Shipley responds to defaced flyer

Chloe Phillips
An example of the class flyer for Africana Philosophy that was defaced Nov. 1.

President Suzanne Shipley sent an email Nov.2 to the university community in response to a defaced flyer found by Nathan Jun, associate philosophy professor and coordinator of the philosophy department. Jun discovered the defaced flyer announcing a class on Africana philosophy Thursday morning. Shipley said she found out about the incident when Jun sent her an email that morning.

“I had been planning on sending a message out when I thought the time was right, and this definitely merited it,” Shipley said. “It’s a little harder [to address the issue] when you get unapproved posters that look rather innocuous (not harmful or offensive) that drive you to a racially motivated website. This was not that way — this was absolute vandalism, and racial slurs. It gave me the opportunity to say what we’ve all been wanting to say in an unequivocal manner. It took a while to get the message out, and he and I talked first thing in the morning. Then you want Keith to see it to make sure it’s in line with what Dr. Lamb is trying to do with student affairs, then you want the press people to see it so that it’s in line with what’s normally in line with our mission.”

When it comes to protecting students and combating hate, Shipley said she thinks about it a lot and frequently discusses it with Keith Lamb, vice president of student affairs.

“I’d say the disappointing answer is that we won’t be able to protect you entirely from messages like this because we are a microcosm of American society,” Shipley said. “What we try to do is we try to prepare you to respond to a society like this and shape a society so that it’s not like this. Our job is two-fold to help you have the capacity to deal with incidents that will occur in life, but also to help you to be a leader and shape our society so fewer people have to deal with that. When you ask what should the university do, I think it’s more than an isolated incident, it’s really what is your stance on about diversity and inclusion.”

She also mentioned how the department of equity, inclusion and multicultural affairs was created after meetings held with students on racial violence in Missouri.

“We had a quite a few meetings with students when Missouri was having a lot of issues around racial violence and students were beginning to speak up quite a bit,” Shipley said. “We met with all of our students and what I found in those student meetings was that they had a voice but nowhere to go with it. They had opinions, voices and desires to act, but no way to coordinate that action. That’s when we went to the students and talked about hiring Dr. Syreeta Greene and creating an office of multiculturalism and inclusion. Students are studying, they’re working, they’re in groups, they can come up with great ideas and actions, but those actions have to be coordinated to lead to a good outcome. What the institution did is it tried to provide a better avenue for student opinion to realize itself in action that was valuable and lasting, rather than just starting with one group that graduated [then] nothing else happened.”

According Jun, the flyer was the only flyer vandalized with a racial slur.

“I discovered the flyer in question on Thursday morning and, as far as I know, it was the only one that was vandalized because I posted them all over the building. This particular flyer was sort of crumpled up and basically tossed outside my office door. I unfolded it and discovered that it had been defaced then I went and reported it to Dr. Lamb,” Jun said.

Jun said he was horrified because of the content of the vandalism and he was personally intimidated because it was put in front of his office.

“In addition to taking the opportunity to just hurl this racist epithet, it was also like this person was trying to convey a sense of they didn’t approve of the fact that I was teaching this course. They were objecting specifically to offering this course — that was disturbing on an entirely different level. Campus has been sporadically hit with these far right fascistic, racist, xenophobic flyers, but this is the first [time] I’m aware [of it]. I doubt that this particular instant was part of a broader effort, but I do see it in relation to other things that have been going on and that’s pretty trouble to me,” Jun said.

Some students believe it is just a show of the climate we are currently living in.

Tiara Wilson, exercise physiology sophomore, said, “It’s all a butterfly effect of our counties social climate at the moment. There is just a lot of hate and separation and not enough listening and understanding. That sounds like it would be a great and informative course option that could be offered here.”