To the campus community,
In response to Jay Edwards’ letter to the editor of February 15, we would like to express sympathy and support for his statement regarding the largely unintentional, yet real and undeniable forms of violence to which Black students and students of color regularly face on an overwhelmingly white campus. Living in the South, in what Saidiya Hartman terms the “afterlife” of slavery, or in what Christina Sharpe names as the historic “wake” of the Middle Passage, it is irresponsible to dismiss intergenerational material and psychic damage in the name of academic freedom.
Currently, the policy of Academic Affairs expects a student initially to approach a professor in order to solve a dispute on their own, which disproportionately places the burden on the student and, particularly in Jay’s situation, reproduces unequal power dynamics. The university urgently needs a clear and accessible system for reporting bias and discrimination.
While there is no reason to doubt the lack of malicious intention on the part of the faculty member named in Jay Edwards’ complaint, it is a sad and familiar sight to see the immediate recourse to closing ranks, as opposed to a process of taking responsibility and making amends. The racial divide in America reliably predicts who and who is not expected to face accountability, and it would be inspiring to see some measure of self-awareness on the part of the individual and the institution.
With respect to all parties,
Concerned faculty members