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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Violent Imagery Drawn on Classroom Chalkboard

Violent, racially charged imagery was found on a chalkboard in room 314 of Munroe Hall on Tuesday morning. The drawing, of college spokesman Bill Burger driving into Addis Fouche-Channer ’17 with his car, was an imagined depiction of the night of March 2, when protesters surrounded Burger’s car as he drove Charles Murray and Allison Stanger away from campus.

The car appeared to have a gallows attached to its bumper, similar to the kind drawn in the game Hangman.

Fouche-Channer, who is black, was accused of being at Burger’s car by a Public Safety officer last spring. She has maintained for months that she was never there, and that she was misidentified and racially profiled. The college initially said she was not at the car, but after she filed a formal racial profiling complaint, it contended she was there.

One chalkboard panel at the front of the classroom said “F—ck Addis.” Beside it was a partially illegible message that began “Best to you dear,” above a gaunt, smiling face. On a side chalkboard was the violent image of Burger ramming into Fouche-Channer, which was captioned with text that read “Addis and Big Bill playing games.”

Kizzy Joseph ’18 posted images of the drawing and text in a Facebook group for the class of 2018.

“So one of y’all colleagues wanna be bold and write ‘F—ck Addis’ but can’t say it to a Black person’s face?” she wrote in the post. “TRY ME. I DARE YOU to come up to me as a Black woman and say ‘F—ck Addis.’ F—CK whoever did this and ALL OF Y’ALL who are complicit in this racism. I’m fuming at this disregard of Black humanity and trauma.”

“Also just an fyi, the person who posted this is not Addis and neither am I, since there’s so much confusion,” wrote Elizabeth Dunn ’18, who is also black. Dunn said they had been mistaken for Fouche-Channer twice on Saturday night, Oct. 28.

“If this doesn’t get you pissed the f—ck off, wake up y’all,” Eliza Renner ’18 wrote. “What are you doing to combat this kind of behavior within your friend groups, classes, clubs and teams?”

“What a f—cking coward, to whichever spineless, racist Middlebury student/students participated in this,” Matt Gillis ’18 wrote. “And in chalk? On a blackboard in some random building on campus? So pathetic.”

Fouche-Channer responded to the images in an interview.

“It doesn’t surprise me that this is the kind of thing that’s coming out of Middlebury College, because the administration doesn’t even follow its own guidelines or restrictions for what kind of behavior is appropriate on campus,” Fouche-Channer said. “Wouldn’t you expect students to feel as if they could do anything and everything without any consequences?”

“Middlebury hasn’t cared about racism and discrimination before and hasn’t shown they’re putting down a firm foot. So obviously the students are going to feel like they can do and say anything without any consequences.”

When asked whether she thought the object on the bumper of the car could be anything other than a gallows, Fouche-Channer said no.

“It’s a crude drawing, but it’s very clear what it is.”

“The school needs to take this seriously, and they need to understand that a lot of the things that happened last spring are having effects on what’s happening on campus now,” she said. “This shows that the black students at Middlebury College aren’t safe, people of color at Middlebury aren’t safe, they aren’t respected, they’re not cared for. This is a sign that something needs to be done — many things need to be done — on campus.”

Laurie Patton, president of the college, did not respond to requests for comment before press time. Bill Burger declined to comment.

“This is totally inappropriate and we are looking into it,” said Miguel Fernández, the college’s chief diversity officer. He said a student had shared the photos with him on Tuesday morning.

“I have asked them to make a report to DPS [Public Safety] so that it is in the system and we can follow up officially,” Fernández said. “In the meantime, I have also informed the HROs and JAOs via the Community Bias Response Team.”

The judicial affairs officers (JAOs) and human relation officers (HROs) conducted the two investigations of Fouche-Channer, first in the spring and then in the summer. The summer investigation asserted that Fouche-Channer had been at Burger’s car and denied her claim that she had been racially profiled.

Editor’s note: Laurie Patton and Miguel Fernández issued a joint statement in an all-campus email Thursday at 5 p.m.

It saddens us greatly to share with you that on Tuesday morning, October 31, students reported and photographed disturbing images and messages on classroom blackboards in Munroe Hall. As reported in today’s issue of The Campus, the graffiti was offensive, distressing, and contained racially charged imagery. It violates the spirit of Middlebury’s policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment, which exists to protect the full and equal participation of every member of our community. More importantly, the images dehumanize and disrespect some of our fellow human beings. Personal attacks and imagery of this kind have no place at Middlebury College. If you have any information about this incident, please contact the Department of Public Safety at ext. 5133.