Letter to the Editor: Dear President Bravman

Dear President Bravman, 

We read with disappointment your Sept. 28 email offering strategies to address food insecurity on campus. Asking the [University] community to address systemic problems on an  individual level is not an adequate solution to this semester’s issues around food insecurity – or  [the University’s] ongoing problems with inclusivity, racism, and “the Greek system.” We consider ourselves lucky that [the University] has trained us to be good scholars who recognize institutional power and systemic forces far outweigh the ability of individual actors to rectify such deep-seated problems. To ask us now, as alumni, to overlook that knowledge is to demand we forget the education that we worked so hard to develop at [the University]. 

Furthermore, it is hard to imagine a more superficial response to the killing of Black men and women and Black Lives Matter protests than a 5K race with an optional donation to the Anti-racism fund. The charitable reading of this choice is that organizers wanted to make participation accessible to all. However, this response must be read in the context of a long history of performative #activism and institutional attempts to channel desires for real change into acceptable, apolitical, and dead-end activities that exhaust movements. Not to mention that the very idea of a “Race against racism” proposes a response to racism based on linguistic similarity between the words “race” and “racism” rather than the needs of living people of color. Clever and cheery, perhaps. But also harrowing in its inadequacy. 

We anticipate we will also be disappointed to read your statement in response to the most recent hazing incident in the KDR fraternity. 

It is easy to become disillusioned this year, with COVID-19, inexhaustible racism, the political climate, and increasingly ominous signs of climate change. We are tired, and this isn’t a moment where weak statements of support — or passing the burden onto the individual — are going to cut it. 

But, if we look past the fatigue and the fear of 2020, it seems that there is an opportunity for  [the University] to make meaningful changes to address the immediate issues, which really are more overt manifestations of problems that have plagued [the University] and its culture for decades. As alumni, though we are proud of the work we did at [the University], we struggle with mixed feelings about our alma mater.  

We want to see real, meaningful, sweeping changes that would make us proud to send our children to [the University]. Make real – economic and cultural – commitments for additional programs that facilitate under-represented students’ admission, support, and success, including students of color and low-income students. Take a stand against racism, and support specific antiracist education and actions for the [University] community. Dip into the endowment, so current students don’t go hungry in the context of COVID-19. And abolish the Greek system, or make other meaningful, lasting changes that would eliminate the horrifying but not surprising hazing activities like those described in John Jean’s complaint against [the University] and the KDR fraternity.

The great theorist Stuart Hall asked, “Against the urgency of people dying in the streets, what in  God’s name is the point of cultural studies?” We can enlarge this question to encompass the purpose of the university itself. What, indeed, is the point of the 21st-century university? How can it mobilize its unique resources and place in society to tackle our most trenchant and interrelated problems: racism, climate change, economic inequality, loss of faith in government and other institutions? In your own June letter in response to the murder of George Floyd, you wrote, “It is more important now than ever that we work diligently to do what we can, where we can, to end this terrible scourge, this stain on the fabric of our nation. If education is not the answer, then what is? What are we otherwise doing here?” Part of our disillusionment with our alma mater stems from a real and enduring belief that [the University] can be a leader in efforts to move beyond individualistic approaches to systemic problems. 

It has been a difficult year, but chaos also brings the opportunity to start anew. Our optimism is not at an all-time high this year, but we believe the urgency of the problems faced by [the Universiy]  student body demands positive changes to the university’s culture and economic support models in 2020. We would be happy to discuss these perspectives and ideas further should you wish to do so. Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely, 

Stephanie Anzman Frasca (BA ’06)

Kit (Kristen) Hughes (BA’06) 

Monica (McMurrer) Fasenmyer (BA ’06)  

Christine (Christy) Langston (BA ’06) 

 

The above is an abridged version of a letter that was sent to University President John Bravman earlier this week.

(Visited 71 times, 1 visits today)