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Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Tale of Three Emails: A Case Study in Surveillance

It has come to our attention that this regime at the College resembles an Orwellian nightmare.

Do Conn administrators, who make hundreds of thousands of dollars, have the freedom to write their own emails and to think for themselves?
Why can David Canton not be allowed write an e-mail about an an incident that falls under the purview of his own office?

If he cannot write emails on his own, why does his position exist at all? Whom does it legitimize to have a person-of-color Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion who has no power? (Hint: the President)

Why did the administrators -- led by Vice President of Communications -- take 10-12 hours to draft any email communications?


At 2.30 pm Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion David Canton wrote the following (all-campus) email responding to the demands of Occupy Fanning. Students had asked that he outline clearly what constitutes bias and which biases merit all-campus communications, state a timeline for the release of the much overdue new bias protocol, and promise to establish a review process to bring accountability to his office.

EMAIL 1 - DAVID CANTON WRITES ON HIS OWN (written in 40 minutes)

"On Thursday, May 10 I sent an all campus email about the mock eviction notices that were posted in a number of residence halls. I sent the all campus message in the evening and many students viewed this as intimidating. My message was not designed to intimidate, single out any students, or prevent constructive dialogue. I sent the campus wide message to inform the campus community about the steps my office was taking to examine, not what the poster states, but where they were posted and its impact on some students.

The bias protocol committee policy group meets next week on May 19th to discuss the Bias Protocol Draft. The committee will disseminate the draft to the Bias Protocol Committee on May 20th. The Bias Protocol Draft Committee will incorporate the edits and send the draft to the President for review. The Bias Protocol will be completed by May 31st and placed in the student handbook in August.

Students will work with John Nugent to develop a survey where students can voice their suggestions for improvements and collect the information to share with the new Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion."

As Canton was writing this email, the VP of Communications Pamela Dumas-Serfes began suggesting and finally insisted that the only way to draft an appropriate e-mail response was for him to leave the room along with her and her “team.”  
After students objected to this non-consultative style of shared governance, Dumas- Serfes made the following remarks about Canton on his behalf:

Maybe he doesn’t work well with a lot of people sitting around and drafting. This is an important communication. Don’t you want it to be right?
David, would you feel comfortable stepping out and working on it like we would normally work on-
It’s intimidating [for David] to be sitting here
David, do you feel- maybe intimidation is not the right word. Is it hard for you to work?
[The reason for leaving the room] It’s more the writing process...he’s not a writer.
At this point the students point blank asked Dumas-Serfes who writes all-campus emails and who wrote the one that went out on May 10.

That was a group of people talking about it. It came from David. There’s a conversation that happens.

The takeaway: President Katherine Bergeron has (so generously) created a Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion position, appointed a qualified professor to the position, but cannot have this person writing emails to his constituency about cases of racism, intimidation, bias, or anything else that is his job.

After Dumas-Serfes’ order to the administrators to leave the room, Canton leaves his office for 4 hours, and returns with a “professionally written” an email that the students reject.



"Dear Students,
On Tuesday, May 10th, the Dean of Students, Dean of College, and my office sent an email to all students about the mock eviction notices. I recently had conversations with many students about that email. As a result, I discovered that some students were disturbed by the wording of the email which stated an investigation of the incident and implicated restrictions on their academic freedom.   As a result, my office is looking into developing transparency regarding the process of identifying which reports warrant a campus-wide email.
My office, along with a number of others, have a responsibility to follow on these reports. All students have the right to fill out a bias report. The first step in that  process involves conversations with both, the students who submitted the reports and those who, in this particular case, posted the notices.  This is the process by which we determine whether or not this is a bias incident.

I want to emphasize, as I have throughout the year, that all students have a right to free speech. I encourage all members of the community to share their concerns with me and to continue to engage in more productive and open dialogue.

David Canton
Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion"


"To Members of the Connecticut College Community,

During the last year, I had the pleasure of serving as the Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion. I want to thank President Katherine Bergeron for the opportunity to address equity and inclusion at the College and for her support in hiring outstanding staff in the DIEI division.

One of my goals over the last year was to address equity issues for faculty, staff and students by providing programs and events to encourage all members of our community to express their views freely and openly in a respectful manner. We made excellent progress on that front: my office sponsored and co-sponsored nearly 60 programs, many of which were recommended by faculty, staff and students. You can see the full list of programs here. In addition, I have been in conversation with many members of our community this year to help foster an environment that supports freedom of expression on our campus.

I also want to provide an update on the bias protocol. I have been facilitating conversations on the policy and procedures over the course of this past year. The student component of the student protocol is near completion. The committee will be reviewing a final draft within the next week so that it can be incorporated into the 2016-17 Student Handbook in August. In addition, Dean McNeely Cobham presented the bias protocol at an open forum of the Student Government Association last week and answered questions about it. This year’s work on the student bias protocol will serve as a foundation for the work that will be done next year on the faculty and staff component of the bias protocol.

As the semester concludes, I also want to direct you to a new page on the dean of institutional equity and inclusion website that offers a more complete report of our work in 2016. The progress builds on the longstanding partnerships across campus and represents the collective work of many interdisciplinary programs and centers, academic departments and administrative offices.

It has been an honor to oversee the new Office of Equity and Inclusion. In the past weeks, I have been reflecting on the work we did together, and would encourage your thoughts about our office and our work going forward. In that vein, we will be working on a survey to gather feedback before the new academic year. You can expect to receive something from John McKnight, our new dean of institutional equity and inclusion, when he joins the office in July.

I want to thank you all for your support and commitment to equity and inclusion. I am grateful to everyone who is working to make this a better college.

-David Canton
Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion"


  1. I had a feeling that that email was total BS.

  2. Wow....that email completely lost all meaning to me now. Super important that you were able to surface this transformation!

  3. Is there a possibility that some one either here or on the Facebook post the initial email that started this protest? And the flyer that they are calling into question??

    Not all of us who are following are on campus and would like to know.