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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Letter: Racial Profiling by Public Safety

To the Editor:

Re “Accused Student Alleges Racial Profiling” (front page, Sept. 28):

Perceptions of racial profiling by public safety personnel are not limited to students. Other members of the college community, including faculty and staff, believe they have been the targets of similar discriminatory behavior.

Earlier this year, a senior member of the faculty, who is a person of color, was unlocking a door of a campus building where her office is located. It was early on a Sunday evening well before sunset. A public safety officer aggressively approached the faculty member and ordered her to “Raise your hands and put them against the wall.” Only when a white companion of the professor appeared on the scene did the officer drop his threatening manner.

I was appalled to learn of this incident. I have unlocked the door of my office building numerous times over the many years I have been at Middlebury, during weekends and evenings at all hours of the day and night. No public safety personnel have ever accosted me or approached me with the attitude that I was engaged in unlawful activity. They have either ignored me, given me a friendly wave, or occasionally asked if I needed help: exactly the sort of response I would have expected any faculty or staff member to receive when trying to access his or her office with the appropriate key provided by the college.

When you are a person of color engaged in an innocent common activity and security officers leap to the conclusion that you are a dangerous suspect without even asking you a question, it is hard not to conclude that you are a victim of racial profiling.

It is especially distressing that although this incident was reported promptly, the professor states that the college administration has been slow to respond, and while it regards the officer’s behavior as “unacceptable,” it refuses to recognize it as racial profiling.

Professor of Mathematics