A Michigan college board has agreed to launch an independent investigation after students and employees complained about a staff member’s alleged racism and sexual harassment.
During a special meeting Thursday night, the Jackson College Board of Trustees voted to look into the allegations after they were first brought to light during a series of meetings in September.
“I think the decision here as a Board, we’ve heard a number of things from the community and so forth,” Board Chairman John Crist said, according to Fox 47. “And I think they wanted to go forward with it.”
Jackson College Assistant Dean of Instruction Jamie Vandenburgh said employees within the academic community need to consistently be held to moral standards.
“We need the decisions and practices coming from the stewards of this institution to live out the institutional values—values that we are asked to embody before employment begins,” she said, according to MLive. “These are values that we and staff are evaluated on each year, and values that many of us are left questioning whether they are shared by all at this institution, especially when policies and practices are seemingly not followed.”
In Aug. 2src22, student Na’Tiyah Jones-Montgomery said that a Jackson College employee repeatedly harassed one of her friends, constantly asking her how many members of the basketball team she had slept with.
“And he just kept asking and kept asking it and we tried changing the subject,” Montgomery told local outlet WLNS 6 Lansing. “It was, like, very uncomfortable.”
Montgomery, a Black woman who also worked within the school’s food department, said that same employee also made snide comments about her hair. Montgomery said a couple of months after she filed multiple complaints against the coworker, she was fired from the school.
“As a Black woman, I have to walk around on eggshells,” Montgomery told a rally of students protesting in September. “I do not feel safe on this campus.”
Another Black Jackson College employee said at a meeting in September that she never felt comfortable wearing her natural hair.
“I never wore my natural hair just for the simple fact that I was scared that it would be one more thing that would be brought up in conversation behind my back, being the only staff member who was a Black woman at student services at the time,” Tiffany Thomas said, according to WLNS.
Another meeting will be held Oct. 25 to discuss how to legally navigate the investigation, and then a following meeting will be conducted in November to cover discoveries from an internal report by the college president, Daniel Phelan.
“As a public institution, Jackson College remains deeply committed to our students of all backgrounds, ethnic groups, religions, and experiences as noted in our mission, vision and values,” Phelan said in September. “The programs and services that we provide to our students is a direct reflection of this commitment.”
Students hailed the 6-1 decision from the board Thursday to appoint an independent investigator.
“It feels good,” Jones-Montgomery said, according to Fox 47. “I hope they voted yes because it was in their hearts and not just because the majority would be mad.”