“A Demand For Transparency:” A Letter, Explained

Alumni Outlook: Grads Weigh In

Vita Dadoo ’18

As a result of the unprecedented attention the circulating alumni letter received, I would like to draw attention to the letter’s arguments and its demands in light of the College’s responses to the recent abhorrent incidents on campus. Dissecting the letter, I believe, can effectively point to shared sentiments amongst students and alumni as well as define Davidson’s role in providing transparency and demonstrating accountability.

Both on campus and off, students, faculty, staff, and alumni are afraid, grieving, and angry, many asking, “How could this happen at Davidson?

Any quick search on social media will render articulated responses from students and alumni expressing shock, fear, and anger as a result of last week’s incidents. These include long-form posts on Facebook and tweets issued by concerned parents and alumni. In light of the confusion surrounding the incident, we want to provide a series of examples as to why this could and did happen at Davidson without resorting to the “there’s white supremacists everywhere” narrative.

Between the neo-Nazi slogan that appeared last week, the “It’s Okay to Be White” sticker campaign that appeared in April, documented hate speech and terroristic threats on campus social media such as Yik Yak stretching back several years, and many of our personal experiences as alumni with the centuries-long history of white supremacy at the college, this is clearly not an isolated incident.

Here, we are drawing attention to a series of recent events that compel us to believe that the appearance of a neo-Nazi slogan is not an isolated incident and that hate speech is proliferating liberally amongst a community on campus. For instance, this past April, “It’s Okay to Be White” stickers were found on school property. The image, which was originally posted on 4chan in 2017 with the purpose of causing a “massive media shitstorm”, has become emblematic of white supremacist groups. Further, before the application became obsolete on campus, Yik Yak served as a platform for individuals to post racist threads anonymously.

It is now public information that several students reported one of the two for anti-Semitic, terroristic threats to the administration months ago. If there are legal restrictions preventing any release of information around specific person(s) or incidents, or even general administrative procedures should a future incident occur, we believe the college should clarify this in an official statement to create consensus around what information community members can expect.

In the last weeks, several students belonging to different grades and social organizations have come forward with prior reports issued against the students in question. These reports include mentions of violent threats, hate speech, and instances of stalking. Though the College has since stated that the accused students will not be returning to campus in the fall, it is imperative that the college be transparent about the mechanisms it uses to investigate these accusations and the way it determines whether or not they are threatening to the student body. Further, they must mention what can and cannot be legally disclosed during these investigations. If students are extremely vocal about their fears—as they have been—then the college is faced with a credible threat.

An institution is more than only its stated values; an institution is defined by the actual ways its members love or hate one another, and the tangible ways they hold or fail to hold each other accountable.

Reiterating the College’s statement of purpose is not the panacea for hate speech on campus. Mission statements do little to denounce hate speech itself and even less so to protect their students from it. An adjacent goal to the College’s statement of purpose is to teach “all students to think clearly, to make relevant and valid judgments, to discriminate among values, and to communicate freely with others in the realm of ideas.” These lofty goals, though important and inextricable to a Davidson education, do not defend students from the distress of realizing that hateful rhetoric professed by students such as the two alleged to have posted neo-Nazi materials comfortably persists in a shared intellectual space—one that is supposed to invite free, critically informed, and empathetic discourse, inside and outside of the classroom.

The onus is not on marginalized students, faculty, or staff to stand against anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and bigotry. They’ve been standing. It’s time everyone else did as well.

We conclude with a twofold demand. First, we ask that the college and alumni community not only recognize the efforts procured by marginalized students to stand against white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and bigotry at Davidson, but recognize its own shortcomings in addressing students’ decade-long concerns regarding institutional safety. We then ask for less indifference from the general student body and students who have been historically advantaged. As a community, we are all implicated by these incidents and if students feel that’s not the case, then the College should be committed to reevaluate its culture.

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