Letter of support for students of color issued by staff and faculty

Alasdair Padman, News Editor

In response to the hate crimes perpetrated against a Whitman student on Jan. 26 and Feb. 13, Kaitlyn G. Patia, a visiting assistant professor of rhetoric, writing and public discourse, sent a “Faculty/Staff Letter of Support for Students of Color at Whitman” to community and student listservs. As of 7:00 p.m. on March 1, Professor Patia’s signature was joined by 136 other signatures from Whitman faculty and staff.

Professor Patia’s letter begins: “We, the undersigned members of Whitman’s faculty and staff, write to express our support for students of color on this campus. In particular, we want to acknowledge the real hurt and fear that Black students on this campus may be experiencing after instances of verbal and physical racist violence that occurred on campus.” 

The letter then addresses Whitman College’s continued connections to a history of racism and its current response to racist acts.

“We see the pain you are experiencing and want to validate your frustration when these incidents are treated as isolated,” the letter reads. “Such frustrations are redoubled when the response to these incidents thus far has come in the neutral language of reporting, not of condemning these acts. Let there be no equivocation: these incidents are part of a long and troubling history of racism that pervades Whitman’s history and continues to this day.”

Beneath the statement, Professor Patia included the list of signers, the “Timely Warning” email sent by Director of Security Marvin Viney on Feb. 15, the Whitman African Student Association (WASA)/Black Student Union (BSU) response to the “Timely Warning” also sent on Feb. 15 and the Borders as Method (BAM) “Statement of Solidarity with BSU/WASA” sent on Feb. 22. It is a comprehensive overview of the events surrounding both hate crimes and the grievances of various groups on campus.

In a statement to The Wire, Professor Patia addressed the need for a letter of support and the value of awareness surrounding these events.

“After conversations with students in my Rhetoric of the Black Freedom Struggle course early last week, I wanted to draft a letter of support (in consultation with other faculty and staff) for students of color on campus, and to circulate the letter among faculty and staff for signatures,” Professor Patia wrote. “It seemed important to affirm that these were not isolated events, that they exist within a broader context of racism, and to commit ourselves to working to creative supportive environments for students of color at Whitman. As I began circulating the letter for signatures, it also became clear that some folks had missed the initial ‘timely warning’ email and/or the responses drafted by student groups. My hope then, is that the letter generated some awareness and a commitment to understanding anti-black violence as everyone’s problem.”

The letter of support can be found here.