Smith College sophomore Oumou Kanoute
Smith College sophomore Oumou Kanoute Credit: Facebook

A Smith College employee has been placed on leave after calling police on a black female student early last week.

College sophomore Oumou Kanoute was eating lunch in a common room on the Northampton, Massachusetts last Tuesday when an employee saw her.  Feeling she looked out of place, the male employee reportedly phoned police.

Kanoute, who was taking a break in between teaching classes, says she was approached by police, asking her what she was doing at Smith College.

Smith College employee on leave


"Next thing you know, I see the cop walk in with a Smith employee whom I've never seen before and the man said, 'We were wondering why you're here?"' Kanoute said.

A STEM program teacher, Kanoute explained that she was there teaching high school kids during the summer session.

"Oh you're just taking a break? You're with one of the summer programs?" the officer responds.

Kanoute recorded the encounter with police on her phone and shared it on her social media pages. Meanwhile, Amy Hunter, the school's interim director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, shared that police found "nothing suspicious" with Kanoute taking lunch, according to CBS News.


"No student of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions," she wrote. "I worked my hardest to get into Smith, and I deserve to feel safe on my campus."

Adding, "all I did was be black,” she wrote.

Smith College employee put on leave

The unidentified Smith College employee has since been put on leave from his duties with the Massachusetts college issuing a statement that they plan to "conduct a thorough, external investigation." 

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney has since made a public apology to Kanoute.

"This painful incident reminds us of the ongoing legacy of racism and bias in which people of color are targeted while simply going about the business of their daily lives," McCartney's statement read. "Building an inclusive, diverse and sustainable community is urgent and ongoing work."

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