Pugh Center banner removal shrouded in mystery

For the past two years, a large banner has hung over the Joseph Family Spa, with statements “NO RACISTS, NO HOMOPHOBES, NO RAPISTS, NO AGEISTS” (among other statements) for the entire campus to see in the hub of student life. It was generally well received, a sign of Colby’s commitment to inclusion and diversity. However, this year, the banner was removed by Colby’s administration at the beginning of orientation, and many students are still looking for an explanation. It was previously located in the shared window of the Femalliance and the Women of Color Alliance (WOCA) in the Pugh Center. The Echo struggled to gain insight into this issue and reached out to groups in the Pugh Center, the Pugh Center Board, Dean Sasaki and Dwayne Paul, the director of the Pugh Center, and received no comment. The Echo sat down with Vasiki Konneh ’20 to discuss the banner removal and is personal involvement.

When the banner was initially removed, Konneh, an active member of the Pugh Center’s sub-committee, immediately took offense to the removal and e-mailed College President David A. Greene demanding an explanation. According to Konneh, Greene responded quickly, claiming he was unaware of the situation, demonstrating that the decision had not yet reached his level in the administration. Copied onto this response was Betty Sasaki, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Sasaki met with Konneh and Dwayne Paul, Director of the Pugh Center. 

“Honestly, from the overall conversation, I can’t say confidently that I understood why the banner was taken down,” claimed Konneh following his meeting, citing multiple vague responses from Sasaki regarding specific questions about the removal. Among the explanations were parental complaints, the negative tone, threatening language due to consistent use of the word “no,” and the notion that a statement such as “no islamophobes” suggest that there are, in fact, islamophobes present on campus. 

When the Echo reached out to the Office of Campus Life, we were told that the banner had just been removed for orientation and that it would be put back up again.

“I truly believe the only reason I was even able to get a meeting with Betty in the first place was because President Greene sent the e-mail [to her],” asserted Konneh, who is still trying to understand the complaint that resulted in the banner being removed. Although the banner hung from the window of WOCA and Femalliance, Sasaki made it clear in her meeting that it represented the whole of the Pugh center, a fact nobody disagreed with. Konneh mentioned that a large-scale meeting among all the clubs in the Pugh center had been discussed, but not scheduled or carried out. The WOCA and Femalliance declined to comment on this issue.

Still, students inside and outside the Pugh center are left speculating what happened to the banner and what a potential replacement would be. The Echo interviewed a wide array of students, none of whom understood why it was removed or were offended by the overall written message. The banner is generally well received and reviewed; tour guides used the loud, vibrant banner as a jumping off point for the message of inclusion the Pugh Center champions as they herded groups through the Spa, said Konneh.

Rumors continue to circulate regarding who, why, or what motivation caused the banner to be taken down, yet no concrete evidence has surfaced. The timing, lack of comments, and unfulfilled assurance  of a returned banner following orientation continue to stifle those passionate about this message coming across. The notion of taking the banner down just for orientation, too, adds questions.

Nonetheless, Konneh wants action, and for complacency regarding the issue to end.  “I want the original banner to be put back up, and then we can talk about a new banner,” he claimed.He went on to say, “it doesn’t make sense to me,” though, referencing the idea that  the banner felt imposing to anyone, especially since those the banner condemned directly threaten those with diverse identities on campus. Overall, the incident gets foggier with each passing day without a banner hanging out the window of the Pugh Center. 

If you have any information regarding this issue, or would like to write an opinions piece on the topic, please email abullock@colby.edu.