mid-April, 2018 At least five student peers send individual letters to faculty, board and acting-president Bishop Dunlop with known factual inaccuracies concerning the ULS Student Statement Concerning Racism. These peers chose to engage the faculty and board privately rather than having a public conversation with their peers. It is concerning that some or all of these five letters were sent on to additional ULS leaders by Jim Dunlop and seem to have been given equal weight with the 80+ signers of the ULS Student Statement Concerning Racism which went through an extensive peer reviewed process including an eight day review by the Student Executive Committee.
It is important to note here that not all student communications with the Board were received. Current Board Chair, Rev. Peter Boehringer has acknowledged in an email to a student (August 2018) that student correspondence with the Board was being redacted, yet statements such as these letters of opposition were being forwarded in their entirety to seminary leadership by Acting-President Jim Dunlop. We cannot know without the Board’s full disclosure which student letters were being redacted, but it is quite clear that Acting-President Jim Dunlop favored student letters that brought the ULS Student Statement Concerning Racism into question as a legitimate expression of the now substantiated and systemic racism experienced by students and perpetuated by his actions at ULS as acting-president.
Some of the very concerning inaccuracies in these student letters of opposition include questioning its legitimacy, and suggesting or claiming that the Statement was composed solely by white students. This is false. Peers of African and European descent were present and involved in every step of the writing of the Statement and representatives from almost every constituent student group had an opportunity to review and comment prior to the Statement being published. At least one student letter also suggests the writers and editors of the Statement intentionally limited the voices of students of color who do not identify as African American. This is false. At the time of writing the ULS Student Statement Concerning Racism no students of color outside of African descent students were making public claims of classroom/chapel racism which were then forwarded on to the HR firm hired by the Board of Trustees to be researched and substantiated. If such claims exist now we encourage these peers to come forward in whichever ways they deem appropriate.
At least one student letter of opposition claims that the Statement is an effort by white students to “de-Lutheranize” the seminary. This is false. ULS is a Lutheran seminary which serves students from over 20 Christian traditions. Labeling equity and inclusion as “de-Lutheranizing” is a conversation that requires a public hearing, not private name-calling. At least one student letter accuses the Statement of paternalism and that students who identify as African descent “declare their own needs.” This accusation of paternalism is false. Additionally, our African descent peers declared their need at a public meeting on March 13 and requested that white students stand with them in calling the seminary to account for the racist words and actions its employees perpetuate. Lastly, at least one of the student letters suggests that the just laments of African descent peers are a competing victim narrative and therefore not as legitimate as the very public accusations brought upon seminary leadership by the LGBTQIA+ community. Though the writers/editors of this timeline cannot account for every opinion presented to these oppositional writers last semester, it is frankly shocking that one or more of these writers would divide LGBTQIA+ students from students of color by suggesting that a competing victim narrative is the most likely explanation for why African descent students are writing “many, many emails” and making requests in public forums that their white peers accompany them as they substantiate the systemic racism in our midst.
All of the individuals who are taking part in the formation of this timeline acknowledge the very real trauma experienced by our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ in the last year. One pain does not negate the other. Rather we as students now have a stronger bond and can now more clearly see how individuals within the institution have perpetuated a systemic racism that must be publicly condemned. Many of the proposed policies in the ULS Policy Survey seek to address these ongoing systemic issues in the ULS community.
This announcement is part of the timeline of racism at United Lutheran Seminary