Apr. 16, 2014

Guest Column: An open letter to President Reveley concerning the Sigma Chi email

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February 18, 2014

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Dear College President Taylor Reveley,

Our community is hurt and in need of your help.

With that in mind, you missed an incredible opportunity to relate to and console the members of the campus that you serve during last Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting. You attended the event, but much to everyone’s surprise, you did not speak and, therefore, did not acknowledge the distress that people so bravely voiced. In fact, you left midway through the event.

I cannot begin to tell you how comforting it would have been for myself, and I imagine many others, if you either stayed for the entire event, spoke at the podium, or walked from circle to circle during the small-group discussions and said, “Please tell me what’s wrong. I am here. I want to hear what you have to say.”

That did not happen. In fact, if the members of this campus sought any indication, apart from your brief appearance at the Town Hall meeting, that you have been listening and support them regarding the issue of the Sigma Chi email, they would only be able to find one public statement:

“It’s flatly unacceptable. We put a lot of emphasis on building community at William & Mary, and a crucial element of community is respect for one another. This email makes clear we have more work to do. This serious lapse in community will serve as a teachable moment to that end.”

This statement, while a good first step, is generic enough that it could be applied to almost anything. There is nothing in these words that either distinguishes this email as part of the broader issue of rape culture or that resolves to fight against the injustices it poses.

You are the face of this college. You must find the delicate balance between the students of the College of William and Mary and everyone else — press, donors, businesses and others. Yet other college presidents have spoken in detail to the issues of discrimination and safety.

After a group of athletes yelled homophobic slurs during a University of Mississippi production of “The Laramie Project,” the Chancellor of the University, Dan Jones, wrote a three paragraph letter that ensured the individuals responsible would be held accountable. He also personally committed to being part of a dialogue to solve the greater issues of “inclusivity and civility.” By doing this, Chancellor Jones made certain to distinguish this issue from others the school has faced, giving it the attention that it deserved.

Just as these words mattered to the students of Ole Miss, your words matter to us. They bear a heavy weight, and the students of this College carry them everywhere they go.

As such, I invite you to call for a review of the institutional language on our campus. I believe that the issues pertaining to rape culture and the broader virtues of health, wellness and safety should all be included in the College’s mission statement, the Code of Conduct and the Honor Code.

Hark upon the gale, President Reveley, and join the thunder of our chorus: If you raised your voice, we would listen. So speak up. We can’t hear you.

Email Jordan Taffet at jmtaffet@email.wm.edu.

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Jordan Taffet

(1) Reader Comment

  1. Marcus
    February 18, 2014 at 9:09 PM

    I will summarize my agreement by saying that William and Mary was done a grave disservice when its Board of Visitors forced Gene Nichol out. Nichol was always happy to engage with students. In his place, the Board got exactly what it wanted: stasis. The good morale on campus is from students and professors, not the administration.

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