Police chief at Smith, Mt. Holyoke colleges moves on

  • The Grecourt Gates of Smith College on Elm Street in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • About 500 people gathered at a protest on Smith College's campus Thursday, April 11, 2019, the day after the school's police chief was put on paid leave amid student concerns over his past social media activity. The student organizers presented demands that the college better support marginalized students. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/4/2019 11:38:54 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges have parted ways with their shared campus police chief, who had faced backlash from students over some of his social media posts.

The announcement of Daniel Hect’s departure was posted on Mount Holyoke College’s website on May 14 as part of an FAQ section about the controversy. The website states that Hect was not fired. His employment with the two private colleges “ended by mutual and amicable agreement,” according to the website.

Hect had served in the position since Feb. 18. Previously, he was chief of police at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

He was placed on administrative leave in early April after the presidents of both colleges wrote public letters stating that some on campus had voiced a lack of trust in him. Students had drawn attention to a few posts they said Hect previously had “liked” on Twitter, including one instructing President Donald Trump to “BUILD THAT WALL!” Hect’s Twitter profile has since been deleted.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Hect declined to comment on his departure, stating only that it was an “amicable agreement.”

Smith College spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel referred the Gazette’s questions to Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke spokeswoman Christian Feuerstein declined to answer questions about Hect’s departure, instead referring the Gazette to the college’s online page.

Both colleges’ FAQ pages state that Hect was not placed on leave because of his social media activity or personal politics, and that during the hiring process the colleges do not take into consideration a candidate’s political or personal beliefs expressed on social media. Both colleges also stated that it is not their usual practice to review a candidate’s social media posts.

Students at Smith College raised concerns about Hect during protests held on campus on April 10 and 11. Both colleges sent out a letter on April 10 informing their campuses that Hect had been placed on administrative leave.

Deputy Campus Police Chief Ray LaBarre has been serving as acting chief of campus police since Hect was placed on leave, a role LeBarre has previously held.

Feuerstein did not say whether the colleges are currently searching for a new police chief.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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