The president of Connecticut College has announced she will step down at the end of the semester, following weeks of student protests stemming from a fundraiser she had planned to attend at a golf club with a reportedly racist and antisemitic history.
Katherine Bergeron’s announcement Friday capped a saga that saw mounting backlash spread across the small liberal arts campus in New London. For roughly a month, ad-hoc student groups occupied a central administrative building on campus to demand Bergeron’s resignation, and in early March, school faculty passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in her leadership.
The activists behind the protests
The key student activist organization that led the protests held its initial meeting in the campus Hillel building, and its organizers sought out and encouraged Jewish representation. During the weeks when the occupation of the administrative building was taking place, Hillel canceled a planned Shabbat dinner with Bergeron and issued a statement in solidarity with the activists.
“It has been an honor to serve this College for the past nine and a half years,” Bergeron wrote in her resignation letter. While not explicitly mentioning the student protests or the inciting incident, Bergeron wrote, “The past several weeks have proven particularly challenging, and as president, I fully accept my share of responsibility for the circumstances that have led us to this moment.”
The controversy at Connecticut College began in February when the school’s dean of institutional equity and inclusion resigned following a disagreement with Bergeron over a planned fundraiser at the Everglades Club, an exclusive golf club in Palm Beach, Florida. The club has reportedly excluded Jewish and Black people in the past.
While the fundraiser was canceled, campus uproar surrounding it soon snowballed into a larger movement to push the college to direct more funding toward diversity and inclusion-related causes. Those include campus education around antisemitism and more funding for Jewish studies.
Debo Adegbile, chair of the college’s board of trustees, said in a statement that the board would commit itself to “providing additional resources” to advance the campus office of institutional equity and inclusion. A spokesperson for the college declined further comment.
“We are so proud that our consistent protests paid off and made such a big impact,” Davi Schulman, a Jewish sophomore at the college and member of its Hillel leadership team, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We can now really look forward to the College’s future.”