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Open Letter from Student Union regarding Campus Safety Officer David Skau

Sunday, December 6th 2020

To: Ken Collamore, Mike Schmidt, Heather Faley, Laura Walker, Delia Saenz, Meredith McCoy 

Subject: Campus Safety Officer David Skau

We are writing this letter because it has come to our attention that white supremacist and former cop David Skau is still employed by Bennington College’s Campus Safety department. Skau associates with self-declared white nationalists, including Max Misch, who harassed former State Representative Kiah Morris out of office. Members of Student Union and other Bennington students can verify that Skau attended a Black Lives Matter protest outside of the Bennington Police Department on June 14 as a counterprotestor alongside Max Misch and Skau’s wife, Karen Skau. Karen Skau holds alt-right ideology including the right wing Qanon conspiracy theory, which alleges that Satan-worshipping Jewish elites are running a global child sex trafficking ring that is secretly being fought by Donald Trump, and associates with far right militia groups. We cannot trust white supremacists to keep us safe. David Skau’s presence on campus and his position of power and authority endangers all of us, especially our most vulnerable students. 

Skau is also a public anti-masker. He did not wear a mask at the aforementioned Black Lives Matter rally and 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.’” We know that masks aren’t about showing outrage or performing a political opinion. They’re about keeping our community safe. If Skau is choosing not to take appropriate precautions to guard against COVID when he’s off the clock, he exponentially increases the likelihood that he will bring COVID to our campus. This is an urgent safety issue and a clear violation of the Commitment of Shared Responsibility we all signed at the beginning of this term, specifically the section on “limiting exposure.”

Ken, the fact that this person was hired at all calls both your judgement and screening practices into question. The fact that these practices allowed Skau, white supremacist and former Florida Sheriff’s Deputy, to be hired shows that your current practices do not keep us safe. Your choice to continue hiring former police officers, ICE agents, and prison guards does not keep us safe. Our call to refrain from hiring people who have worked in those occupations as Campus Safety officers is not about, to quote your interview in the Beacon, “stereotyping people.” We are making this demand because people employed in those professions have chosen to make a living by perpetuating the systems of oppression that harm so many of Bennington’s students. It’s not fair of you to ask us to put our safety in the hands of individuals who have participated in these systems. Your failure to institute hiring practices that prevent white supremacist anti-maskers like David Skau from being hired and your dismissal of our valid concerns about hiring law enforcement officials as “stereotyping” are why we students need binding power in Campus Safety’s hiring decisions. Regardless of whether the former law enforcement officials you hire can “articulate why they would like to work here and how they envision working with this community,” their presence here makes us unsafe. As the director of our Campus Safety department, our feelings of safety should matter more to you than your desire to not “judge somebody.” 

We demand that David Skau be immediately fired and that binding decision-making power be granted to the students who participate in the Campus Safety Hiring Committee before any additional Campus Safety officers are hired. Again, David Skau should never have been hired in the first place, let alone worked here for almost a year. The fact that students learned more about him by engaging in the town community and briefly researching him than Campus Safety did in his hiring and his entire time working here is a testament to why this demand needs to be met now. 

Best,

Bennington College Student Union

With the support of:

Bennington College Black Student Union

Middlebury Cops Off Campus

UVM Union of Students

UVM Progressives

Cornell Abolitionist Revolutionary Society

Columbia University Young Democratic Socialists of America

Racial Justice Coalition of UMass Amherst


UPDATE: Monday, December 7th 2020

As of November 30th, we are glad to share that David Skau no longer works at Bennington College. He left for his own reasons, unrelated to our demands. 

While we are happy to hear that he won’t be in uniform on the Bennington campus, trust in the current hiring and oversight practices of Campus Safety has been thoroughly undermined. To ensure that students’ voices are not just “heard”, but acted on, we reassert our demand that students are given binding power on the Campus Safety hiring committee before any more officers are hired. We demand for students to be a third of the voting presence in the committee. 

Students are the constituency that Campus Safety Officers are supposed to protect. One third of the hiring committee is not excessive, it is a small step in building structures for us to have realized autonomy over our lives on campus.

We also call into the question the practice of hiring former Law Enforcement, ICE, and “Correctional” Officers as Campus Safety Officers. These professions come with specific and deeply harmful training, and actively target marginalized communities that deserve to feel and be safe on our campus. 

Your support over the past day has been incredible- We already have over 300 people signed on to our letter. Please keep pressuring as we move from crisis management into structural change.

In Solidarity,

Student Union.


https://bit.ly/Fire-Skau-Sign-On

One Comment

  1. Marcy Marcy December 9, 2020

    Well done keeping campus safety in check!! Unbelievable that this person was ever hired! For some it takes months to be hired at BC, always thought it was due to college doing background checks. Certainly not the case for this individual.

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