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Instant replay: Are White Employees Scared of Students of Color at Kennesaw State?

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

Being an employee at a public university can be a great job with benefits like health care and pension. But the reason you get out of bed every morning should be for the tremendous opportunity to work with the young people of today.

After all, in the business of higher ed, they are your customers.

Same goes for the employers at public universities. If you’re looking for your next employees on sites like this one, let’s hope you get candidates who know how to deal with a diverse student body.

You can’t have people scared of students who happen to be a different color than they are.

That said, we turn our attention to the case at the Atlanta-area college known as Kennesaw State.

It was graduation this past week.

But I hope the good administrators there aren’t so eager to go on vacation.

They have a little matter to take care of—like how to deal with a White employee who seems to have trouble with Black students.

The employee is an “advisor” whose job it is to give thoughtful recommendations to young students like KSU student Kevin Bruce.

Bruce, an African-American student, was waiting to see an advisor.

But the woman identified in news reports as Abby Dawson comes out to deal with Bruce and lets him know he can’t wait in the front office.

Bruce turned on his cell phone camera, pointed it right at Dawson, and captured it all.

Apparently, Bruce had talked to an office attendant beforehand.

The attendant, who didn’t know how to handle the situation, called her boss, Dawson, who happens to be more than a mere advisor.

She’s the director of advising and internships in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management.

She clearly doesn’t have time for Bruce, whom she accuses of harassment.

From Bruce’s tweeted video:

Dawson: (unintelligible) I’m just telling you like that.

Bruce: I’m not harassing no one.

Dawson: You are.

Bruce: I’m not.

Dawson: I can call security. You can fill out the form just like everybody else.

Bruce: OK, I mean, I’m just waiting to talk to someone. I’m not harassing no one though.

Dawson: Sitting here until someone is available (pause) is harassment.

Bruce: That’s not…harass…

Dawson: It is. Would you like for me to call campus security?

Bruce: I mean…

Dawson: I will go do that.

Bruce: OK, (tape ends).

Dawson is clearly not taking any bunk from a lowly student like Bruce.

But see the video yourself here.

She’s also not showing much patience in the situation, either.

On Friday, Kennesaw State issued a statement saying that Dawson has been placed on administrative leave pending a comprehensive investigation expected to take two weeks.

“Kennesaw State is dedicated to providing a positive academic experience for all students,” said Ken Harmon, Kennesaw State’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, as reported in the Atlanta media. “We also have a responsibility to provide all students, faculty and staff with a fair and thorough review process.”

Well, at least now he’ll have some videotape to review.

The tweet pic has been seen by thousands. And Dawson? She has some explaining to do.

In these times, when police behaving badly too often gets caught on tape, I’ve often suggested we all have our cameras at the ready to capture all the little transgressions and humiliations that no one ever believes really happened.

It’s just a matter of racial self-defense. A kind of personal instant replay.

If Bruce didn’t have his camera out, and it was his word against Dawson, what do you think would happen?

But now here’s a video.

Let’s hope it’s a teaching tool for all involved.

Award-winning journalist and commentator Emil Guillermo writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Contact him at

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