Oumou Kanoute, who was then a sophomore at Smith College, insisted all she “did was be black” when a custodian reported her to security when he caught her eating in a closed lounge in July 2018.
The conclusions from the probe circulated in October 2018, but were not widely picked up by media sources.
The situation began when Kanoute went to the cafeteria in a dormitory that was booked for a summer camp program for young children, according to the outlet.
Because older students were not supposed to be in the area at that time, a cafeteria staffer, Jackie Blair, advised Kanoute that she should move on, before opting to leave the issue alone, according to the outlet.
The custodian, a man in his 60s who had problems with his sight, then spotted someone eating in a lounge area of the dorm that was off limits to students.
School guidance counselors had instructed employees not to challenge strangers by themselves, so the custodian followed policy and alerted security about the person, who ended up being Kanoute, according to the outlet.
The custodian, who reportedly later said he did not know the person’s gender because of the distance and poor lighting, reported to dispatchers that there was someone “sitting there laying down in the living room.”
“I didn’t approach him or anything but he seems out of place,” he allegedly said.
A security officer then made their way over to the student and initiated a polite conversation with the student, who decided to aggressively record the discussion on video and later posted it to Facebook, according to the Times.
“It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith, and my existence overall as a woman of color,” Kanoute posted on Facebook about the all-female private school.
“I am blown away at the fact that I cannot even sit down and eat lunch peacefully,” she wrote. “Today someone felt the need to call the police on me while I was sitting down reading, and eating in a common room at the Massachusetts school. This person didn’t try to bring their concerns forward to me, but instead decided to call the police.”
According to the official report, the conversation from the perspective of the school employee was much more low key, as they asked “I haven’t seen you, you’re in this camp?” or, “Hi, I didn’t know you’re working for this camp?”
According to the report, the student then replied, “Yes, I’m in this camp,” or, “Yeah, I’m working for [a group the name of which the employee did not recall].”
That’s when the staffer said that she replied, “Oh,” or “Oh, okay.”
In the report, the polite conversation went on with the security guard remarking, “You know you’re not supposed to eat here,” and Kanoute was said to have replied, “Actually, I have access to this hall. No one let me in here.”
In her own words according to the report, Kanoute said that the employee who spoke with her then said, “It’s fine, I’m just letting you know.”
Smith College president Kathleen McCartney made contact with Kanoute to offer an apology and placed the custodian on leave the day after the encounter, according to the outlet.
However, the probe that followed discovered that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the janitor and that he was following policy as instructed.“Based on this information, the investigation determined that the Caller’s had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for believing it was ‘out of place’ for a person to be in the Tyler living room,” the report read.