University of St. Thomas alumni are circulating a letter to the school’s administration demanding a “required course for all students” examining the “history of white supremacy” and “anti-racist curriculum.”
The letter comes in response to a number of racial incidents that have occurred on campus in recent months. The university, located in St. Paul, canceled classes in November 2018 after a poster declaring that “It’s OK to be white” was found on campus.
More recently, a racial slur was traced in dust on a bathroom window in an on-campus dorm.
“As alumni of the University of St. Thomas representing the last 20 graduating classes, we write this open letter to our alma mater to prompt action regarding the on-going racism occurring on campus,” the letter begins. “While racist incidents on campus in the past three years have garnered the most attention from outside of campus, as alum these incidents are all too familiar and we recognize these incidents as evidence of a larger, underlying problem of systemic racism that continues to go unaddressed.”
As a Catholic institution, the authors of the letter believe that the school has a responsibility to “identify racism, and perpetuating racism, as being directly in conflict with the mission and commitments of the University of St. Thomas.”
“To better understand the campus climate for each graduating class we represent, we searched archived St. Thomas publications and found decades worth of racist incidents that have happened on campus. It is devastating to see this evidence of systemic racism at our alma mater, and to realize that racism on campus has long been commonplace. Our search also yielded decades of failed attempts by the administration to address this issue,” the letter continues.
The authors find the university’s new “Action Plan to Combat Racism” insufficient, saying the solutions it proposes are “focused on addressing individual behavior, instead of the dismantling of systemic racism.”
“It must be said that racism cannot be dismantled with efforts to change the feelings of racist people,” the letter argues, suggesting that “effective anti-racism strategies should not focus on changing hearts and minds, but instead on policy changes.”
To that effect, the letter concludes with a list of six demands, including the creation of “restorative healing circles for students of color on campus.”
In their fourth demand, the authors state that the university should begin using its campus crime alert system “every time an incident occurs.”
“Treat hate crimes on campus in the same way that acts of terror and other harmful attacks are addressed: use the campus alert system every time an incident occurs, investigate, hold the individuals causing harm accountable, and demonstrate full transparency throughout the process,” says the letter.
A fifth demand calls for a “required course for all students that examines the history of white supremacy and incorporates anti-racism curriculum,” saying this new course “should replace the current online diversity training provided to students.”
“As alums who have moved into our professional careers, we can attest that anti-racism work is an integral part of almost every sector of the economy,” the letter concludes. “By failing to thoroughly identify and dismantle racism within UST, the administration is failing to truly prepare students to be morally responsible leaders once they march out the arches.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “University of St. Thomas Welcome Sign” by the University of St. Thomas.