Students protest at Coe College after black administrator resigns

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Alumni and students are protesting Coe College’s treatment of a prominent black administrator who resigned after criticizing the school’s recent presidential selection process as lacking in diversity.

Darryl Banks, a 1972 graduate who served on its board of trustees for four decades, resigned last month after the board named David Hayes 16th president of Coe, a private liberal arts school at Cedar Rapids.

In his resignation letter, Banks described an Oct. 1 board meeting in which he expressed “diversity and inclusion issues” regarding the search committee’s deliberations. He wrote that another director accused him of lying and that board executives later called him dishonest after complaining about the incident, which he called ” damage to my personality ”.

“Unfortunately, these actions make it clear that board leadership lacks the willingness to have frank discussions about diversity and inclusion or the ability to promote meaningful commitment to social and racial justice. , diversity, equity and inclusion, ”Banks wrote.

The board chose Hayes, a white man who had served as interim president, as its next president following research that included two other male finalists and dozens of nominees. Banks and dissident administrators were disappointed that the other candidates did not move forward.

Banks is Coe’s latest Rhodes Fellow and has pursued a career in environmental policy. Now from Potomac, Maryland, he has pushed the school to be a national leader in racial equality, writing that “nothing has made me prouder than trying to make Coe a more diverse and inclusive college community. “.

Another administrator, Minnesota attorney Alan Anderson resigned on October 28, citing the way Banks had been treated and echoing concerns about the search process.

“I have never witnessed such uncivil, unwarranted and reprehensible conduct during my tenure on the board of directors,” he wrote, recalling that Banks was described as a “bald-faced liar”.

Anderson wrote that the search process “was neither fair nor open” and favored Hayes once members chose him over others to be interim president. He said the committee failed to attract a diverse pool of finalists and passed Hayes on to more qualified people.

Student leaders were planning to hold a protest Thursday to demand that the school apologize to Banks, change the makeup of the board and hire a director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We refuse to allow the Council to sweep this under the rug as a simple misunderstanding, a tactic too often used to diminish the voices and concerns of marginalized people,” the Student Senate wrote in a note to students.

The Black Alumni Association and many faculty and campus staff joined in the calls for change.

Board chairman Carson Veach said in a campus memo that an administrator used sharp language with Banks, whose claims were “inconsistent with the research process view held by the other six members of the board of directors of the research committee “. He said the trustee apologized for his language but stood by his opinion.

Directors urged Banks not to resign, “regret his resignation and the circumstances leading up to it,” and appreciate his decades of service and leadership in diversity, Veach wrote.

Veach announced that the board has adopted a new code of conduct for directors and is considering whether to add students and faculty to the board.

He defended the research, saying “every effort has been made to build a diverse pool” and that one of the five semi-finalists was a person of color. He said the trustees supported the selection of Hayes, a former vice president for advancement and Coe’s first alumnus to serve as president.

“No selection process is perfect, but it was determined, after careful consideration, that our process was thorough and fair, and the result was legitimate,” Veach wrote.

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