Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Dear members of the Miami University community,
Tuesday afternoon, October 30, a Miami undergraduate, in what he reports to have been a group art project, hung several nooses and a tire swing from a tree on Patterson Avenue on the Oxford campus. Several students observed and were alarmed by the display and called the university police. In response to the students who confronted him, the student explained that he did not intend this to be racially motivated and apologized profusely for his actions. The police questioned the student and immediately removed the display.
I am deeply troubled by this incident and the insensitivity that it reflects. I am angered and dismayed that any person on this campus, particularly in light of the recent incidents in Jena, Mississippi, would even unintentionally create such a display. Dean Susan Mosley-Howard and others have met with many of the students who witnessed the display, assuring them in every way possible that the insensitive actions of this individual is the antithesis of the values we hold dear at Miami. I am most troubled that African American students, who have put their trust in Miami, had to confront the historic symbols of injustice and hatred in this country.
I strongly condemn this display and deplore that in this campus community any person would believe this display is in any way acceptable. We must redouble our efforts as a community to educate every student here on the historic patterns of racism in this society.
I have directed my staff to take the following actions:
- I have asked for a complete report of this incident, the reasons for the display, and who else had prior knowledge of this action
- My colleagues and I will be in the Center for Black Culture and Learning tomorrow morning to talk with any students, staff, and faculty who would like to meet to discuss what has happened. Student Affairs and other staff will be available throughout the day to talk with students.
- I ask all persons in this community to engage in discussions about the meaning of the incident and the steps we must take to make this a community free of prejudice and welcoming to all.
Miami University has an unwavering commitment to justice and inclusion for all persons in this society, and most particularly, for all students on this campus. I ask all of you to work with me to learn from this experience. We must act forcefully, and we must act now.