College faculty members at Wake Forest University voted by a large margin on Monday to condemn the administration’s response to revelations that students who appeared alongside white supremacist imagery in past yearbooks have gone on to positions of prominence in the university community.
The condemnation was part of package of resolutions approved by a vote of 130 in favor, 16 opposed and five abstaining, according to two faculty members who spoke to TCB on condition of anonymity.
Although the resolution did not name them specifically, Dean of Admissions Martha Blevins Allman and Associate Dean of Admissions Kevin Pittard both appear in The Howler posing with a large Confederate flag as part of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity group photo. A review by TCB also revealed that J. McLain Wallace, general counsel for Baptist Hospital, posed with the Confederate flag as a member of Kappa Alpha Order. Ben Sutton, a Winston-Salem investor who serves on the university’s board of trustees, graduated from Wake in 1980 as a member of Kappa Alpha. The fraternity didn’t display the Confederate flag in the 1980 yearbook, but historically venerates Robert E. Lee and held an Old South Ball during the period when Sutton was a student.
The resolutions also included support for nine demands issued by students through the Wake Forest University Anti-Racism Coalition, including “zero tolerance of white supremacist acts and speech, including the display of Confederate flags, Nazi flags or any other white supremacist symbols.”
The faculty resolution also endorses the students’ call for a “dedicated space that is under the control of the Black Student Alliance and large enough to hold the population of black students.”
In an email to students faculty and staff on Monday, President Nathan O. Hatch wrote that he is “committed to responding to the undercurrent of doubt that exists at the heart of the national news stories and emails I have received: doubt about access, equity and belonging. In recent discussions, Wake Forest students have challenged me to acknowledge and address these issues on our campus.”
Hatch said that prior to spring break he met with students and agreed to designate a lounge for the Black Student Alliance in Kitchin Residence Hall. He also said the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to incorporate unconscious bias training in orientation for student leader training, including student government, fraternity and sorority life and other student organizations.
Separately from the student demands, the faculty resolutions call for the Wake Forest community, including current staff, faculty and students, along with alumni and former staff and faculty members “to engage in a substantive and independent process of truth and reconciliation in regards to the university’s history and present support of white supremacy.” And the faculty call for “the reinvigoration of the Community in Progress process.”
In response to the college faculty vote, the university released a statement on Tuesday: “We are fully committed to working with our students, faculty and staff toward a more inclusive campus community.”
Here are the four resolutions passed by college faculty:
- Over the past few weeks, it has come to light that old editions of the Wake Forest Yearbook, The Howler, contain white supremacist language and imagery. The Wake Forest community has learned that some of the former students pictured in photos containing white supremacist imagery have gone on to become prominent leaders of the Wake Forest University community. We the college faculty condemn the Wake Forest University Administration’s response to these revelations thus far as inadequate. We believe that a) the responses offered were delayed to the point of negligence; b) the ongoing silence of college and university leaders is unacceptable; c) the responses are wholly insufficient as apologies, redress for harms done, or commitments to policies and programs that would transform the university; and d) these events are consistent with previous failures by university leaders to address anti-black racism and white-supremacy at Wake Forest with the urgency and transparency that they warrant.
- We, the faculty of Wake Forest College, thank and honor our students who have taken the lead through the Wake Forest University Anti-Racism Coalition to move our community to confront the persistent problem of anti-black racism and white supremacy. We endorse their nine demands, elaborated below. We, the faculty of Wake Forest College, request that the Wake Forest University Administration respond to these demands by the April 2019 College Faculty Meeting.
- Of the nine demands, we specifically support the call for zero tolerance of White supremacist acts and speech, including the display of Confederate flags, Nazi flags, or any other white supremacist symbols.
- We also specifically support the importance of a forum, perhaps in Wait Chapel, where current administrators who appeared in racist photos as students can offer formal and public apologies. Leaders of the university must take responsibility for the past and for moving us forward in tangible ways.
- We endorse the call for a dedicated space that is under the control of the Black Student Alliance and large enough to hold the population of black students.
- We support the call for transparency in “bias reporting,” so members of our community will know regularly how many reports have been made and whether any action was taken in response.
- Anti-black hate crimes on campus should be swiftly condemned by the administration and the consequences of such acts should be made clear to every member of our community.
- We fully agree that Confederate commemorations should be taken down and buildings named for white supremacists and/or eugenicists should be renamed. University sponsorship of organizations that celebrate Confederate leaders, symbols, and/or ideology should be revoked.
- We agree that Wake needs more counselors of color, and specifically black counselors.
- We agree that the University needs a clear and transparent plan for the recruitment and retention of black students, administrators, and faculty.
- We, the faculty of Wake Forest College, request that the entire Wake Forest community, including current staff, faculty, and students as well as alumni and former staff and faculty members, engage in a substantive and independent process of Truth and Reconciliation in regards to the University’s history and present support of white supremacy. We should look to the examples set by Georgetown and Brown Universities in establishing centers for truth and justice. We need to shine a bright light on Wake’s history with slavery and racial segregation, and on its struggles with anti-black racism in the contemporary period. We request that the Wake Forest University Administration provide a plan for a Truth and Reconciliation process at the April 2019 College Faculty Meeting.
- We, the faculty of the Wake Forest College, request the reinvigoration of the “Community in Progress” process. During this process, the Provost’s Office received over 150 recommendations and commissioned a Campus Climate Implementation Team to address recommendations in following areas: Admissions, Communication, Curricular and Faculty Engagement, Orientation, Space, and Student Engagement (consisting of Civic Engagement, Diversity Peer Education, and Student Leadership Development). Additionally, recommendations were submitted by the President’s Commission on LGBTQ Affairs and The Police Accountability Taskforce. We request that the progress of the Campus Climate Implementation Team be reviewed and the remaining recommendations be addressed. We request that the Wake Forest University Administration provide an update on this process at the April 2019 College Faculty Meeting.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Ben Sutton appeared with a Confederate flag as a student at Wake Forest University in a yearbook photo. We regret the error.