The staff adviser to Iowa State University’s student government has resigned and received a $47,000 severance payout after student activists demanded his firing over an old Instagram post showing him in blackface.
Alex Krumm and university President Wendy Wintersteen agreed that his employment was no longer “in their best interests” and he left the payroll March 1, a separation agreement shows. His departure came days after administrators met with a group called Students Against Racism to discuss its demand for Krumm’s termination and other changes.
Krumm served only nine months in his position, which involves advising dozens of elected and appointed student leaders on everything from leadership strategies to financial management. The severance payment of $47,000 amounts to roughly one year of his annual salary.
Krumm came under fire for an Instagram post from 2015, four years before he started at Iowa State. The post showed Krumm with his face painted black from years earlier when he played a mime in a student production at Wartburg College in Waverly. “#ThrowbackSunday,” he wrote.
The 2009 Wartburg College yearbook shows Krumm and other students with their faces painted several different colors in a production called the Wartburg Mime. The play used mimes to act out “stories from the bible, many centering around the life of Jesus,” the yearbook says.
Krumm deleted the post but not before others had saved the image. The photo was published by the student newspaper in October, just as student activists were pushing the administration to respond aggressively to campus incidents of racism and white supremacy.
Students descended on Wintersteen’s office in November demanding a zero-tolerance policy toward racism. Among its list of demands, Students Against Racism requested Krumm’s firing and a pledge by the administration to terminate all employees who engage in racist behavior in the future. In a statement, the university condemned the photo and indicated it was investigating Krumm’s intent.
“We understand how hurtful and disturbing this image is,” the statement said. “We are still examining the circumstances and context surrounding this incident in order to make an informed decision. Further updates will be provided to Student Government in the future.”
Krumm, 32, didn’t reply to messages seeking comment. The separation agreement bars him from publicly discussing his resignation or disparaging any Iowa State employees or students.
Students Against Racism members met with administrators again on Feb. 18. Krumm’s separation agreement shows that he was on paid leave during the last week of February and resigned March 1. The university agreed to write Krumm the $47,000 check, provide him a letter of reference and one year of “outplacement assistance” to help him land a new job.
Krumm agreed not to sue the university and to never re-apply for work there. Both sides agreed not to engage in “any conduct or communications” that would disparage one another.
Wintersteen signed the agreement, which was recently posted online by the Board of Regents as required by a 2014 executive order. The order outlawed any “confidentiality provision that attempts to prevent disclosure of the agreement itself.”
Krumm’s settlement notes that it’s a public record that would be posted online. But it has a confidentiality clause that says both sides will not “disclose or discuss the details of this agreement, the discussions leading to this agreement or” related information.
University spokeswoman Angela Hunt declined to comment on the agreement, the second unusual separation deal signed by Wintersteen in recent weeks. The university is paying former admissions official Consuela Cooper to stay home until she finds a new job or June 15, whichever comes first.