Revoke Tower Medallion presented to Phil Robertson
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Dear Corre Stegall,
We, the undersigned, write this open letter to express our disappointment and shame at the induction of Phil Robertson into Louisiana Tech’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni during spring 2014 commencement. As stated both in the program and in verbal remarks, this is the highest honor conferred on an alumnus and we believe the university has erred greatly in honoring Mr. Robertson. Such an award implicitly endorses Robertson’s flagrantly racist, homophobic, ethnocentric, and sexist views. These views do not represent a public research university in the 21st century, and endorsing them sends the message to our women, African American, and LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff that the intolerant and bigoted views of a 68-year-old alumnus matter more than they do.
Surely you are aware of the deeply hateful remarks Mr. Robertson has made about women, African Americans, and LGBTQ people. We are confident that these do not represent your views. We are also confident that you do not believe they represent the views of Louisiana Tech or any great public research university in the 21st century.
Do you, for example, believe that our women students are too old to marry? Mr. Robertson believes that men should “marry these girls when they are 15 or 16,” otherwise, “you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket.” Do you, or the administrators who decided to award Mr. Robertson with this distinction, believe this to be true about the thousands of women who attend Louisiana Tech?
Do you also agree with Mr. Robertson that African Americans were “happy” living in the Jim Crow South? Mr. Robertson has said this repeatedly. He believes “no one was singing the blues” during an era in which white Southerners denied African Americans all civil and human rights and white mobs regularly lynched and murdered African Americans, including in the Louisiana parishes where Mr. Robertson grew up. (At Louisiana Tech we have terrific historians who could quickly show Mr. Robertson the folly of his historical misunderstandings.) Would you tell our African American students that they would have been better off living in the South of the pre-Civil Rights Movement?
And do you agree with Mr. Robertson that our LGBTQ students are destined for hell, that the way they live their lives is the equivalent of bestiality, that we should think of them as criminals simply for being who they are? Would you say this to our LGBTQ students?
We are certain that your answer to all of the above questions is “no.” We are also certain that you do not believe any of these ideas represent the values of tolerance, diversity, and respect that rest at the heart of the mission of a public research university in the 21st century. Louisiana Tech and its faculty, staff, students, and alumni deserve a better representative than Mr. Robertson. His views violate many of the professed “Tenets of Tech,” including knowledge, integrity, respect, leadership, and caring, that define the “cornerstone of the institution’s identity.”
We believe that the decision to award Mr. Robertson with this distinction creates an environment that marginalizes many of our students, faculty, and staff. This decision further erodes the sense of safety for some members of the university community. Implicitly endorsing Mr. Robertson’s aggressive comments, particularly about LGBTQ people, sanctions anti-LGBTQ behaviors on campus. If one of our “distinguished alumni” can behave in such a way, who is to say that any of our current students cannot? Many faculty, staff, and students already work hard enough to foster spaces of inclusivity for students who have often felt like outcasts on our campus. We fear giving Mr. Robertson this award has done irreparable harm to our educational mission of inclusivity and empowerment.
We do not deny Mr. Robertson’s right to his intolerant views. What we reject is the university’s unquestioned endorsement of these views. His inflammatory public pronouncements are always delivered to crowds of uncritical sycophants. “The university is a critical institution or it is nothing,” the late Stuart Hall wrote. We will not allow our critical institution to uncritically laud a man who rejects our most cherished principles.
This award is now a blemish on Louisiana Tech's legacy and one that brings shame to our university community. Surely there were other successful alumni who embody the great achievements "in their professions, in community service, and in humanitarian activity" that the Hall of Distinguished Alumni is supposed to recognize. We can and must do better in the future by choosing to honor alumni who call us to the higher ideals of tolerance, respect, and diversity central to the mission of a great public research university in the 21st century. We are obligated to reject unquestioned homophobia, racism, and sexism, especially when they are masked as Christian values.
We request that the Louisiana Tech Alumni Association revoke this distinction awarded to Mr. Robertson. He does not deserve it and our university community does not deserve the shame it brings us. Thank you for your time.
Shawn A. Trivette
Andrew C. McKevitt
School of Design
lore m. dickey
Psychology & Behavioral Sciences
cc: President Leslie K. Guice
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