College Responds to Student’s ‘Klansman-like Hood,’ Students React

Goodrich Chapel from the sidewalk in front of the Ingham House on North Ingham Street. On Feb. 7 between 7:57 a.m. and 9 a.m., a student was seen walking in front of Goodrich Chapel wearing a white hood (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).

On Wednesday at 7:57 a.m. a student witness, who has chosen to remain anonymous for their privacy, recorded a video of another student walking in front of Goodrich Chapel wearing a white hood. The student recording was standing in front of the Fiske House and said the student took off the hood before entering Wesley Hall.

Between 7:57 a.m. and 9 a.m., two students walking to class saw the student wearing a white hood in front of Goodrich Chapel. Those students reported the student to Campus Safety, who responded quickly to the situation. 

Makalya Bailey, Marshall first-year, was on her way to class when she saw a student wearing a white hood in front of Goodrich Chapel. She was not one of the two students who reported the incident.

“I was on the sidewalk of the Ingham House,” Bailey said. “The (person) in the hood was just like walking around, I didn’t see (them) engage with anyone.”

President of Albion College, Wayne Webster, said he was alerted to the incident around 9:30 a.m. 

Webster said the student was wearing a “klansman-like hood,” adding that it was clear that it was a medical issue and “not hate-based.”

On Wednesday at 4:16 p.m., Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Leroy Wright sent an email to all students, staff and faculty alerting them of the incident.

“Earlier today, Campus Safety received a report regarding an individual in front of Goodrich Chapel wearing what appeared to be a white hood and exhibiting signs of a potential personal crisis. Campus Safety identified this individual as a current Albion student. At this time, we have decided to temporarily suspend the student for inciting fear and concern on campus, and have followed up with immediate counseling and other supportive interventions,” Wright said in the email.

Wright said he wanted to communicate what had happened and to “deal with the immediacy of the issue” and “concerns of safety” knowing there would be future messages. He added that he used the language of a “personal crisis” to describe the incident because he could not “discern what kind of crisis it was.”

Wright said his goal was to “support the student in crisis and other students who need support.”

The anonymous student witness said they felt it was “good to see that the college acknowledged” that the incident happened even though it would likely be “bad publicity” to say that it was happening at Albion.

Bailey said she feels supported and is not concerned for her safety, but worries for others.

“I feel like the climate of the school has changed,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot of fear. For me personally, I’m concerned for my friends and for the people of color in my life.”

On Thursday at 2:03 p.m., Webster sent an email following up on news of the incident. In the email, he addressed the “alarm, anger and hurt” many on campus might be feeling.

“You are right to feel all of those things and more,” Webster said in the email. “Symbols of hate have no place at Albion College and that is why – regardless of the circumstances – we moved quickly in line with college policy to remove the individual from campus and reach out to those who witnessed and were impacted by the incident with support resources.”

Bailey said that she feels the President’s statement was “very unclear on what happened” and she believes part of the fear and confusion on campus is because of the communication from the college.

“I feel like the school was stigmatizing mental illness and not addressing the main point of the situation,” Bailey said. “I feel like everybody at this school has the right to know what happened.”

In Webster’s email, he said “it was clear to the various staff who responded to the incident that this Albion student was experiencing a serious personal crisis, as his behavior was concerning, disruptive and also erratic.” 

Bailey said she feels the school “should’ve been more clear with what they said because they were very much trying to diverge the situation” and feels the school “has that as a priority instead of the safety of its students.”

Wright and Webster both said that, following the suspension, there will be an investigation process preceding a conduct process.

“Let me be very clear, if we felt the motivation behind the student’s actions was to intentionally cause harm we would have made a different determination on his status (in partnership with the Albion Department of Public Safety),” Webster said in the email. “A temporary suspension is an immediate measure that Dean Wright can employ while we investigate the matter further and make assessments that are in the best interest of our campus and the individual student moving forward. Having said that, we are unclear at this time when or even if this student will be able to return.”

The anonymous student witness said they think the school’s response plan to have an investigation is “appropriate for now” based on what they experienced.

“Definitely an investigation I think, and to understand the intention behind (their) actions is something necessary,” the student witness said. “Obviously, wearing the hood was wrong, but I’m not sure if (they) had directed it at any other people or had interacted negatively with any other people.”

Wright said there is “always more to do and more conversations to have.”

“We are a united community. We have to talk about it and figure out how to heal from this,” Wright said.

Webster said he encourages anyone who needs to talk to contact his assistant Joan Eagan via email at jeagen@albion.edu, and said any students who need support should reach out to Counseling Services or use Timely Care. Wright said students can also contact the Office of Belonging for support.

About Bella Bakeman 52 Articles
Bella Bakeman is a junior from Berkley, Michigan. She is majoring in English with a Secondary Education Concentration and minoring in Political Science. Bella seeks to bring both joy and justice to her readers. She can be found with a camera around her neck, notebook in hand and pen in her pocket. Contact Bella via email at INB10@albion.edu.

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