This story is part of CT Mirror Explains, an ongoing effort to distill our wide-ranging reporting into a "what you need to know" format. To dive deeper on any element of this topic, use the links in the story.
Earlier this year, Connecticut College planned a fundraiser at the Everglades Club in Florida, an exclusive club that has been accused of discrimination against Jewish and Black people.
News of the fundraiser and the abrupt resignation of the school’s dean of diversity, equity and inclusion one day before it was cancelled set off a series of events, including protests by students and faculty over broader DEI issues.
The events culminated in the resignation of President Katherine Bergeron.
Connecticut College has since chosen an interim president, Board of Trustees member Les Wong, who assumed office on July 1. And the school has formed a search committee to name Bergeron’s permanent replacement.
Here’s a timeline of the events that have unfolded at Connecticut College over the last few months and the school’s plans for appointing a new president.
Feb. 7, 2023: Connecticut College DEI Dean Rodmon King resigns
But in a letter to the college’s board of trustees reported on by several news outlets, King also cited issues unrelated to the fundraiser.
He claimed Bergeron had created a “toxic administrative culture of fear and intimidation” among the college’s leadership by denigrating, talking over and silencing his colleagues.
In her letter, Bergeron said King’s resignation “represents a real loss to our community and to the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Conn.”
King declined to comment.
Feb. 8, 2023: Bergeron announces cancellation of the Everglades Club fundraiser
Bergeron made the announcement in a letter to the campus community.
“Full participation is a core value at Conn, which is why I regret our decision to schedule an event at a location whose history and reputation suggest otherwise,” Bergeron said in the letter. “We made that decision believing that our values were clear. But the decision to proceed came across differently, and we recognize now that we were wrong.”
Feb. 12, 2023: Board of trustees chair addresses DEI concerns
In a letter to the school community, the board called the planned fundraising event a mistake, voiced its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus and said it will fund an independent review of the school’s DEI work.
A university spokesperson said last week that the school is continuing to search for a contractor to conduct the review.
Feb. 14, 2023: Group of Connecticut College faculty responds to board of trustees
Faculty took issue with the school’s decision to hire an outside consulting group and put forth a series of what they called “expectations,” including demanding that the school support its Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion and conduct an “open” search for the next president that allows for finalists to meet the campus community.
Feb. 23, 2023: Student Voices for Equity announces demands
In a petition that received 1,080 signatures, the group called for Bergeron’s resignation, a transparent search for a new president, more money for the school’s equity and inclusion department, better resources for underrepresented students and more.
Feb. 26, 2023: Students begin protesting
Several students locked themselves inside the school’s Fanning Hall and hung signs from the hall’s windows, while others protested outside the building.
Protests on campus lasted several days, and faculty members joined the students.
March 1, 2023: Bergeron responds to Student Voices for Equity’s demands
The president announced action on several of Student Voices for Equity’s demands, including a review of the staffing and budget for Conn’s DIEI department and the building of a “web presence” with resources for underrepresented students.
Bergeron did not comment on the calls for her resignation.
March 24, 2023: Bergeron resigns as president of Connecticut College
Bergeron said she would step down at the end of the college’s spring 2023 semester.
Though her resignation letter didn’t directly reference the fundraising event, King’s resignation or the protests, Bergeron alluded to them, saying, “The past several weeks have proven particularly challenging.”
“As president, I fully accept my share of responsibility for the circumstances that have led us to this moment,” she said.
March 27, 2023: Connecticut College announces interim DIEI dean
The school chose Nakia Hamlett, who joined Connecticut College in 2017 and has taught psychology and served as the school’s director of faculty equity, inclusion and belonging.
June 8, 2023: Connecticut College chooses Les Wong as interim president
Wong, a four-year member of the school’s board of trustees, is a former president of San Francisco State University and Northern Michigan University. He will serve until Connecticut College’s next president takes office.
Faculty members involved in the protests have complained about their level of involvement in the interim president’s appointment and said they’re hoping for a greater say in the school’s search for a new president.
“We have faculty and staff representatives on the search committee and that’s an improvement from how the interim president was appointed,” said Sociology Professor Afshan Jafar. “But we hope that we will have an opportunity as a campus to meet with finalists and interact directly with them before giving feedback to the search committee.”
When asked whether Connecticut College plans to honor that request, spokesperson John Cramer referred CT Mirror to the school’s Presidential Search website, which states that the school plans to “gather input from the Conn community, including senior administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the College.”
Now: Connecticut College looks for its next president
The university has formed a search committee made up of faculty, staff, students and trustees. That committee, partnered with executive search firm WittKeiffer, hopes to have a new president chosen in spring 2024, who would start that summer.
Jafar said the school’s next leader should be well-versed in the issues facing Connecticut College specifically and issues facing higher education in general.
“We hope to find a true leader with vision and courage to make necessary changes that enable Connecticut College to live up to its liberal arts mission, rather than a president who believes their job is to be a CEO/manager,” she said.