The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Last Friday, in response to the #MIAMI4MIZZOU demonstration in Armstrong, Miami University President David Hodge sent an email to the student body regarding diversity and inclusion . . . at least we think that’s what it was about.
At no point were the words race or racism used in the email. Instead, Hodge employed extremely vague language to dance around the heart of the issue — there is a problem with racism and racial inequality at Miami.
The tone of the email was detached and disingenuous, making us feel as though this email was sent as a formality, not as a true call to action.
The elusive description of a very clear problem is a disservice to students who might not be informed about current events. Here, Hodge missed an opportunity to educate those who are unaware of what is happening. In fact, if the short passage referencing the events at Mizzou and here at Miami were removed, this message could be written about or applied to any controversial topic.
Wouldn’t it be more effective for Hodge to have sent an email explicitly citing problems, such as the intolerance and offensive comments posted to Yik Yak each day on this campus?
In contrast, in an email sent to the Miami community last April concerning a bulletin board in Wells Hall, Hodge wrote, “Regrettably, a bulletin board in Wells Hall was defaced over the weekend with profane racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic graffiti … I am deeply disappointed that any of our students would choose deliberately to behave in such a reprehensible way.”
Where was such poignant and genuine vocabulary last Friday, President Hodge?
Imagine how powerful it could have been to say: “I know what’s going on here. I am disappointed in the students responsible for these hateful messages. I am embarrassed that these views are present in our community. Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves.”
While the email recognized Miami’s problems, it simultaneously downplayed them, through claims that “a few” people hold these views, or that this is a problem throughout “our nation’s colleges and universities.”
Racism is a problem at Miami University and while an email acknowledging the problem is a good first step, it is not a solution in and of itself.
One option offered in the emil was to vist three of Miami’s websites that tell student show to recognize hateful or biased behavior. But what is the point if the administration doesn’t react to and recognize that behavior?
Another option offered in the email was to attend a “Let’s Talk Dialogue” event hosted by the Office of Diversity Affairs (ODA) last night.
Instead of encouraging students to attend a specific organization’s gathering, why couldn’t the administration host something itself?
More recognition from the administration would legitimize the rallies that are already occurring. Instead of viewing the demonstration as a group yelling in Armstrong and thinking, “Who are these people and what are they doing?” students would see a university-backed program meant to educate the community about an important issue.
What if the leaders of our university gave these oppressed students a platform from which to project their views? To share their experiences, and to tell their stories?
At Missouri, a chief complaint was that protestors felt ignored by the administration. So far, Hodge’s removed email does little to prove that Miami will act any differently.
We urge the administration of Miami not to make the same mistakes and not to allow any students to feel that they, too, are being ignored.
Hopefully, this email is an initial step in a series of improvements that will be made at Miami. Hopefully, this is not the end of the administration’s involvement, because it is certainly not the end of the ever-present racial tensions on this campus.