The six Barnard Public Safety officers involved in the physical confrontation of Alexander McNab, CC ‘19, have been placed on paid administrative pending investigation, Barnard administrators announced to students on Friday evening.
A little after 11 p.m. Thursday, officers followed McNab into the Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning after he did not show his ID at the Barnard gates. More officers were called to the scene as McNab continued to decline to show his ID, and the confrontation culminated when two officers physically pinned him against a counter in in Peet’s Coffee. After McNab ultimately agreed, the officers confiscated his ID, saying they needed to verify that he was an active Columbia student.
In response to the incident, both Barnard and Columbia held listening sessions where students expressed concerns to administrators regarding what happened. The two also released statements, though the message from Barnard President Sian Beilock did not mention racism involved in the confrontation.
Later that evening, the deans of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, General Studies, and Columbia College released a second joint statement referencing anti-black racism and emphasizing the need for urgent response and discussion.
“We recognize there is a continued legacy of anti-black racism that has existed in our country since its founding. The more recent climate of racism and inflammatory rhetoric in both the country and the world at large continues to demonstrate a rising trend that targets marginalized populations. We are disturbed that such incidents continue to occur so close to home, and share in the hurt and pain many of you may be feeling.”
Barnard also released a second statement announcing that it had placed all six officers on leave, and is hiring an independent investigator to review what happened. It did not reference anti-blackness.
“We are taking this very seriously and look forward to further engaging the community on this topic. Barnard values inclusivity and is committed to ensuring a safe, respectful, and welcoming place for each and every member of our community, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or national origin.”
In response to the college’s failure to acknowledge anti-blackness in relation to Public Safety’s confrontation of McNab, students organized a protest at Barnard Gates hours following the release of the first statement. The Facebook event states that the protest will emphasize the role of campus public safety in the confrontation and highlight that “every white student needs to understand how they are complicit, and often active, in allowing assaults like this to happen,” according to the description.
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