How Smith and Mount Holyoke Have Responded to Student Demands About Daniel Hect’s Hiring
Mikayla Patel ’22
In January 2019, Daniel Hect was hired as the campus police chief for Smith and Mount Holyoke. After students from both schools saw the anti-immigrant, pro-Trump tweets he had liked and retweeted, they spoke out against the newly appointed Hect. During Smith’s “Inclusion in Action” conference, students protested his hiring. Students, particularly undocumented students, said they felt unsafe with Hect as Smith’s police chief.
The evening after the protest, President McCartney sent out an email to students, faculty and staff announcing that Daniel Hect had been placed on administrative leave because members of the campus community had expressed a “lack of trust” in Hect. Police Chief Ray LaBarre was appointed as acting chief of campus police.
The day after the inclusion conference, the organization Students for Social Justice and Institutional Change (SSJIC) held a protest outside of John M. Greene Hall to present their demands to the administration. While the administration has met a few of them, many remain unmet, including demands that students be included in the process of hiring campus police and that the college to do a full background check of potential hires to ensure that “potential campus police do not hold harmful biases that could potentially be a threat to students.”
After all this, many students have been left wondering how Smith and Mount Holyoke hire campus police and how the colleges plan to move forward following this incident. At the protest, an administrator had referenced a “committee of people” in charge of narrowing down candidates and eventually selecting Hect, who went on to speak to his own credentials. On April 10, the day of the protest against Daniel Hect, both President Kathleen McCartney of Smith College and President Sonya Stephens of Mount Holyoke College published statements   in response to frequently asked questions regarding the controversy that surrounds Hect’s hiring. Some of the answers in the colleges’ statements were the same while others varied.
Answering the question about who, exactly, employs Smith and Mount Holyoke’s Campus Police Department both colleges said, “While all Campus Police officers and staff are employees of Mount Holyoke College, they are supervised jointly by Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges in the provision of safety and dispatch services to both campuses.” They also said that “each campus had representation on the search committee for the chief, providing feedback throughout the process and hosting on-campus interviews with various campus constituents.”
Smith didn’t clarify whether or not it will review its hiring practices after this incident. In the FAQ, they said, “Smith continually reviews its hiring practices to ensure they are aligned with the best practices.” The FAQ put out by Mount Holyoke answered the same question, “We have recently created a Hiring Practices Task Force that is charged with reviewing all hiring policies and procedures.” According to Mount Holyoke News, President Stephens recently sent out an email to the Holyoke community which stated that the task force will be supported by “external experts.”
In response to whether or not it is standard for the colleges to do media background checks of potential employees, both colleges said that it has not been practice for them to review applicants’ social media before hiring them. The schools also stated that they did not take personal views expressed through social media or political beliefs into account during the hiring process. The schools also stated that they did not take personal views expressed through social media or political beliefs into account during the hiring process.
Following the protest outside John M. Greene Hall, during which students demanded to be involved in the hiring process of campus police, an announcement in the Smith e-Digest asked students to participate in the new Campus Police Advisory Committee being formed during next school year. To learn more about this, The Sophian spoke with Officer Earl Brown, who is spearheading the committee. He answered questions alongside Josh Dufresne and Steaphan Mish, two other campus police officers who are also involved in the formation of the committee.
When asked why this committee was being formed now, Brown said that similar committees have been “done before” at the other Five College schools. He expressed that the committee “has been really successful at Hampshire.” The officers also said that campus police isn’t always aware of issues arising on campus. “We hear things going on but no one [knows for certain],” said Dufresne. It has not been explicitly stated whether or not the formation of this committee at Smith is in response to the controversy around Daniel Hect.
Regarding the question of how to ensure that the committee represents the needs of the entire student body, Brown said that they are aiming to include as many students as possible, but “even if we only have like four, that should be a pretty good representation.” He also said they hoped to include students in the Student Government Association and students “who belong to different organizations or groups.” The officers also mentioned the idea for a website where students not on the committee could voice their opinions and proposals and find out what is being discussed in committee meetings. However, planning is still in the early stages, and nothing is set in stone yet. They said that as of now, organizers are “just seeing what works.”
The committee will include students and officers, and the specific officers who attend meetings will change each month. They plan to meet once monthly, and the committee will most likely start up in the fall. On the topic of hiring, Dufresne said he “would imagine we would take folks’ input into consideration.” The officers said that this committee could serve as a way for students to participate in the process of hiring. They also said the committee would be formed in collaboration with the dean’s office. “We’re committed to building a great, trusting relationship with the Smith community,” said Mish. Brown added, “We don’t want anyone to think their voices aren’t being heard.” They said that they plan on hearing out what students have to say and doing what they can to meet student demands going forward. Brown added that the committee’s purpose is to “address issues before they turn into problems” and “stay out in front of things.” On the topic of transparency with the student body, Officer Brown mentioned the community officer spotlights, which go up occasionally and provide photos and descriptions of campus police members, what they do and who they are.
Brown made reference to current student involvement in the hiring process of campus police via sitting in on interviews and reviewing resumes, adding that he believed students were chosen for this from the Dean’s list.
The Sophian reached out to interim Chief Ray LaBarre for further information on this process, who said that involving students in hiring was something brand new that had not yet been enacted. LaBarre said that “the process of having students on the interviews is brand new and we are trying to figure out what works best. … Moving forward next week I would like to have [Mount Holyoke] and Smith students be part of the second round of interview as we invite candidates back.” He also said that “Lieutenant Dufresne is working with Hannah Durrant as I write to try and identify students who can participate.”
When asked for clarification on his earlier statements regarding students being selected from the Dean’s list to sit in on interviews, Brown responded, “We are currently in the process of hiring officers and we do have students participating in that hiring process. We reach out to students at both Smith and Mount Holyoke College to be part of the process.”
Students interested in joining the new advisory committee can contact Officer Earl Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.