Resources and with Campus Police.”

Smith College said they will not be identifying the employee who called campus police, citing a college policy that “recognizes the potentially adverse consequences of releasing identifying information, especially in those cases where doing so may discourage the use of this critical safety resource.”

22News also contacted Smith College’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity director Amy Hunter, but we’re still waiting to hear back. 

Full Facebook posts below:

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