Kennesaw State University is protecting a racist murderer cop.
The pat on the back that police officers who murder Black people nationwide receive extends to KSU. The university must release information on Officer Garrett Rolfe and expel him if they have not expelled him.
Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man and father, was murdered by Atlanta Police Department Officer Garrett Rolfe on July 12 of this year. APD Officer Devin Brosnan had called Rolfe up to help him question Brooks, who was said to be blocking a drive-thru at Wendy’s on University Avenue in Atlanta. Rolfe fired two shots into Brooks’ back and killed him.
In a summer of national and international uprisings over the lynching of George Floyd by police in Minnesota, Atlanta showed out in righteous anger to rebel against the Atlanta Police, who have killed too many Black people to count. The Wendy’s of Brooks’ murder was burned down and community members continued to occupy the former restaurant. The goal is to turn the Wendy’s into a Rayshard Brooks Peace Center, where the neighborhood can seek grassroots self-sufficiency in community with one another. In a surprising turn of events, Rolfe was actually brought up on murder charges, unusual for cops who murder Black people.
Situated approximately 30 minutes from the Wendys where activists attempt to make peace is another public institution that has yet to make any sort of amends with its racist legacy. The public institution is Kennesaw State University. This is also the university Garrett Rolfe attends (or attended? This confusion will soon be explained). Court documents show that Rolfe attended KSU, majoring in criminal justice and psychology. After murdering Brooks, Rolfe withdrew from all his classes.
Withdrawing from all classes does not mean you are not a student anymore. A student can withdraw classes and still be enrolled at the university. When the school newspaper found out about Rolfe attending KSU, reporters repeatedly asked the Executive Director of the Office of the Registrar Paul Parker and KSU Assistant Vice President of Strategic Communication Tammy Demel about Rolfe.
They refused to answer questions about Rolfe, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. KSU’s FERPA website shows that a school can release a student’s directory information — which is a student’s name, major, advisor, dates of attendance, degrees awarded, awards and honors, participation in officially recognized activities or sports and weight and height of athletic participants — without the written consent of a student.
A student can opt-out of directory information being shared, but the university has not made this clear in Rolfe’s case. When a reporter filed an open records request to KSU about Rolfe asking for directory information, the school denied the request, citing FERPA. The school then refused to answer any follow-up questions about Rolfe.
When an anonymous school official with administrative privileges attempted to look at Rolfe’s student profile, they received a warning from the university’s legal affairs office about looking at Rolfe’s profile. What was strange was that the official normally looks at student profiles and has never received a warning from the university — only when it happened to Rolfe.
What was also strange was KSU’s excuse as to not say or release any information about Rolfe given that they have done it to another student charged with murder — “another student” being a Black woman. When KSU women’s basketball starter Kamiyah Street was accused of murder last year, KSU had a statement ready to release to the media before the news broke. They made it clear Street did not play at KSU anymore and distanced themselves from her, erasing her name off the team roster.
When a white police officer murders a Black man and that cop attends KSU — even after President Pamela Whitten releases a half-hearted, vague statement condemning racism — there is complete silence. The university has said nothing at all in the months since Rolfe murdered Brooks but was already preparing behind the scenes to give their perspective on Street.
Supposedly, the reason the university said something about Street was because she was a star player for KSU but to that I must ask, are Black lives not important enough to KSU to condemn and distance themselves from a murdering cop? After Whitten releases a statement stating there is no room for racism, are Black lives not important enough to come clean about the officer who murdered a Black man amid uprisings over the police murder of other Black people across the country?
Black lives do not matter to KSU and never have. The number of Black people in top positions at the university does not and will never make up for KSU’s white supremacist antics. Rather, despite the Black people in prominent positions and more Black people attending the school, KSU still resorts to refusing to do any meaningful work to end the anti-Black culture that pervades the university. Sadly, KSU protecting a cop who killed a Black person is not an anomaly when it comes to KSU defending white supremacy.
There are too many white supremacist events that have occurred at KSU to even account for. Look at the 2017 instance of former KSU President Sam Olens colluding with racist Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren to remove Black cheerleaders who knelt during the National Anthem from the football field. Partially born out of that movement was the group KSUnited, who continue to put pressure on the university to build an anti-racism education center. In conversations with current KSU President Whitten in 2019, the Black Vice President of legal affairs told KSUnited Whitten could not condemn racism because it was not appropriate at the time.
Additionally, the university has still been stalling on building an anti-racism education center, which SGA recently co-signed on after years of work put in by KSUnited. What about the instance of the former university Whitten worked at before coming to KSU stating that Whitten allegedly threatened to prevent a professor who called out the University of Georgia’s history of slavery? Whitten allegedly threatened to prevent him from receiving employment at other universities because he acknowledged UGA’s complicity in slavery. Also, what is to be done about the fact that KSU PD arrests Black men at disproportionately higher rates on campus than white men?
Or remember when a white student threatened to call the Ku Klux Klan on a Black student? They did nothing about that. Or we can even look at this pandemic year, where 20 percent of the 24 lower-wage workers the university fired were Black.
The anti-Black incidents on campus are too many to name in one article, but these instances all have one thing in common with KSU refusing to say anything on Rolfe — they are the manifestation of the parasite of white supremacy that leeches on to KSU. This parasite will continue to leech until students combined with other workers on campus make a demand for its end.
The protection of a cop (who, by the way, allegedly shot a Black person before Brooks), is just the latest racist stunt by KSU in a nearly 60-year history of racism here. What will it be next? Garrett Rolfe must continue to face scrutiny and that can continue with those concerned about Black lives calling on KSU to release the information that the school has on him. Then we must call on Rolfe for being expelled. No longer can we as a community allow this white supremacist culture to flourish in and out of KSU. White supremacy must be cut down by the community.