Black Students Unfairly Disciplined at Nichols College

Education, Racial Justice

Black College Student Leaders Unfairly Disciplined After Acting in Self-Defense

Nichols College and Dudley Police Must Remedy Impacts of Racially Biased Investigations

Two Black student leaders at Nichols College are speaking out after racially-biased investigations of a physical altercation have resulted in severe interruptions in their educational opportunities. Meanwhile, white Nichols College students involved in the same incident – who instigated the physical violence – have walked away free and clear, with no investigation into their actions, and no interruptions to their educations. 

In solidarity with the Black student leaders, Shamar Hall and Giovanni McLaughlin, the Worcester Branch of the NAACP and Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) are calling on Nichols College and the Dudley Police Department (DPD) to take immediate action and address the disparate treatment suffered by the students. We are demanding that Mr. Hall and Mr. McLaughlin both be reinstated as students in good standing with Nichols College, with access to the full range of educational and social opportunities and student supports, such as on-campus housing, that will ensure they can complete their educations without interruption. We are also calling for a full investigation of policies and procedures at Nichols College and the DPD to root out racial bias and create effective mechanisms for reporting and responding to instances of hate speech and discrimination at both institutions. 

The incident took place in October 2023, when a student fight broke out. Mr. Hall and Mr. McLaughlin acted only in self-defense, yet Nichols College took disciplinary action against them while failing to question or discipline any of the white students involved. Both students at Nichols College have strong track records of campus leadership and academic achievement. Parallel investigations conducted by Nichols College and the DPD raise significant legal concerns about each institution’s ability to deliver fair and impartial investigations regardless of race. Examples include: 

  • Violations of the students’ due process rights as the students were denied access to legal counsel during their conduct hearings. 
  • Failure to protect against racial discrimination as the students were subjected to racially biased questioning.
  • DPD interviews excluded crucial testimony from Black student witnesses and primarily targeted Black students for criminal action. 
  • Racially charged hate speech on the Nichols College-sanctioned online platform, Yik Yak, went unaddressed in the investigations and resulting disciplinary actions. 

“Nichols College and the Dudley Police Department unfairly targeted us, putting our future at risk,” explained Shamar Hall. “Their actions overlooked the consequences for me and my family. I hope this prompts both institutions to reconsider their approach to racial fairness. I want to ensure that no one else experiences the same feelings or treatment as we did,” he added. 

“It’s disheartening that some peers and others are misinformed about this incident, and it’s frustrating that there’s now a negative perception of us for something we didn’t initiate,” said Giovanni McLaughlin. “Before this, I’ve never faced disciplinary actions at school, and Nichols College had always been a welcoming community where I had been actively involved in clubs, such as President of Men of Distinction and Vice President of Nichols Rugby. We hope to reach a fair and just resolution for everyone,” he added.

“When an incident like this happens it emphasizes the need for organizations like the NAACP to intervene on behalf of people who have been unfairly treated. We need to break down systems of bias in higher education, our public schools, and our broader society,” said Fred Taylor, President of the Worchester Branch of the NAACP.

“Colleges and universities, regardless of their public or private status, have an obligation to ensure a disciplinary process that is equitable and devoid of discrimination,” emphasized LCR Senior Attorney Mirian Albert. “Nichols College’s failure to rectify the disparate treatment our clients endured and the prevalence of hate speech on their campus is deeply concerning,” she added.

These steps are essential in rectifying the injustices our clients have faced and fostering a fairer, more inclusive environment at Nichols College and within the Dudley community. The NAACP and LCR urgently request an emergency meeting with Nichols College and DPD leadership to address these concerns and prevent the need for further legal action.

Click here to download the demand letter: