back to top

University Suspends Adviser Who Threatened To Call Police On Student

Kennesaw State University also promised to overhaul its current academic advising practices. The announcement on Friday was in response to a controversial confrontation between a student and adviser that went viral earlier this year.

Originally posted on
Updated on

A university in Georgia on Friday announced that it has suspended an academic adviser whose confrontational interaction with a student was recorded in a 30-second clip that went viral earlier this year.

In the video, Abby Dawson, an adviser for Kennesaw State University's exercise science and sports management department, accuses a black student who is waiting to speak to someone — apparently without an appointment — of harassment and threatens to call police.

The 30-second clip went viral after the student, Kevin Bruce, posted it to Twitter on March 13.

The video was retweeted more than 4,000 times, and the hashtag #ItsMoreThanKSU began trending as the campus community reacted and other students shared their own experiences with discrimination and unhelpful advisers.

Advertisement

This is the results of a lack of training on behalf of the university for faculty/staff #ItsBiggerThanKSU #sachat #sjechat #wocinhe #sapro

#ItsBiggerThanKSU There is an element of racial bias here, no doubt. But that's just the surface. There is an even deeper issue here. 💰💰

@TheJordanJ (pt. 1) and while I understand, please remember that rude staff ≠ discriminatory/racist staff. #ItsBiggerThanKSU

In the clip, Bruce appears to be waiting inside the office to meet with Margaret Tilley, who is listed as an academic adviser.

That's when Dawson, his assigned adviser, approaches Bruce and tells him to "not harass Ms. Tilley like that" and threatens to call campus security.

Bruce, who is working toward a degree in exercise science, responds that he's only sitting while waiting and is not harassing anybody.

Dawson then tells Bruce, who did not have a meeting with Tilley that day, to "fill out a form like everybody else."

Bruce tweeted this reaction to the university's decision to place Dawson on leave:

It's unclear what happened before the video began rolling and whether Dawson ever called police, but the interaction sparked strong reaction on social media from other students, some of whom posted their own experiences with the adviser.

Two days after the incident, Kennesaw State University announced that it had begun an internal investigation into the exchange between Bruce and Dawson. The review lasted two weeks, and included interviews with 13 students, staff, and faculty.

On Friday, Kennesaw State University said Dawson had been given a formal warning and would not be allowed to resume her advising duties until she completes diversity training and "demonstrates the ability to be sensitive to students and their needs."

The school also announced plans to improve its academic advisement practices, including a switch to a model that allows students to seek help from advisers from any department, and a requirement that all advisers participate in student service, diversity, and cross-training.

"We have made it very clear to Ms. Dawson and her supervisors that the behavior she demonstrated on the video will not be tolerated," Ken Harmon, the university's provost and vice president of academic affairs, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

He added that "while we have apologized to the student directly, we also want to publicly apologize for her behavior, which is not representative of KSU's student-centered culture."

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Bruce for comment.

Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.

Contact Tamerra Griffin at tamerra.griffin@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.