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    Tuesday, March 21, 2023

    Conn College students protest dean’s resignation

    A sign in support of former Dean of Equity and Inclusion Rodmon King hangs from a fire escape Wednesday, Feb. 8 2023, at the Freeman House on the Connecticut College Campus in New London. King resigned in protest to the college holding an event at the Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Fla., an exclusive club with an alleged history of racism, antisemitism and sexual assault. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    A sign in support of former Dean of Equity and Inclusion Rodmon King hangs from a fire escape Wednesday, Feb. 8 2023, of the Freeman House on the Connecticut College Campus. King resigned in protest to the college holding an event at the Everglades Club, an exclusive club in Palm Beach, Fla. that has a history of alleged racism, antisemitism, and sexual assault. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London ― More than 40 Connecticut College students met in the college’s Unity House Tuesday evening to discuss the resignation of Rodmon King, the dean of Equity and Inclusion, and to express their desire for change within the college administration.

    King, who was hired in November 2021, resigned Tuesday after he had objected to the college’s plans to hold a fundraiser at the Everglades Club, an exclusive country club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, according to students who met with him.

    King could not be reached for comment.

    President Katherine Bergeron sent a letter to the college community Wednesday expressing her sorrow at King’s sudden departure, acknowledging that “the news has caused a measure of shock, anger and grief in our community.” The letter indicated she had office hours for students to speak with herself and other key faculty and apologized for the decision to schedule the event at the Everglades Club.

    “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,” said the letter. “We made that decision believing that our values were clear. But the decision to proceed came across differently, and we recognize now that we were wrong. 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. We canceled the event. In the future, we will do better, including by taking steps to ensure that all our decisions are consistent with our goals and ideals.”

    Bergeron did not return calls seeking further comment.

    A flier written by student leaders that has been distributed throughout the college details King’s opposition to the event being held at the club, due to the club’s history of alleged racism, antisemitism, and sexual assault.

    The event, which was scheduled to be hosted Wednesday evening, was canceled. The students assert that the event was canceled only after King’s resignation, in hopes to limit backlash from the study body.

    “Dean King resigned in protest of the college and Katherine Bergeron,” Connecticut College senior Hannah Gonzalez said at the meeting Tuesday with college affinity groups and Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity leaders.

    Students said that before leaving the college, King met with student leaders to discuss his departure from the institution.

    According to the flier, which was prepared by students who spoke directly with King about his resignation, Bergeron knew the controversial history of the Everglades Club when confronted on the matter by King.

    “She already knew and she still went forward. This is the last straw,” Gonzalez said.

    The flier says that King was told to make a statement justifying the event but instead decided to resign.

    The filer said, “KB (Katherine Bergeon) chose to host a fundraising event at the Everglades Club — a notoriously anti-black and antisemitic social club. Despite knowing this history, KB ignored Dean King’s warning and told him to prepare a statement in defense of this choice. By these actions, KB aligned our institution with hate.”

    Bergeron’s office had sent a school-wide email Tuesday evening regarding King’s resignation. The email did not mention why he resigned or the event at the Everglades Club that she and the board of directors were planning to attend.

    “I was saddened and shocked to receive this news. Rodmon was a valued colleague and thoughtful contributor to the senior leadership of the College.” said the email. “I want to be clear that both I and the Conn community remain steadfast in our commitment to the ongoing and vital work of diversity, equity, and inclusion on this campus.”

    A 2009 article from the Broward Palm Beach Times said the club has a history of “excluding blacks and Jewish people.”

    “Renowned socialite C.Z. Guest once told a reporter that she and her husband were temporarily suspended from the club after they brought Jewish guests — Estee Lauder and her husband — to a party there in 1972,” was one example in the article.

    The article also stated: “Today, Everglades members insist they're more welcoming to wealthy people of all stripes.”

    The fundraiser event, which have since been removed from the college’s website, invited guests to join them at a reception at the club.

    “You’re invited to join us in Palm Beach for a lively reception featuring food, drink, fun and friendship at the Everglades Club. Camels will gather to celebrate Conn pride at this special East Coast event marking the excitement and progress of the Defy Boundaries campaign,” the invitation said. “The Everglades Club has been the pre-eminent social club in Palm Beach since its founding in 1919,” it added.

    This will be the second dean of the equity and inclusion department to resign in the past year. Previously, John F. McKnight served as the dean until leaving to become the dean of the college at Haverford College in June 2021.

    Shamar Rule and Khadedra Neals, who are co-presidents of the college’s Black Student Union, released a joint personal statement in regard to Bergeron’s administration and King’s resignation.

    “Rodmon King’s resignation is an indication of his lack of confidence in President Katherine Bergeron and her ability to continue to lead as President of Connecticut College,” they said in a letter to The Day.

    “We’re going to make some change,” Rule said in a meeting with student leaders.

    Student leaders said they would hold a school-wide meeting Wednesday evening, where they plan to mobilize for a change in the administration’s leadership.

    “We have the opportunity to take control of the narrative,” Gonzalez said.

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