Mount Holyoke College Police Chief Daniel Hect is on leave after students there confronted him about being a supporter of President Donald Trump.
“Over the past few weeks, members of our community have expressed concerns about the ability of Chief Daniel Hect to develop the level of trust required to engage in community policing,” Sonya Stephens, president of the college, wrote to students and faculty in a Wednesday night email, a copy of which Campus Reform has obtained. “In light of this, Chief Hect, who leads campus police at Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges, has been placed on administrative leave.”
Campus Reform asked Mount Holyoke more than once to comment on the matter. As of the time of publication, the college had not done so. MHC received $3,168,000 in federal research funding in 2017, according to a recent Campus Reform report.
Hect, who has a military background and previously served as police chief at Denison University in Ohio, assumed the Mt. Holyoke police chief position less than two months ago. In March, Mount Holyoke News reported that school administrators organized a forum in which students were able to interact with Hect after “students came to [Student Government Association] with questions and concerns,” according to Marcella Runell Hall, the school’s dean of students.
At the core of the meeting, according to Mount Holyoke News, was Hect’s social media presence, which indicated that he is a supporter of President Trump. Hect had liked certain tweets expressing support for the current Republican president, as well as pro-Second Amendment views. The Mount Holyoke News reported that most of the questions during the forum with Hect related to his personal views.
“I have a lot of work to do here,” Hect told students during the meeting, the campus newspaper reported. “I will do my best to engage the community in open dialogue. It was not my intent to cause harm here or on this campus.”
One student reportedly asked Hect which steps he was taking at the time to “make the community feel safe.”
“I started that today by going through my Twitter feed, and deleting comments and likes,” Hect replied.
Michelle Dang, president of the Mount Holyoke College Republicans, responded Thursday to the controversy in a statement to Campus Reform.
“I reckon this unfair treatment toward Chief Daniel, a well-respected military veteran who has never allowed his viewpoints to affect his service,” Dang said. “I’m fearful for my own well-being here in Mount Holyoke. What if the same instance happens to me, will the college then pressure me to leave or put me on expulsion?”
Another Mount Holyoke student who asked to remain anonymous for fear of having a “target painted on my back,” told Campus Reform, “I dislike the police as much as the next guy, but even I think his placement on leave is baseless given the lack of history of actual wrongdoing.”
She added that it’s reasonable for students to be apprehensive about a new police chief but that Hect seemed like he wanted to take actions to address students’ concerns and certainly made an effort to hear them out.
In a separate email sent to faculty and students from the Mount Holyoke president on Thursday, Stephens addressed a police academy graduation that is set to be hosted on the campus Friday amid reported protests of the event’s scheduled occurrence on campus.
“Over the last few days, I have heard very clearly the concerns about our decision to allow the Police Academy to hold their graduation ceremony in Chapin Hall tomorrow,” Stephens wrote in an email, a copy of which Campus Reformobtained. “I have also heard and acknowledged the very real fear and the questions that have been raised by some members of our community in relation to this decision and the history of police violence, systems of oppression, and the ways in which marginalized members of society, including members of our own community, have been negatively impacted by interactions with the police.”
Stephens went on to explain that one reason why the college decided to host the graduation was that “at some point, these very graduates may be acting to support and protect our campus and our community members.”