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End Racial Profiling at Vassar College

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On April 27, 2014, Vassar security ordered a group of young Black male Poughkeepsie residents to leave the Thompson library after a student filed a noise complaint against them.  They were reportedly making noise while playing. Note, college policy allows town residents to use the library and other resources on campus. Vassar security also called the Town of Poughkeepsie police because the children, one as young as 12, reportedly could not produce identification. Upon exiting the library, the children were detained for as long as 90 minutes and questioned by the police before being allowed to leave campus.  Members of the Vassar community who witnessed the event reported that they believe the children were treated more harshly than others in the same situation because they were Black.

In another incident in October 2013, two Black female students were confronted by Campus Student Patrollers in the Laundromat of their South Commons residence and questioned about whether they were rightfully using the campus facility.  The women believed were confronted because they were Black.

In July 2011, a Black male student, living on campus following his freshmen year, was profiled while at the Fitness Center.  Town police were on campus looking for a "suspicious" person. The student was questioned by the police because he was Black.  He reported that Vassar Safety did not intervene to confirm his status as a student. 

These incidents represent just of few of the many instances where Black people on Vassar’s campus were singled out (usually by security staff) and are challenged to “show I.D.” or otherwise prove their lawful presence on the campus.  These demands are largely asserted because of unfounded beliefs that a Black person on campus presumptively poses a threat to the safety and welfare of others, whose rights apparently warrant greater protection than the students, faculty, and visitors, who are often the victims of this racial profiling. 

Racial profiling is discrimination in its purest form and runs counter to the principles of justice, respect and fairness that Vassar publicly promotes and on which its reputation of academic excellence and inclusiveness was built.  Racial profiling degrades the quality of the living and learning experience that so many Vassar students and families sacrificed to obtain.  Racial profiling has been a recurring experience for generations of Black Vassar students. Black alums recollect such instances as far back as the 1960s.  It must end now!

Therefore, the African American Alumnae/i of Vassar College (AAAVC) publicly stands against the culture of bias and prejudice within which this practice of racial profiling at Vassar has been allowed to fester.  We negotiated a promise from the administration of President Frances Fergusson that Vassar's security force would undergo annual diversity training to be more skillful in interacting with members of Vassar's black community. If such training is ongoing, it does not suffice. We demand change to ensure that any Black person at Vassar, whether a student or faculty member, visitor or staff person, is treated with dignity and respect and made to feel welcome and safe on campus. We call on all persons of conscience to join us in expressing dissatisfaction with racial bias and profiling on campus and to oppose the attitudes and policies that allow them to exist.  The time has come for Vassar College to commit to effecting real, lasting change.

Join us in demanding that Vassar take immediate and decisive action to eradicate the culture of racial bias and intolerance that has become so pervasive throughout the campus community. 

Join us in demanding that Vassar create an environment on campus that is safe for and supportive of all persons, especially Black students, faculty, staff, guests, and visitors from the larger Poughkeepsie community.


Join us in calling for an end to racial profiling at Vassar.

Today: African American Alumnae/i of Vassar College is counting on you

African American Alumnae/i of Vassar College needs your help with “President Catharine HIll and Vassar College Board of Trustees: End Racial Profiling at Vassar College”. Join African American Alumnae/i of Vassar College and 3,804 supporters today.