Letter to the Editor from The Association of African American Students

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To The DePauw Community,

We, The Association of African American Students (AAAS), write this letter to the DePauw Community to present the decision of the President’s Cabinet surrounding the Day of Dialogue. As you are aware, last semester several communities within our DePauw family were under attack. Hate speech and acts impacted our campus, our abilities to learn, engage, and to just ‘be students.’ We, along with allied organizations, demanded support through action from the University. An outcome was a verbal commitment from President McCoy that the Day of Dialogue would be mandatory. This was not punitive. It was a way to signal that we all needed to engage in clear and critical conversation about marginalization, about diversity, and to strategize ways to create tangible inclusion on our campus.

This Monday, Sept. 24, a member of the President’s Cabinet informed our organization that the President’s verbal statement, his “promise” was no longer valid; the Day would be optional--save for first-year students who want to opt-in to the Gold Commitment. The rationale for this decision: fear of backlash from students opposed to anti-bias training and education on marginalized communities; concern that they could not create accountability mechanism in time.  

The decision made by the President and his Cabinet affirms the racially-motivated events of last semester and previous years. It maintains the structures of exclusion and allows those students, faculty, administrators and staff who adhere to biased narratives to remain comfortable. It maintains the abusive and subversive culture of white supremacy that while seemingly non-existent thrives in the DePauw community. This decision communicates that the institution will continue to protect whiteness, patriarchy, and identities of privilege at the expense of people of color and folks of all marginalized identities in the DePauw community. The President and his Cabinet’s rationale of “backlash” actually affirms and supports those who engage in symbolic and physical violence against marginalized communities.

Further, as the President reframed our demands as student concerns in his letter to the DPU community, he undermined the explicit directives aimed at improving student experiences at DePauw. From this, we can only conclude that the institution--through this and other decisions--has failed students on the margins, those with privilege and power, and those who aim for complicity in social activism through their active attempts unlearn oppressive habits. The President’s Cabinet through this decision told our campus the Day of Dialogue is not important, that they can be complacent in the destruction and neglect of people of color, that they can ignore their biases and continue business as usual.

Students demanded the Day of Dialogue. It was created to center racism, including its a/effects on DePauw’s campus climate, its students, and the disproportionate burden placed on Black and Brown people. Over the years, it expanded to include other marginalized identities. The decision to continue making the day optional through fear and an inability to hold its camps accountable disrespects these efforts and confirms that President McCoy and his cabinet will continue to make decisions that promotes this mirage of a diverse and inclusive learning and living experience at DePauw.

The mission of the Association of African American Students is to educate by providing space, access to resources, and creating diverse programming that centers Blackness and challenges social exclusion and oppression. Through our education and our community action, we seek to empower those in our community to explore, understand, and appreciate Blackness and/at its intersections. To ensure we achieve these aims and to protect our communities, we will execute strategic responses to end discriminatory acts against all Black people. PERIOD. Our mission aligned with our actions will continue to meet the needs and desires of our Black community. While in collaboration with allied student organizations, we will remain committed to uplifting and protecting the experiences of students of color and those of all marginalized identities in the DePauw community.

On the Day of Dialogue we leave you with this: If the President’s cabinet cannot listen, strategize, and act effectively to the concerns of people of color and folks of other marginalized identities when we peacefully demonstrate, what will they do when bias incidents return to our campus halls, or dining facilities, our hallways or classrooms?

Based upon their responses to the previous racial incidents, we are left with no confidence that this administration holds the competence or desire to make DePauw University a more inclusive university.


The Executive Board of AAAS