Albion College students and alumni call for impeachment of president


Hundreds of students, alumni and current and former employees of Albion College are calling for the president’s impeachment.

Mathew Johnson, who became president of Michigan Liberal Arts College in July 2020, “bullied staff and students into getting what they wanted,” according to a petition which by Tuesday night had raised more than 1,770 signatures. The petition launches a slew of accusations against Johnson, including allegations that he took advantage of campus construction projects, hired non-white employees purely because of their skin color, and kept two goats on campus against the law of the city.

“The people of Albion College and the surrounding community of Albion deserve better than this, we deserve better than him,” reads the petition, which was filed anonymously. “Mathew Johnson must face the consequences of his actions and be removed from his post.”

College officials dismissed all charges, arguing the petition is riddled with misinformation.

“While we always listen to, appreciate and consider feedback, it is also our responsibility to provide our academic community with complete and accurate information,” wrote Susie Pentelow, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at Albion, in an email.

It is not uncommon for disgruntled students and employees of a university president to lobby for their removal. Over the past two years, similar appeals have sprung up at Saint Xavier University, Monmouth College, George Washington University, and Haskell Indian Nations University.

What emerges from the Albion College petition is the range of allegations made against Johnson, both in the petition and in the comments people post with their signatures. Instead of rallying around one or two central issues, the signatories have huddled together. The complaints range from allegations of racism to concerns about limited student parking.

Dissatisfaction with Johnson’s leadership began in August 2020, when the college demanded that all students download an app called Aura, which tracks their whereabouts, said Luke Seaman, a junior history student at Albion who signed the petition, in an email. The app managed the college’s COVID-19 testing and public health response, and it shared a student’s location with administrators if the student tested positive for COVID-19 or left campus, Johnson said . MLive.

While many gave Johnson the benefit of the doubt as he was a new recruit during a global pandemic, many were unhappy with the way the school handled the COVID situation, saying the app was a life threatening attack. private, ”Seaman wrote.

Since then, complaints against the new president have been pouring in.

The petition accuses Johnson of failing to address multiple incidents of racism and hate on campus. University officials deny this and point to a bias reporting system implemented under Johnson. After receiving several reports of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in halls of residence, the college identified the perpetrator and expelled him from campus.

The petition also accuses Johnson of hiring several non-white employees strictly on the basis of race to bolster the college’s diversity profile. Once again, university officials rebuffed this and other allegation in an FAQ document sent to students last week. “Although the college has made intentional decisions to diversify its faculty and staff, all of the research done at the college is done to find the most qualified candidate for the job,” it read.

Seaman, a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity, said he and others believed members of campus Greek life had been unfairly targeted by the administration. Johnson proposed last spring to build a communal living space on campus to replace the old fraternity houses. After the fraternities all said they preferred to stay in the old homes, Johnson announced a home improvement plan that required members to give up rooms, according to Seaman.

“Our house was specifically supposed to be operating at full capacity this semester, but the school required us to relinquish rooms for renovations,” Seaman wrote. “These renovations haven’t even started yet and no one on our Sigma Nu board has been told what the renovations will be.”

College officials tell a different story. A standing agreement between the quorum and the fraternities requires the fraternities to pay for all beds – even if they are empty – or return them to the quorum.

“The College recently began the process of necessary renovation of floors with empty rooms in the buildings in which the fraternities are located after the fraternities have chosen not to pay for the empty spaces,” Pentelow wrote. “As these buildings have an abundance of unused space, the College has partitioned some of that space to support ongoing renovations and create more residential housing for students outside of fraternities. “

As for the goats, Johnson donated two goats – Clancy and Duff – to the college as therapy animals, Pentelow wrote. The animals were also part of a pilot study to see if they could control invasive species on campus. After college officials performed a cost-benefit analysis, the two goats were transferred to a local petting zoo.

Michael Harrington, chairman of the board of trustees of Albion College, backed Johnson in a statement Tuesday.

“Without a doubt, it has been an incredibly difficult period of over 18 months as we – as a society – have gone through so many unprecedented challenges, from the pandemic to the emergence of an urgent national conversation on justice. racial. Albion’s management team made some tough decisions, and those decisions weren’t popular with everyone, which is to be expected, ”Harrington wrote. “However, every decision made was geared towards the greater good of Albion College and the surrounding community. We, the Board of Trustees, support President Johnson and the College’s approach.

The biggest step students have taken against the president so far is petitioning for his impeachment, said Bryan Smith, sophomore psychology student at Albion. Some students met with Johnson privately to discuss their concerns, but left those meetings unsatisfied, according to Smith.

“Each of my friends who spoke to him privately all had the same result with no action,” Smith wrote in an email.

Even though the college raised the petition allegations directly with the students and reported several false information, calls for Johnson’s impeachment continued. Smith, Seaman and other petitioners said they found it difficult to speak to Johnson and wanted more direct communication from the president rather than emails and mass statements from other officials of the University.

“President Johnson is not making students feel welcome on campus,” Seaman wrote. “The rare times he’s seen on campus, many students, including myself, feel uncomfortable around him.”

Responding to a question about whether the college will respond to students’ frustrations over the president’s communication style, Pentelow highlighted Johnson’s involvement on campus.

“Dr. Johnson invites students to communicate directly and has made sure everyone knows they are welcome to contact him directly via email or schedule time to meet with him in person,” Pentelow said. to be available for communication with students, Dr. Johnson is extremely active in in-person initiatives on campus. “

Regardless of the outcome of their petition, Smith is concerned about morale on campus.

“We’re all worried that our best four years will turn into a really crappy four year because of the president,” Smith wrote. “We don’t see Albion College heading for a good future.”

(This story has been updated with additional details.)

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