Ursinus President Responds to Recent Controversies

Bobby Fong writes students over campus "racial insensitivity", an intense sports debate, and a website that rates students' "hotness vs. craziness"

Ursinus President Bobby Fong has responded to three controversies on campus over the past month, including the 'blackface' incident last week, the backlash to a sports editorial last month and a recent "Hot/Crazy" online rating system, using Ursinus ID photos.

Below is Fong's response:

Dear Friends:

On the weekend of Halloween, a student attended parties dressed in Blackface.  This action demonstrated an ignorance of and insensitivity to the feelings of African-American students and the wider Ursinus community.  Students, black, white, and Latino, remonstrated with him, and in the next days, Student Affairs followed up on the incident.  The student was chagrined by his action, educated himself on the history of Blackface in American history, and met with several of his student critics to apologize.

This was an instance where the community, both students and administration, responded swiftly and appropriately in holding the offending student accountable, enabling him to make amends, and making use of a teachable moment.

A similar response ensued two weeks ago when the writer of a Grizzly op-ed critical of Ursinus athletes became the target of threats.  The Grizzly editorial staff responded with a strong statement about civil disagreement: one can passionately disagree with another’s perspective and offer reasons why the other is wrong; threats are never appropriate.  Student Affairs contacted those who threatened the student to confront them with how their actions violated Ursinus codes of conduct.  This is another instance where the community acted to affirm the values of respect and civility that must underlie our relations with one another.

This past Wednesday night, a website was launched that urged viewers to rate photos of Ursinus students on scales of “hotness” or “craziness.”  The site used Ursinus ID photos without authorization.  Students and alumni were outraged by the lack of respect evinced in the website.  Information Technology worked to have the site taken down by Thursday morning, and the offending student who originated the website has been identified for adjudication.

In each instance I’ve cited, students, administration, faculty, and alumni responded to hold offenders accountable.  A College seeking to be inclusive necessarily invites matriculants from a variety of  backgrounds.  Students come to learn, to appraise critically their own beliefs and behaviors, and to take responsibility for their actions.   The measure of an educational community is not whether thoughtless, offensive, or harmful behavior occurs but how the community deals with the offender. Our ideal is to create a community wherein all of us have the responsibility to model for each other what it means to kind and respectful.  We need to live this out daily, and we must hold each other accountable on an everyday basis.  For this reason, I regard the responses to these recent incidents as indicative of the health of a community unafraid to speak truth and caring enough to help those who act inappropriately learn from error.

Bobby Fong

See Related Articles:

  • Ursinus Students Unite in Differences Blog
  • "Blackface" Incident Brings Out Almost 100 Ursinus Students


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