Below is the unaltered text of the History Department’s letter to Dr. Kathy Ogren, Provost of the University of Redlands. It has been endorsed by the University Council on Inclusiveness and Community and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Faculty Assembly, which consists of all full-time professors of CAS.
August 7, 2020
Dr. Kathy Ogren, Provost
University of Redlands
We, the faculty of the History Department, are writing to register our dismay and objection to the August 3 email from President Kuncl, co-signed by Christopher Jones, Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer, subject “Progress at the U of R.” The message demonstrates a failure of leadership on the part of President Kuncl, who attempts to denigrate and delegitimize the group University of Redlands Alumni for Black Lives Matter (URABLM).
The President’s message contrasts “courageous voices expressing authentic experiences” with a “pressure group,” University of Redlands Alumni for Black Lives Matter (URABLM). The suggestion is thus that the testimony of URABLM is neither courageous nor authentic, yet it is difficult to understand why this would be the case. Not only have many University of Redlands students and alumni recorded their experiences and demands under the aegis of URABLM, but they have also formed the U of R Coalition for Black Lives with, to date, twelve current student organizations: Black Student Union, Alpha Chi Delta, Asian Students Association, Hillel, Kappa Pi Zeta, Middle Eastern Students Association, Alpha Theta Pi, Alpha Pi Omicron, Beta Lambda, Dance Company, Students for Environmental Action, and Alpha Phi Omega.
President Kuncl’s remarks are particularly troubling when placed in a broader historical context. His characterization of URABLM as “the group, calling itself Redlands Alumni for Black Live Matter” calls to mind the historical echo of racist aspersions such as “the so-called Malcolm X” or he “who calls himself Muhammad Ali.” If nothing else, our alumni have the right to speak collectively and be called by the name they choose. Additionally, referring to URABLM as a “pressure group” is disenfranchising, echoing Cold War dismissals of civil rights activists and groups as “fringe,” “leftists,” or “radical.”
The President’s message is even more concerning when considered in conjunction with his message to the University community on July 7, subject “Reinstatement of Coach Mike Maynard.” This message was also high-handed and dismissive, insensitive to the concerns that many students and alumni had expressed about a social media post that Mr. Maynard made about a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Our concern is not with the outcome of the investigation that led to Mr. Maynard’s reinstatement, but rather with a message that seemed to suggest there could only be one way to interpret Mr. Maynard’s remarks, after a “review of facts.” The conclusion was that Maynard’s remark was ironic, not racist, as if it could not be both at the same time. Furthermore, the President’s dismissal of “impassioned” demands for Maynard’s termination “from people who do not know him” without an acknowledgement of the possibility that his post was at best foolish and at worst a racist threat, is deeply concerning.
We find it astonishing that President Kuncl would choose to diminish the legitimacy of the concerns of current students, community members, and alumni of the University. We reject the characterization of URABLM as an unrepresentative “pressure group.” They are our students; they are Bulldogs for life. And they are sending us a message. We ignore it at our peril.
The History Department Faculty
cc Leland Launer, Chair, Board of Trustees
Ralph Kuncl, President
Kendrick Brown, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Christopher Jones, Jr., Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Trueman Andrews-Gibson, Editor-in-Chief, Redlands Bulldog