August 9, 2018
Dear Ball State Trustees:
I am writing to you today to express my profound sadness and concern regarding your recent notification to the BSU community of our continued relationship with Mr. John Schnatter.
I concur with my colleagues, alums, and community members who have passionately and persuasively argued that Mr. Schnatter’s flippant use of abhorrent language is not in line with BSU values, particularly BSU’s commitment to diversity.
I am an associate professor of Religious Studies, and I have taught at BSU since 2005. My training is in the religions of India, where I lived for more than three consecutive years during my graduate studies.
The core of what I teach is thoroughly grounded in the idea of fairly and accurately “representing” people who are regularly marginalized in our society. That is, I try my best to provide expert knowledge about people who are frequent targets of bigotry. Put differently, insofar as possible, I “speak for” religious groups that often are misrepresented or simply remain powerless and voiceless among the dominant religious groups here at home. My passion for pedagogy has not gone unnoticed at BSU; I am the recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Teaching Award, as well as a Virginia Ball Center Immersive Learning Fellow (Spring 2015).
I provide this brief background as a way of illustrating how difficult it is for me to imagine what minority groups – especially black students – among the BSU community must be feeling as they heard of your decision not to cut ties with Mr. Schnatter. Of course, there are many other marginalized groups who must also fear that they are less important members of the BSU community.
I will continue to speak for the marginalized, particularly minority religious groups. I wonder, though, how I will respond if or when a student claims “free speech” while making unsavory comments about minorities, given that our university maintains a relationship with Mr. Schnatter.
One final note: I have worked with wonderful colleagues in the Schnatter Institute. My time spent with them has improved my effectiveness as a member of BSU’s faculty. I say this because it is not the institute that is the issue; rather, it is the association with Mr. Schnatter.
I urge you to reverse your decision regarding Mr. Schnatter.
Jeffrey M Brackett, PhD
Cc: President Mearns