Wake Forest University is hosting a series of “listening sessions” for faculty and staff of color that aim to advance inclusion efforts on campus.
The listening sessions come amid ongoing racial tensions on campus, including a protest Monday at which some students decried the “white supremacy” that allegedly runs rampant at the private, North Carolina institution.
“Dear faculty and staff colleagues, this is a reminder about our upcoming listening sessions on inclusion that I am holding for faculty and staff of color over the next several weeks,” stated an April 18 email from Michele Gillespie, dean of the college, to campus employees.
The email, a copy of which was obtained by The College Fix, continued:
Here are the upcoming dates and information:
–For faculty/staff who identify as faculty/staff of color: Monday, April 22 at 4:00 pm in ZSR Room 476 (we will be joined by Associate Dean Erica Still)
–For faculty/staff who identify as faculty/staff of color: Thursday, May 2 at 11:00 am in ZSR 476 (we will be joined by Associate Dean Erica Still)
–For staff who identify as staff of color ONLY: Monday, May 6 at 4:00 pm in ZSR Room 477
Please know that I have requested that all department chairs provide staff release time to be able to attend a listening session.
Gillespie, as well as campus spokeswoman Katie Neal, did not return several emails over the last few days from The College Fix seeking comment.
As for the campus protest, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that “a coalition of students, faculty and staff at Wake Forest University demanded Monday that university officials immediately begin a zero-tolerance policy for white supremacy after several developments in recent months heightened concerns about racism on campus.”
Today, ARC and @out_winston stood in solidarity against how @WakeForest embodies, emboldens, and perpetuates white supremacy. This goes far beyond our campus walls. #WhiteForest1834 #OnOurTerms #OurC2C pic.twitter.com/4fmWQgknSD— Wake Forest University Anti-Racism Coalition (@wfuarc) April 23, 2019
The article cites a few examples that have riled the campus community, including a “racist Instagram post” that quipped about building a wall between Wake Forest and its crosstown rival, a historically black university.
Also cited was old yearbook blackface photos, and a photo of Wake Forest students posing in front of a Confederate flag in the 1980s, two of whom are now WFU administrators.
That Instagram post? It was actually a parody. As for the blackface photos, there are few universities across the nation that haven’t found a few of those in old yearbooks. And the two administrators pictured in front of the Confederate flag — they’ve apologized. Their apologies have not been accepted, however. (Protesters are likely furious that one of the deans in the 37-year-old photo has refused to step down from her job despite their demands).
And although the Journal article doesn’t mention it, there was another “racist” incident from February — a student in a cowboy outfit whose lasso was mistaken for a noose.
The group leading the accusations of white supremacy and racism calls itself the Wake Forest University Anti-Racism Coalition. Its members refuse to accept that the “build a wall” post was simply a parody in poor judgment, and have maintained it’s an acute example of racism and white supremacy at the school.
Indeed when a white female peer told them to relax and take a joke, she received death threats. Meanwhile, administrators tried to appease the coalition by launching an investigation into the post. Clearly that didn’t work.
During Monday’s protest, anti-racism coalition members invited WFU President Nathan Hatch and other campus leaders to “publicly apologize for the roles they’ve played in perpetuating WFU’s white supremacy,” according to a tweet from participants. Hatch, who attended the protest, declined their invitation to tell the crowd he’s sorry.
(The other two administrators asked to apologize were the ones in the Confederate flag photo; they were not present at the demonstration.)
Yesterday @wfuarc offered @PresidentHatch, Martha Allman, & Kevin Pittard the opportunity to come publicly apologize for the roles they’ve played in perpetuating WFU’s white supremacy. Of the three, Pres. Hatch was the only one to come, but he still refused to address the crowd. pic.twitter.com/fdfAtbjQqB— Wake Forest YDSA 🎩🌹 (@wfuydsa) April 23, 2019
The coalition contends black students at Wake Forest “are facing the same problems encountered by the first black student admitted” to the university way back in 1962.
One professor at the school who asked for anonymity said the situation is absurd right now.
“It’s hard to respond to the ridiculous accusation that Wake Forest tolerates or encourages ‘white supremacy’ and inflicts ‘trauma on students of color,'” the professor said in an email to The Fix. “I question whether it is worth responding to people who use such hyperbolic and hysterical rhetoric. Though the more you placate them, the more they escalate their rhetoric and demands.”
Indeed, a month prior to Monday’s protest, President Hatch had already capitulated to numerous demands regarding the university’s racial unrest, including granting the Black Student Alliance control of an exclusive and highly sought after campus lounge space next to one of the main dorms. He also promised more diversity and “unconscious bias” training.