Embattled President of Connecticut College Will Step Down
After facing calls to resign for weeks over a planned fund-raising event, Katherine Bergeron will step down as president of Connecticut College at the end of the spring semester, she announced on Friday.
For more than a month, Bergeron has faced blowback over the private college’s decision to host an event at the Everglades Club, a venue in Palm Beach, Fla., that reportedly has a history of excluding Black and Jewish members. Until now, Bergeron, the college’s president since 2014, had maintained that she would not resign.
But in a statement on Friday, Bergeron wrote that the past few weeks had been especially difficult.
“As president, I fully accept my share of responsibility for the circumstances that have led us to this moment,” she wrote.
On February 6, in response to concerns raised by senior staff members, Bergeron canceled the fund-raising event.
The next day, the college’s dean of institutional equity and inclusion, Rodmon Cedric King, resigned in protest of the episode. In a public letter, he called out a “toxic administrative culture of fear and intimidation” at the college.
Students then called on Bergeron to step down, drawing attention to what they described as the institution’s lack of funding for diversity efforts and turnover problems in the office that King had led. King, whose tenure at the college lasted just over a year, has since been hired as assistant dean of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Over the next month, Bergeron hung on. She apologized to the campus community for the planned event in Palm Beach and maintained that she was committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Students began a sit-in at the administration building, pausing only during the institution’s spring break. Faculty members voted no-confidence in Bergeron’s leadership.
In her statement on Friday, Bergeron wrote that her decision to step down was in the best interest of the faculty, staff, and students.
“For my part, I have thought hard about the events of the past weeks, and I know I will continue to learn from them,” Bergeron wrote. “I hope it is possible for everyone to do the same, for there are many lessons here. It is only through careful, honest discernment that a community can grow towards peace, wisdom, and justice.”
In a separate statement, the chair of the Board of Trustees, Debo P. Adegbile, wrote that the board would name an interim president and immediately begin the process of searching for a new president. Adegbile also underscored the college’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Over the last several weeks our focus has been drawn to areas in which the college can better execute its mission, including the area of equity, inclusion, and full participation.” Adegbile wrote. “Constructive dialogue among students, staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees has already begun to clarify an approach to the next phase of work we need to do to improve the Conn College experience for everyone.”
Bergeron came to Connecticut College from Brown University, where she served as dean of the college from 2006 to 2013.
A spokesperson for Connecticut College declined a request to comment on the resignation, referring The Chronicle to Bergeron’s and the board’s statements.
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