The vice-chancellor sent the follow-up email below to the Sewanee community (including campus, parents, and trustees) on Friday, March 19, 2021.
Dear Sewanee Family:
This week has been challenging, painful, and consequential for our community. Yet the courageous actions taken by many of you show that brighter days lie ahead.
Following the public disclosure last Sunday of despicable racist behavior by some of our student spectators toward visiting lacrosse players from Emmanuel College on March 13, the Sewaniverse reacted with revulsion and determination—revulsion at the actions of those students, and determination to uphold our values of dignity and decency.
I could not be prouder of the courage and integrity that the vast majority of our student body has shown this week. Our students spontaneously organized a walk-out of class on Monday, March 15, to protest racism at Sewanee. Some of our students of color shared their searingly painful experiences of being denigrated because of the color of their skin. Hundreds of students of all races listened to their testimony and held their pain. Members of the Order of the Gown laid down their gowns in Convocation Hall in a sign of solidarity and protest. On Wednesday, March 17, hundreds of our student-athletes and others marched down University Avenue in a driving rain to denounce racism and to advocate for the unity that can be achieved through athletics. Many of our Greek organizations have issued unprecedented statements denouncing persistent racism in pockets of our campus community and committing themselves henceforth to supporting diversity and inclusion within their chapters and across campus. Many other student organizations have taken to social media to express their revulsion at the racism evidenced by some of our students on March 13 and to call for a fundamental change in our culture at Sewanee to ensure that it is a place that is, indeed, a welcoming home for all.
All of these statements and actions are incredibly important. They are showing a community that is standing up for its values and making clear, in no uncertain terms, that racism in any form is categorically intolerable here on the Mountain. They are showing the world that we are serious about our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and that we are prepared to do the hard work to live boldly and courageously into our values.
The task to transform our university’s culture regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion is both urgent and necessary. At times it will be difficult, and it will not happen overnight. Yet we must not allow this moment to pass without harnessing this energy to propel us forward. In the months and years ahead, we will be thoughtful, deliberate, compassionate, consultative, and committed as we establish additional programs and policies to help the University of the South, in the words of our Board of Regents’ statement in September, to become “a model of diversity, of inclusion, of intellectual rigor, and of loving spirit in an America that rejects prejudice and embraces possibility.”
Even though we can be incredibly proud of these actions and statements from the majority of our student body, we cannot ignore the continued presence in our midst of those students who shouted racial slurs at the visiting student-athletes from Emmanuel College, as well as those Sewanee students who stood idly by within earshot but did nothing to stop the abuse. Our investigation into the incident of March 13 continues. We are determined to identify those who are responsible. Anyone in the Sewanee community who may know the identities of the individuals who shouted these racist epithets last Saturday can provide information via this confidential reporting form. You may also send any relevant information anonymously through the LiveSafe app. We continue to urge those who uttered those vile insults to come forward voluntarily. If they do not do so, there may not be a pathway for them to reconcile with the community after they have been identified.
In this challenging moment, rest assured that the University leadership is attuned to the needs of all of our students. We are committed to the safety of everyone on campus and we will not tolerate assaults on the dignity of anyone. Though this is a moment of pain for Sewanee, we can turn it into a stepping stone on the pathway toward what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described as “the Beloved Community,” where everyone is valued in the fullness of their humanity. I am grateful to be on this journey with you.
Ecce Quam Bonum,
Reuben E. Brigety, II
Vice-Chancellor and President