Nearly 60 faculty members have signed on to a letter asking Keene State College administration for a public apology and financial restitution to two Black former students who were arrested in March of 2020, New Hampshire Public Radio reported.
The two students, who were engaged, were charged with simple assault, resisting arrest and trespassing.
When one student, Ndeye Badiane, was sick and vomiting, her fiancé, Tyler Clavelle, came to care for her. Badiane said she smoked marijuana in her dorm room, attracting the attention of a hall director. The director came to the room, noticing Clavelle, who was not allowed in the residence hall over spring break because he did not live there. Clavelle looked through trash to find the pipe and hand it over to the hall director and then used the women’s restroom to wash his hands. Clavelle is nonbinary but uses he/him pronouns.
The hall director started an argument with the two regarding Clavelle’s use of the women’s restroom to wash his hands. A campus security officer called Keene police, who sent five officers. There was an ensuing argument between all parties and the police asked Clavelle to leave the building. He eventually said would leave if he could change into warmer clothes. A police officer said he would have to supervise that happening. Clavelle refused. When police moved to arrest him, he sat down and put his hands under his legs.
“And so I just freeze up because I know I shouldn’t be arrested, but I don’t want to die, so I dropped to the ground,” he told NHPR.
Badiane, who told NHPR that she was terrified, thinking of other times arrest has been deadly for Black people, crossed her arms and ran into two of the officers, causing all to fall. The two were arrested and given a court date.
By the summer, both Badiane and Clavelle had left Keene State. They say the arrest affected their abilities to sleep and caused anxiety around police officers. Badiane said she had trouble finding work with an arrest on her record.
Keene State sent out an email relating to the death of George Floyd that summer. Badiane emailed Keene State president Melinda Treadwell, sharing her experience. The two former students met with Treadwell twice that summer and told NHPR that they wanted both the campus security officer who called the police and the hall director fired, along with payment for therapy fees and help finishing college. They also wanted the administration to acknowledge that race was a factor in the events.
“You also need to realize the times that we live in. [A resident assistant] can’t just call the cops on a Black student because of the times that we live in. You’re literally putting their lives at risk, like the nuances of all of that needs to be understood,” Badiane said. How Clavelle looked, as a tall Black person with dreadlocks, influenced how the hall director reacted, she said.
The two former students said their demands were not met and a list of action items promised by the college never came. Badiane shared online a video of the events on Jan. 12.
The faculty letter calls for a public apology from the administration, along with the payment of legal and health fees incurred by the students, a refund of tuition and the payment of tuition at whatever institution the two decide to finish their degrees at. Other students have also demanded a zero-tolerance policy for racism and discrimination on campus and the establishment of a volunteer-based student support system.
A letter signed by the four Black Lives Matter chapters of New Hampshire called for Treadwell’s resignation, along with demands similar to those from faculty and students.
Treadwell told NHPR that in the summer, after she met with Badiane and Clavelle, Keene State offered “enrollment and academic support” and staff from the Office of Multicultural Student Support and Success reached out to both students.
After the video of the arrest was posted online, Treadwell said in an email to students that Keene State would be establishing de-escalation training for residential staff and updating protocols around campus safety.