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Affirmative Action Officer Resigns Amid Racial Harassment Flap

February 5, 1988

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Providence College’s affirmative action officer has resigned a week after he staged a one-man demonstration to counter black students’ protests of racial and sexual harassment.

The Rev. Joseph Lennon said he gave up the post Thursday because ″black students have declared their lack of confidence in me.″

Black students had protested that their complaints of racial and sexual harassment were not taken seriously by the administration.

In a letter in the college newspaper Thursday, Lennon said he believed the complaints ″had no serious foundation,″ and that he found their protest ″profoundly offensive.″

The Dominican priest, who has been with Providence College for 40 years, will retain as vice president for community affairs. He had said last summer he would retire at the end of the current school year.

As affirmative action officer, Lennon was responsible for investigating complaints of racial harassment and other race-related problems raised by minority students and teachers.

Joseph DiPina, president of the college’s Afro-American Society, said black students demanded Lennon’s resignation a week ago Friday after his demonstration.

″We told him that we couldn’t trust him. He’s supposed to be the person we go to if we have any racial problems,″ DiPina said.

When minority students complained to Lennon, he often asked for specifics they couldn’t provide, DiPina said. ″He doesn’t understand. It’s not always possible to get the names of people doing (the harassing) and the dates they happened on.″

Black women students had said they were verbally harassed by white male students, that they suspected a white student made obscene phone calls to them and that a black woman student left the school after being raped on campus.

The college has acknowledged that the rape report the victim gave to the college infirmary was not forwarded to campus police or college administrators.

The Rev. John F. Cunningham, president of the college, also had a letter published Thursday in the college newspaper. In it, he deplored racial harassment.

He called for the hiring of more black faculty and staff members, the recruitment of more black students and the establishment of a board to address the issue of racism on campus.

According to the college, 44 of 3,800 students are black and the 228 full- time teachers include two blacks.

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