Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bennington College awards glowing letter of recommendation to former Campus Safety Officer David Skau

Content warning: the following article contains mentions of white supremacy.

The Bennington Beacon has obtained a copy of a letter of recommendation for former Campus Safety Officer David Skau regarding future employment. The letter, pictured below, is dated January 11th and signed by Michael Schmidt, Associate Director of Campus Safety. 

In an open letter from the Bennington College Student Union published in the Beacon on December 7th, and in further details from the Bennington Banner two days later, Skau was revealed to have participated in a reactionary protest against the Black Lives Matter movement in the town of Bennington on June 14th, 2020. Skau was photographed alongside “self-described white nationalist” Max Misch, as well as Skau’s wife, Karen Cummings Skau, who is pictured holding a sign reading “BLUE LIVES MATTER” and “WWG1WGA,” a cryptic term associated with the QAnon conspiracy.

The administration’s immediate public response to these revelations came in the form of a statement by Director of Communications Alex Dery Snider to the Bennington Banner, confirming that Skau “left Bennington College in November” but that “The College cannot comment on anything related to a specific employee” because of “privacy concerns.” 

Picture and labels from the Bennington College Student Union Facebook page. Former Campus Safety officer Skau is pictured along wife Karen Cummings Skau and Max Misch, “a white supremacist known for his harassment of former state Rep. Kiah Morris,” according to VT Digger.

President Laura Walker also touched on the situation in a December 8th email to students in reminder of a town-hall meeting regarding fire violations. After extending an invitation to the meeting, Walker adds, 

“Additionally, as many of you know, students raised concerns over the weekend about a former employee.” Walker asserts that “The College is adamantly opposed to all forms of racism and expects every member of our community to uphold our values of antiracism, inclusion, equity, fairness, and compassion. These values are at the very core of who we are as an institution and how we seek to be a community of academic excellence.”

But despite this idealistic public stance in opposition to racism, Michael Schmidt still deemed Skau worthy of recommendation in a private setting, writing that “David demonstrated a high level of professionalism, an exceptional work ethic and excellent customer service skills that would make him an asset to any team.” 

In his letter, Schmidt recommends Skau as being “responsible for taking care of the mental and physical well-being of our student body,” despite the Student Union’s declaration—in the letter signed nearly half of the student body—that the community “cannot trust white supremacists to keep us safe,” and that “David Skau’s presence on campus and his position of power and authority endangers all of us, especially our most vulnerable students.” 

Schmidt claims that Skau “demonstrated good judgement and empathy,” despite the claim that Skau “posts anti-mask comments on his Facebook page, including ‘Stop trying to say we show God’s love to the world by humbling ourselves and wearing a mask’ and ‘Masks are easy – the world pretty much supports your outrage – it’s a thing to do and you don’t get much opposition for taking a stand.”

When asked to respond, Schmidt says that “the recommendation was only written on what I experienced working with David.” 

Director of Campus Safety Ken Collamore claims to have had no knowledge of the letter’s existence, saying, “it’s the first time I’m hearing of it too, is my honest answer.” President Laura Walker also denies prior awareness: “We were made aware of the reference letter today. It was not endorsed or approved by the College, and I am deeply troubled. We are looking into the matter further.”

Following the revelations from the Student Union and Skau’s resignation, Collamore conducted a “deep dive in the quantitative places that we can analyze the work” of campus safety officers. He researched into any possible instances of racial discrimination in Skau’s work, including “giving parking tickets to certain people [over] others, violations—all the things that would be earmarked for a premeditated attempt to target a particular individual or audience.”

“In all honesty, a little shameless part of this, what I found is he didn’t do a lot of work. And there was absolutely zero signs [of discriminatory practices] because he wrote no parking tickets and only one violation in the course of a year.” 

Regarding the letter, Collamore adds that he would “certainly have to follow up before I can offer any really informed opinion.”

“We were made aware of the reference letter today. It was not endorsed or approved by the College, and I am deeply troubled. We are looking into the matter further. ”

The Beacon will provide updates as administrative officials are able to respond further. 

Letter of recommendation for David Skau signed by Michael Schmidt, Associate Director of Campus Safety

Sarah Lore (she/her) is a fourth-term writing student, focusing her work on the creation of pathways to social reform through journalism and publishing. She is a Prose Editor of (M)othertongues Magazine, a Literature Discipline Representative of the Student Educational Policy Committee, and a founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Bennington Beacon. You can contact her at sarahlore@bennington.edu

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

css.php