Discussion of the Place of Race at Samford University 2019-2020

The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in the custody of Minneapolis police generated a new national discussion about race in America. At Samford University, where I teach, these built upon existing discussions which had become more intense after a student’s social media post in October 2019. Here is a list of some of events and statements made in this discussion. This includes statements both by university leaders and by others. It is not comprehensive. I compile it for my own use and it may also be useful to others.

October 9, 2019 A student posts a racially insensitive photograph on Instagram.

October 10, 2019 Vice President Phil Kimery sent an evening email about the incident to employees and students. Partial text published by Inside Higher Ed.

October 11, 2019 Report on the subject appears on AL.com (Birmingham News) and other media outlets.

October 16, 2019 The Black Student Union at Samford posts a letter to the “Samford Community” about this event.

October 17, 2019 President Andrew Westmoreland sent an evening email “of encouragement and hope” acknowledging that the pain that has been caused and that much progress remains to be achieved in seeking racial understanding and reconciliation.

October 28, 2019 AL. com publishes a story on the BSU’s call for action.

February 9-14, 2020 Samford offers a special week-long series of events promoting inclusivity and kindness entitled “Lead with Love.”

May 29, 2020 Petition on Change.org to Samford University by “White Alumni for Black Lives” launched by Julia Jordan-Lake ‘17.

June 1, 2020 Message from President Andrew Westmoreland to the “Samford Community”. Among other things, this statement expressed his solidarity with African American students, employees, alumni, and friends. It also contained a previously scheduled announcement of “a long planned Reconciliation Memorial” at the west end of the Quad.

Samford News Story on the Reconciliation Memorial.

My post reflecting on the the fact that the announcement of the reconciliation obelisk on campus came at the same time as the removal of the Confederate memorial obelisk in Linn Park.

June 4, 2020 Message from Assistant Provost Denise Gregory about the work of the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives. Also a report on the campus’s diversity initiatives.

June 8, 2020 Message from President Westmoreland to “Samford Friends” announcing decisions to increase in staff for the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives, to appoint Dr. Denise Gregory and Dr. Gary Atkins to the Samford Executive Leadership Team, effective July 1, and other matters.

Julia Jordan-Lake submits change.org petition to Dr. Westmoreland with 4,857 signatures.

June 9, 2020 Black Student Union posts twelve-minute video on Instagram account with testimonies and requests from African American students and recent alumni.

June 10, 2020 Dean Tim Hall of the Howard College of Arts and Sciences publishes Pledge of Action and Support

June 11, 2020 Provost J. Michael Hardin sends an email encouraging employees to watch the BSU video. Vice President Kimrey sends an email to undergraduate students (@Blackatsamford would later catalyze a public discussion of Dr. Kimrey’s statement in this email, “I hope you are grateful . . .”)

June 15, 2020 Arts and Sciences department chairpersons release statement supporting the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives.

June 19, 2020 @BlackatSamford Instagram account launched stating demands to administration and requesting statements from students either anonymously or signed. Statements are posted in Instagram pictures as received. Account had made 72 posts by 7 p.m. on June 21.

June 22, 2020 A message from President Westmoreland to the “Samford Community” particularly its “Black students, alumni, and employees” is posted on the Samford website and shared via Instagram (and perhaps other ways). It does not name @BlackatSamford but responds to many of the points it has made and offers a webpage where black students can submit their comments to Samford anonymously.

June 24, 2020 Notice of Dr. Westmoreland’s June 22 message appears in The Belltower.

July 7, 2020 Journalist Sydney Cromwell (Samford, Howard College ‘15) publishes a story on @BlackatSamford and the university’s responses on Birmingham Watch. It is also shared online by WBHM. @BlackatSamford makes its 152nd post this day.

July 8, 2020 At 9 a.m. Dr. Hardin sends an email to employees dated containing a press-release statement announcing that the “Task Force on Racial Justice” has convened. The names of the thirty-seven members of the task force are provided in a link. The press release is included in the Belltower newsletter sent to the Samford community at the end of the day.

The Belltower also included a June 29 announcement of new initiatives regarding diversity in athletics.

July 21, 2020 on or before this date Samford posts an essay “Social Media in Divisive Times” offering general reflections and advise on how to use social media productively and stating that the student in the fall social media photograph (Molly Aiken) was not responsible for the racially offensive caption that the student posting it had used.
On this date, the @BlackatSamford Instagram account shares Watson’s post and many join in the account’s criticism of it.

Updated July 21, 2020

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