Section: News

Senior staff receive racist voicemails; President Decatur responds in op-ed

On April 27, multiple Kenyon staff members received hateful messages on their Kenyon College voicemail related to the College’s opposition to the recognition of an undergraduate student union. 

Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hughes reported in a Student-Info email that staff members from a number of offices across campus received these messages, which contained racial slurs and other offensive language. Hughes wrote that the College has not yet discovered who was behind these messages, but she noted that there is no indication that they were sent by anyone affiliated with Kenyon. The College believes that perpetrators intended for senior staff members to be the primary targets. 

President Sean Decatur was a recipient of these messages and addressed the matter in an article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, in which he reflects on his experience as a Black college president. 

“I have come to expect that race will be weaponized to undermine not only a leader’s authority but also that leader’s very humanity and sense of belonging,” he wrote. “We should not forget that this extreme racism is enabled — indeed empowered — by a more subtle yet still toxic rhetoric of disrespect.”

In her email, Hughes reiterated the College’s commitment to fostering a climate free of discrimantion or harassment, and encouraged any member of the Kenyon community who has experienced harassment of any kind to contact her or Civil Rights/Title IX Deputy Coordinator Kevin Peterson in the Office for Civil Rights. Hughes told the Collegian that she was unable to disclose any additional information about the voicemails. 

The Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) followed Hughes in condemning the hateful messages in an all-student email. “Anyone claiming to support a union for student workers who also practices racial harassment and discrimination should know they cannot do both,” they wrote. “If any student—who works or doesn’t work; is a member of K-SWOC or not—supports this kind of behavior directed toward any Kenyon community member, they should resign their K-SWOC union membership immediately if they have one, cease any and all participation in K-SWOC activities, and know they are not welcome into our union ever again.” 

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