Trigger warning: mention of racial slurs
On Feb. 9, 2021, a post on the @DearMereCo Instagram page described an encounter with a professor, who was not initially identified, in which they used a racial slur in a class. Following this post, students began calling for the professor to be named and for them to resign. In the comments of the post, the professor was soon identified as Dr. Veronique Machelidon, Department Head of World Languages and Cultures. On Feb. 22, another post regarding the incident was shared on @DearMereCo. This post provided a script for students to use to call Dr. Machelidon’s campus phone and demand her resignation. The post also called for the resignation of Dr. Sarah Roth, Dean of Arts and Humanities, due to the fact that students claim she did not take action against Dr. Machelidon and dismissed student concerns. Find more details about the incident and further information about students’ and alumnae’s response to the situation in The Meredith Herald’s other article covering this ongoing investigation.
While Dr. Machelidon could not comment due to the ongoing investigation, The Herald reached out to Dr. Roth for a comment about her role in the situation. While she also could not comment on the specifics of the investigations, she did provide The Herald with a statement:
“I am deeply sorry for my role in this traumatic incident. I first learned of the word being used in class at the end of November, when a student reported to me that the word had been said in class the previous week as a way of explaining a French term. I took the report seriously and took steps to address it over the next several days. Looking back, I can see there were gaps in how the situation was handled and that it was not resolved to the satisfaction of the students in the class.
We are working now to make sure we have a clear and transparent process that is easily available and accessible to all students for reporting incidents of bias and discrimination, including deadlines for getting back to students with appropriate updates about an incident once they have reported it. The other deans and I are working to have this process available by the time classes resume after spring break.
I have also been working in consultation with the Student Advisory Board in Arts & Humanities to bring in a diversity and equity trainer for the faculty in my school. We must make sure every faculty member builds skills of empathy, cultural humility, listening and understanding so we can serve our students in the manner they deserve.
This is a caring community, but a community that has been deeply hurt by recent events. Accountability and transformative justice are important. We must, though, begin to heal our community, and giving our students, faculty and staff the truth is, I think, a good place to start.”
Dr. Jo Allen, President of Meredith College, told The Herald that she first learned of the incident involving Dr. Machelidon on Feb. 9, the day of the first @DearMereCo post. According to Dr. Allen, an investigation immediately began in order to collect the facts, “determine the appropriate course of action, implement that course and follow up.” While the details of the investigation and the course of action cannot be shared at this time, there is “a range of options for response: counseling, diversity and sensitivity training, coaching, reassignment of responsibilities, suspension, termination, to name a few.” Dr. Allen emphasized that Meredith is working on “reviewing, clarifying and teaching all our protocols and information on how to report such incidents in a timely fashion and to expect timely updates, as allowed,” as Dr. Roth also said. According to Dr. Allen, this process will allow incidents to be reported to supervisors and logged with Human Resources for employee incidents or the Dean of Students for student incidents. Finally, Dr. Allen said, “Ultimately, I want students to know that we hear them and support them. We are committed at all times and on all levels to make Meredith a better place.”
By Olivia Slack, Co-Editor in Chief