Students, we are with you

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Students, we are with you

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Recent publicity revealing a culture of open and unapologetic racism among members of the Saint Louis University baseball team is an embarrassment to our institution. Sadly, such incidents are not a surprise to many of us who live, work, and call ourselves members of the SLU community.

Apologies will be issued. Statements will be released. Lawyers will be readied. PR professionals will be on call. This is how an institution must respond to such events. It is a familiar pattern to those of us who practice, research and teach in university environments.

Although this is how an institution must react, it is not enough. We, the undersigned, write to you, the students of Saint Louis University, in solidarity and full support. We want this campus to be a space where open, honest and compassionate dialogue thrives. We want to be transparent and clear about the long-standing culture of racism that has been allowed to take refuge here, and why we will not be silent regarding the trauma and pain that culture brews.

Let us be clear: It is not for the institution to find and expel those who do not live by the mission of the University, the Oath of Inclusion, or other publicly available statements espousing our system of values. Forcing out those who spread hate, those who foster its presence by refusing to actively work against hate, and those who remain willfully ignorant of hate does nothing to fight hate. It merely creates the illusion that we have been made safe from its existence. Worse, driving out those who hate galvanizes their justification for believing and acting as they do. It creates the impression that they are the victims in this scenario, not the perpetrators.

The only way to counter hate is love—but not the kind that gives lip service and accepts unconditionally any behavior. What we need is the kind of love that is willing to be unpopular, that is willing to toe the line of action, and that is insistent on investing the time to create and maintain change for the better.

Know this: We are here because we love you, our students. We deal with institutional racism, sexism, xenophobia and social intolerance. We are not immune to what goes on here. And that is why we are standing in solidarity.

The Clock Tower Accords have shown us that President Pestello and his administration are amenable to supporting institutional changes that move our university in the right direction. But that kind of change takes time and it must be accompanied by immediate actions among the SLU community that demonstrate the values that we claim to uphold. It is not the job of the administration to make us be better people and to treat each other with love and respect. It is our responsibility to be better people and to love and respect each other. To you, the students who are a part of the problem, you know what the right thing to do is: Be better.

We pledge to do what it takes to make our classrooms safer, our housing facilities safer, and our campus community safer. We pledge to listen actively. We pledge to push back against microagressions, passive intolerance, active hate and apathy.

We pledge solidarity.

Consider this letter a letter of support, but also an invitation to join us in action.

Here are some ways that we can and will help the university community:

We will facilitate intergroup dialogue among parties who are involved in conflict, who do not understand each other, or who wish to learn more about themselves and others.

We will facilitate public forums (fora) and town hall meetings for students and community members to gather and discuss issues that matter to them.

We will serve as guest speakers/facilitators for student organizations who would like to learn more about social movements, First Amendment law, intergroup dialogue, intercultural communication, gender communication, social justice communication, organizing activism, conflict, mediation and negotiation, political communication and more.

We will provide consultation services for the creation of media (news, documentary, art, and so on) to chronicle and share stories that need to be told.

We will provide consultation services for creating and conducting just social media campaigns.

We will advocate for the creation of safe spaces for members of our community, including gender-neutral bathrooms, dorms and locker rooms, locations for breastfeeding, on-campus child care, etc.

Yours in Solidarity,

Elizabeth Richard, Associate Professor of Communication, NTT

Amber Johnson, Assistant Professor of Communication

Tim Huffman, Assistant Professor of Communication

Jennifer E. Ohs, Assistant Professor of Communication

Mary Gould, Associate Professor of Communication 

Karla D. Scott, Associate Professor of Communication

Amber Hinsley, Assistant Professor of Communication

Cynthia Graville, Instructor of Communication