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). Continue reading
To the Ball State Board of Trustees,
As a teacher of rhetoric, I help students unpack and understand arguments, and in turn, they practice and learn how to make strong, ethical arguments of their own. During this process, I introduce students to a form of argumentation they encounter and use every day: the enthymeme.
The enthymeme is a deductive argument in which one or more of its parts—such as the premise(s) or conclusion—go unstated. For example, when I say that John Schnatter is a racist, I’m omitting the two preceding premises that lead to my conclusion:
- People who use racist language and whose actions indicate that they think people of color are inferior to white people are racist, and
- John Schnatter uses racist language and acts in ways that indicate he thinks people of color are inferior to white people.
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.
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.
10 August 2018
Dear Chairperson Hall, Members of the Board of Trustees, and President Mearns,
We write as faculty members at Ball State to express our deep disappointment in your decision to keep both Mr. Schnatter’s money and his name at Ball State. We realize that he has attempted to explain away his use of a racial slur as “an example of improper conduct,” but as news reports have documented, it was not just a single comment during that conference call (see the Forbes article). The conference call itself was a response to racially tinged and callous remarks Mr. Schnatter had previously made regarding Black Lives Matter protests during NFL games. The immediate result of the conversation–the marketing company hired to help Mr. Schnatter resigned, and Mr. Schnatter was removed from his position at Papa John’s–as well as the longer term results–the removal of Mr. Schnatter’s name from the University of Louisville’s stadium and a building at Purdue University–suggest that others correctly recognized Mr. Schnatter’s remarks to be part of a larger pattern of behaviors and ideology meriting condemnation. And while we understand that you took the time to listen to Mr. Schnatter’s rationalizations for what he has said and done, we are troubled that you did not take the time to listen to our students and colleagues’ opinions about the issue.
One of the ways that white supremacy functions is by allowing us to believe that racism inheres primarily in specific kinds of acts–dragging people behind trucks, as Mr. Schnatter suggested. It’s easy for most of us to reject those behaviors and to comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we’ve never done anything like that. While it’s certainly true that such brutality is racist, the real and insidious work of racism comes in the subtle ways we are taught to think and act, the language we’re inclined to explain away as “inappropriate” but mistaken, the kinds of people who get second (and third and fourth) chances, and the space between claiming “an unwavering commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus” and making the difficult decisions that will realize that promise. Continue reading
Dr. Erickson is an anthropologist, and you can read her excellent letter on her blog.
Dear Mr. Hall and President Mearns:
I know you are receiving a lot of email about the John Schnatter issue, so I’m going to limit my comment here to two connected issues: Mr. Schnatter’s apology for using the N-word, which both of you have referred to in your recent comments on the issue, and the likelihood that Ball State’s affiliation with Schnatter will continue to reflect badly on the university.
The August 3 message from the trustees reads, in part, “John has acknowledged, notwithstanding his intentions, that his use of the word was inappropriate. His response was to promptly issue an apology and unequivocally denounce racism.”
The statement from the president’s office this morning repeats this emphasis on Schnatter’s apology: “Mr Schnatter’s use of the offensive language was inappropriate. He has acknowledged that he should not have used that language, and he has apologized for the harm that his words caused to so many people.”
It is thus crucial to point out that Mr. Schnatter, in the days since this story broke and he issued his initial apology, has backtracked, shifting responsibility for the episode and its aftermath to the marketing company he was meeting with at the time and criticizing the Board of Papa John’s International.
August 6 at 12:43 PM
Board of Trustees
Ball State University
Attn: Rick Hall, Chair
To Mr. Hall and the Board of Trustees:
I’m writing to express my profound disappointment with Friday’s decision to publicly align Ball State University with John Schnatter. As Associate Provost for Immersive Learning and a member of the Strategic Planning Committee, I’ve had the honor of meeting many of you, and you know I’m not shy about expressing my commitment to Ball State. I love this institution more than I ever imagined I would when I first set foot on campus over fifteen years ago. The phrase “Ball State is family” is a constant refrain, but it’s more than just a thing we say: I feel it every day in my department, with my colleagues and, most important, in the responsibility I feel toward my students.
You have done those students, and this community, an incredible disservice with this decision.
Dear Rick Hall and Members of the Board of Trustees:
First, I bleed Cardinal Red. I’ve been affiliated with Ball State in one way or another since 1981 and was, in fact, the student member of the Board in the early 80s. I know that the Board operates with the best interests of Ball State at heart; the new Health Professions Building is a testament to your commitment to providing outstanding education to Hoosiers. I know that you stand ready to defend the University with your own names and even your own money, if necessary. As a body, the Board takes its responsibilities to campus, Muncie, and the State of Indiana as solemn duties. The University’s involvement with the Muncie School Corporation shows your deep and abiding commitment to the community and the state. Your devotion to Ball State often goes unseen, but your expertise and vision underpin all of our success.
This is the first time I have written to the Board of Trustees. I did not agree with the dismissals of Blaine Brownell or Paul Ferguson, but I understood that these were internal, personnel matters, and I trusted that the Board knew what was best for Ball State. In all of the time I have been here, Ball State has worked steadily toward becoming a more diverse and welcoming campus. The $4 million dollar planned Multi-Cultural Center is a key statement in that regard.
August 4, 2018
Dear Members of the Board of Trustees,
I’m writing today to express my disappointment in your decision to continue Ball State’s relationship with alumni donor John Schnatter.
I’m a Ball State faculty member and the acting chair of the English department. You may remember me from the December 2017 board meeting; I presented on the “Stars to Steer By” career program that helps students in the College of Sciences and Humanities find meaningful careers. Afterwards, I had lunch with Rick Hall and Jean Harcourt, and I remember feeling so proud that day to be a Ball State faculty member.