Aaron Sibarium, Washington Free Beacon, May 20, 2022
Students at Brown University extracted an apology from a blue-collar bar after a soon-to-be McKinsey consultant accused its employees of racism, prompting a student boycott and a shakedown from the school’s diversity office.
The Graduate Center Bar apologized on April 27 for removing three black students who were roughhousing in line, after one of the students, Okezie Okoro, confronted the bouncer who told them to knock it off. The confrontation took place on April 7 and occurred after the bouncer let them inside. When Okoro gave the bouncer grief for reprimanding his friends, an argument ensued, culminating in the students’ ejection from the bar.
A week later, Okoro posted on social media a 2,000-word denunciation of the bar, replete with a “content warning” and a list of demands. The post accused the bouncer of racism and attacked the bar’s manager, Susan Yund, for dismissing that accusation.
“When we students voice concerns that someone has been harmed,” Okoro wrote, “we expect at the very least a response that attempts to deepen understanding.”
The bar capitulated, sending Okoro a fawning apology that outlined the steps it was taking “to be diverse, queer, and safe for all.”
“We should have had policies in place that would have made you feel safer and heard when you took issue with the situation,” the bar told Okoro. “We should have engaged with you more respectfully, patiently, and compassionately when you disagreed with us.”
Okoro, a senior at Brown University and the president of the school’s Black Consulting Initiative, will be working as a McKinsey analyst upon graduation, according to his LinkedIn profile. Starting salaries at the prestigious consultancy typically top $100,000.
The apology, which Okoro posted on Instagram, promised “de-escalation training” and the “addition of bar cameras,” as well as updates to the bar’s harassment policies. Those commitments came six months after the bar reopened with reduced capacity limits and days after the bar’s managers met with Okoro and Brown vice president for institutional equity and diversity Sylvia Carey-Butler, according to the Brown Daily Herald.
Housed in the basement of an undergraduate dormitory, the bar is run by blue-collar locals and depends on the university for survival. It requested the sit-down amid a student boycott organized by Okoro, who told the Daily Herald he hoped his campaign would be “restorative.”
It is unclear how rowdy Okoro was being in line: Though the future McKinsey analyst claims he was “play-fighting (without physical contact),” Yund said the antics went beyond “merely tapping each other on the shoulder.”
“In the narrow hallway that is the GCB’s entrance it can be dangerous if people are moving their arms or elbows around unexpectedly,” she emailed Okoro after the incident. “We know this from experience.”
That didn’t satisfy Okoro, who ridiculed Yund’s email in his post. The bouncer’s reaction, he said, “was a manifestation of respectability politics and shows how black people often have to withhold from expression in order to comfort and conform.”