Lessons from UC Students about the Impact of Hate on a Campus Community
At Monday’s Executive Council meeting, we had a long and meaningful conversation about the November 4 News Record article titled “Racist letter sparks conversations about hate crimes at UC,” where Logan Johnson, the graduate student trustee for the UC Board of Trustees, spoke out through her social media about the anonymous letter her doctoral advisor received in early October—ostensibly in response to an article he had published in Inside Higher Ed about how “discourses and policies around academic integrity are not race-neutral” (para. 10). The anonymous letter he received months later expressed “vehemently racist and genocidal views” (TNR, para. 1), which is putting it mildly.
Logan’s is an honest and rightfully upsetting account. She posted: “I’ve struggled with what it means to be a Black scholar. The pursuit of knowledge is valuable,” she writes, “yet Black scholars and thus their scholarly work are rarely protected. […] Now, I watch as my advisor endures the same treatment with the same type of follow-through from the institution. […] Institutions send emails condemning the behavior,” Logan observes, “which does nothing for Black scholars” (para. 3).
It is not lost on the readers of this News Record article that as of November 4, the date of its publication, the only group to respond with a public statement about this incident was UC’s Student Government … on Instagram.
I’ve heard that President Pinto addressed this issue at the last Faculty Senate meeting, and I know that both Provost Ferme and VP Marshall have posted letters on the Office of the Provost’s webpage and the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact’s webpage, respectively, on or about November 5. I know, too, that the Provost’s letter ended with an invitation: “We are in the process,” he writes, “of developing a guide for dealing with hate mail. If you would like to contribute to its creation, please sign up by November 14 and we will notify you of the meeting date.”
I signed up.
My point here is not to bash. The words, either written or spoken, from the President, from the Provost, from VP of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact matter. And I appreciate their words quite sincerely, as I’m betting others in our campus community do as well.
They hit all the right notes—condemning the racist actions of the anonymous letter-writer; affirming the values of our campus community: inclusion, tolerance, mutual respect; and expressing support for all those affected by this outrageous hateful incident.
Again, my point here is not to bash.
My point here is to notice. Which is, in part, what I think Logan is asking me to do. To stand alongside her watching while she watches, disappointedly and again, how not to support Black scholars.
As I was piecing together information about what happened, I came across this clip from WLWT news. I’d like to take a few minutes to show it here if the technology cooperates.
What I noticed after watching this news clip, which aired on November 10—and what I’m sure you all noticed, too—was the stark contrast between the administration’s response to this racist letter and the impact it’s having on our UC community and the students’ response to this same incident, and this same impact.
Plainly put, while the administration is talking, students are organizing.
And, of course, they’re watching. They’re watching to see what we do.
The Executive Council is holding a retreat on December 2 and this issue will be on our agenda. Colleges and universities across this country have been experiencing an uptick in hate crimes for at least the past 5 years. No campus is immune. All institutions of higher education need leaders who will protect faculty, protect students, protect staff from racist, sexist, xenophobic or any manner of other hate-driven attacks. The AAUP has long encouraged administrators to support, in concrete ways, all those who use their voices and their talents to speak out against injustice, exclusion, and inequity, especially those who are harassed as a result of their efforts to address these problems.
Be watchful, be present, be active. These are the lessons I take from those UC students who rallied last week and from Logan who spoke out the week before.
As the students have shown us, we have work to do.
Connie Kendall Theado
Pope, Z. (November 4, 2022). Racist letter sparks conversations about hate crimes at UC.
Tichavakunda, A. (June 30, 2022). Let’s talk about race and academic integrity.