Faculty pen letter in response to hate crimes

(Faculty members have been wearing pins to show solidarity with students. Photo by Allie Gath.)

Condemning last semester’s six hate crimes, over 240 members of the FSU community have signed a letter to the editor denouncing racism and calling for a more united campus.

The letter, appearing in this week’s issue of The Gatepost, has been signed by 174 faculty members and 68 staff members and administrators, according to English professor Elaine Beilin.

“We really wanted something to communicate with the students, and it seemed like The Gatepost was the best way for us to communicate with as many students as we could,” she said. “A lot of us felt that students should know how faculty and staff felt – how upset and appalled and angry we were by the attacks on our students.”

Responding to the spree of hate crimes that occurred last semester, the letter states that faculty, staff and administrators will commit themselves to “exclude all forms of discrimination” campus-wide. The letter specifically states that educators will work to foster an inclusive environment in their classrooms, departments and hiring committees.

Although it was signed by many individuals on campus, the letter was written by faculty members and was conceptualized in a faculty-led initiative spearheaded by English professor Kelly Matthews last month.

“I sent an email to all faculty proposing we plan some actions on campus – some visible demonstrations of our opposition to the hate crimes and ways for us to take collective action together,” she said.

In addition to the letter, faculty and staff members have been wearing anti-hate buttons on their shirts for the last few weeks. In the coming months, they are planning an anti-racism teach-in/town hall meeting for students to participate in.

History professor Lissa Bollettino, one of the faculty members planning the meeting, said she is reaching out to students for ideas.

Bollettino said by providing a platform for students to speak out, the faculty is working to “provide support and community for those who are suffering.”

That, according to Bollettino, “might be a more achievable goal than changing the hearts and minds of those who are writing racist things on a flyer. I don’t know if we are ever going to root those people out entirely. What we need to do is to have a secure enough community.”

Sociology professor Elizabeth Whalley said she signed the letter because she believed “it was important for faculty to take a united stand addressing the racist hate crimes on campus.”

Political science professor David Smailes said he signed the letter because “it was a good expression of what our community is all about.”

He said as an educator, it’s his job to follow the ideals expressed in the letter.

“I think everybody bears that responsibility.”

Whalley said she hopes students feel “comforted” by the letter. She said, however, she sees it as more of as “a promise that we’ll take action.

“I don’t think the letter alone is enough, but it’s a good jumping off place for holding ourselves accountable.”