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Smith College Agrees to Racial Profiling Reforms

Massachusetts-based Smith College is adopting various policy reforms as part of an agreement with American Civil Liberties Union over the case of Oumou Kanoute.

Kanoute, who was working over the summer for the college as a teaching assistant and residential advisor, was reported to campus police when she was reading and eating lunch in a common area after lunch service had ended.

According to the ACLU, which began representing Kanoute in September 2018, the incident exemplified how people of color are commonly targeted for police intervention, a form of racial profiling it refers to as “Living While Black.”

As a part of the agreement with the ACLU, Smith will create new guidelines for its employees on when to call campus police, and will roll out a new “suspicious activities” policy for its police who will undergo updated training.

A mandated diversity and bias training will also take effect for all Smith faculty and staff in order to initiate a campus-wide conversation on identity and inclusion in America.

“Oumou should never have been put in this position to begin with, and we are proud of her for making her voice heard and demanding change. The ACLU is pleased Smith College was receptive to many of our recommendations and is adopting new policies that will help address racial bias and profiling,” ACLU senior staff attorney Carl Takei said.

“While this is a crucial step in the right direction, Smith acknowledges that it still has work to do regarding issues of inclusion and campus climate. We encourage Smith to work with student activists of color to make progress in these areas and listen closely to what students of color are demanding.”

After the incident last year, president Kathleen McCartney announced anti-bias training for every Smith staff member beginning in the fall of 2018. However, Kanoute denounced the college’s response as insufficient and sought a new school policy concerning racism, gender, and policing that centers around the voices of students and faculty of color.

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