A letter to the Ball State Board of Trustees from Sean Lovelace

We Fly.

Not very many words, are they? But that’s fine: really, for a slogan, there’s no need for more words—only the right words.

Aspiration. Inspiration. Images. A student ballerina reaching for her goals. Another student architect holding up to the sky a model house. The future. On and on, ambitions, achievements, certainly a metaphor of honorable flight, that moment when you decide to make the correct decision, for your own life (one example: think of that instant of really committing to your college major, to a career). And for things much more significant than the individual. For what we will be. For what we want to be.

We do decide, actively.

We Fly.

Words are supposed to mean something at Ball State University. Student, staff, faculty, everyone. Your word is your heart, brain, soul. You word is your word.

What are the words of pizza chain founder, John Schnatter, whose name sits in a station of honor at Ball State University?

We know he blamed the NFL and players’ national anthem protests for subpar pizza sales. Let’s be clear: That protest is about morality in this nation. That protest is about fairness in our clearly broken and racist criminal justice system.

We know he said, “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true.”

So. We know he uses the N-word.

In fairness, we know he apologized for the use of that word.

But we now know that apology was and is hollow. John Schnatter now regrets resigning over these actions and words. In fact, he thinks he should be reinstated to his previous professional roles, even as the marketing face of the pizza company.

That doesn’t sound like honest contrition.

As Senate representative of the English Department, I’m not going to let this controversy go (and I won’t be the only one, believe me). And I know our students will be very morally aware with this issue. I teach them every semester day and in fact often lead a service-learning class, wherein students go into the diverse Muncie community and work with children. Ball State students are people of conviction. They have principled clarity. They will rise to this occasion; they will use their words and actions to a larger good.

I am an English professor but I am also a Registered Nurse. I once worked in a busy city emergency room in Denver, Colorado. I want to pass on something I tell my students about writing an essay, a story, or a poem. I advise, “You know this isn’t like emergency surgery. You have a chance to revise. You have a chance to revisit your draft and make everything a whole lot better.”

Board of Trustees, President Mearns, you do still have an opportunity.

The semester has not even officially begun. You have a window here, a clear opening to meet as a Board and change your decision. Ball State students, faculty, and staff are watching. We’re all wondering, will you fly?

Sincerely,

Sean Lovelace
Professor
Ball State University

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