Andrews University President Issues Apology for Student Article


(Spectrumbot) #1

On Wednesday evening, March 3, Niels-Erik Andreasen, president of Andrews University, issued an apology for an article that appeared in Andrews’ official student newspaper, The Student Movement. The article, written by Andrews student Nathan Davis, appeared in the February 25 edition of the Student Movement and was entitled “On Black History Month.” Davis, who identified himself in the article as “raceless,” questioned the helpfulness of Black History Month, and suggested that the month reinforces a false notion that there is a difference between the races.

Davis stated that people should be indifferent and apathetic toward the color of their skin, rather than being either proud or ashamed. The article concluded by posing the question, “Why don’t we have Redneck History Month, or Mohammedan History Month, or Midget History Month? There are a lot of groups which have been discriminated against…but we shouldn’t set aside an entire month just to discuss each oppressee. We should expand Black History Month into ‘Anti-Stereotyping Month,’ and we should expect and pressure historians and history teachers to start giving more well-rounded retellings of the past.”

Responses to the article were swift and severe. Students took to social media to express their hurt and frustration over what many viewed as an ignorant and naïve piece of writing.

Eliel Cruz, a senior at Andrews University and freelance journalist, posted the article to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, saying, “One of the most tone deaf pieces I've ever read on race, of course written and published on my campus. Absolutely shameful.” The article soon went viral, with Adventist and non-Adventists alike weighing in and describing the article as, “awful,” “clueless,” and “heartbreaking.”

In addition to pointing out the problematic statements made about Black History Month, other students were quick to point out the derogatory terms used to describe rural Southerners, Muslims and Little People (individuals with Dwarfism).

On March 3, the Student Movement announced via its Facebook page, “We have been hearing your hurt and anger over Nathan Davis's article ‘On Black History Month’ and would like to give you a forum to express your frustrations.” Readers were encouraged to write in and share their thoughts.

In the March 4 edition of the Student Movement, two full pages were devoted to these responses, which included a formal apology from the Editor-in-Chief, and letters to the editor from alumni, faculty/staff, and current students.

Justin Smith reminded readers of the purpose of Black History Month in his response:

Black History Month was designed to: 1. Praise the otherwise ignored or marginalized achievements Blacks have made in the respective countries of America, Canada, the UK, and Germany. 2. Educate all on the history of Black people. 3. Providing and instilling pride into Black people.”

Sasha Thompson, a Senior Psychology major, added,

I would like [the author] to know that I cannot simply ignore my ‘blackness’….One’s blackness has nothing to do with celebrating a month that highlights overcoming racial oppression and racial injustice. Black History month is not just a month where only blacks come together. Everyone comes together….Every day of the year, we wake up black. We do not choose when to take off our ‘blackness’ and become ‘raceless.’ While we get to celebrate our ‘blackness’ every day, you only get to hear about it for twenty eight days. For so many years of slavery and oppression, I say we deserve twenty eight days to celebrate publicly.”

Responses have continued to pour in. Some students shared their thoughts with Spectrum directly. Esther Battle, a sophomore sociology student, wrote in an email,

I don't think the author was trying to be intentionally racist, but I do think the article expressed a very clear discomfort with the celebration of blackness and black culture. I have a hard time believing that he's so detached that he had no idea people would take offense at his article.

Was it offensive? Definitely. As a black person it is always hurtful when people deny our experience. The discrimination we experience is real. And we celebrate our blackness because it's been questioned and put down for generations. I've heard so many black people who grew up not wanting to be black, who had to learn to love themselves, and his statement that we shouldn't do that, that we shouldn't celebrate who we are, was offensive, and flat out wrong.

Junior social work major Oviri Duado wrote to Spectrum,

Ever since I was a little girl I never saw anything good about being black. There were multiple times where I wished I was anything but black. I felt ugly and unworthy. The saddest part is when I talk to other black female students now about this subject we are share the same sad story. Society has told us time and time again exactly what they think of black people, but more importantly black women. Black women are loud, ghetto, unattractive, and unwanted. Luckliy I have grown and I am in a place where I can truly say I love the color of my skin and everything that comes with.

So for Nathan Davis to say, "Why the emphasis on 'blackness' in the first place? People shouldn't be proud of the shade of their skin, though of course people shouldn't be ashamed of it either," angered me to my very core. How dare he say I shouldn't be proud of who I am. Its easy for him to say that when he gets a pass in life just based on the color of his skin. He's never been on the receiving end of racial profiling nor will he ever have to hear things like, "you're pretty for a black girl," or "you speak well for a black person."

Alice Chelbegean, a senior nursing student said in an email message,

My roommate and I had a long talk about the article when it was published. We got really riled up about how blatantly and ignorantly anti-minority it was. I’m White, and she’s Black, and while we have had discussions about race before, this article was great fodder for conversation because it so thoroughly demonstrated what ignorance and Privilege looks like.

I am becoming increasingly aware of the privileges that, as a white, middle class woman, I have inherited from this Western society. It is obvious to me that Nathan Davis is neither aware of his privilege, nor comprehending of the concept of “White Privilege” as a whole. He definitely demonstrated the meaning of it, though.

It was nice to see apologies published in the Student Movement the week after the problematic article was published, but I did note the absence of the original author’s apology. It would be nice if he acknowledged his ignorance on the topic of BHM, and showed that he was willing to listen to his reader’s opinions on the topic.

Attempts to contact Nathan Davis for this story were unsuccessful.

The controversy surrounding the article grew heated enough that some suggested it reflected badly on Andrews University as a whole, which elicited a response from the university's top administrator. On Wednesday evening, President Andreasen emailed the campus community regarding the article. His letter, in its entirety, follows:

Dear Friends,

You’ve perhaps read, or heard about, an opinion piece about Black History Month celebrations that was printed in last week’s issue of our student newspaper, The Student Movement.

It has led to significant discussion on our campus and in social media, a discussion that has reflected dismay and, at times, outrage, about the views expressed by the student in the article. In turn, these discussions have raised questions about whether the views expressed in that opinion piece reflected a larger attitude about race and diversity on the part of the University and its administration.

The student newspaper is and should be a place where honest conversation about ideas can take place—including differing opinions about subjects that matter to us. However, the conclusions reached in this opinion piece were clearly at odds with the values of our University community on this subject. Our Student Movement editor has recognized this and has published an apology in the March 4th edition of the student newspaper.

Even with a commitment to open dialogue and differing opinions, the article does not reflect the opinions and attitudes of our campus as a whole, and in particular the ideals we ultimately seek to achieve as a diverse community. The fact that we are still seeking to achieve these ideals, and that some may question our commitment to do so, is a reminder that discussions about race and equality are not fully resolved in our country and, in turn, are not fully resolved on our campus.

At Andrews University, this yet to be fulfilled ideal of true cultural and racial understanding is a specific and assigned task for our Diversity Council, who must study, struggle with and help our University community define a path that helps us move forward. We as individuals, and as a community, still have goals to achieve and an important road to travel in this regard.

As we continue on this journey, I want to let you know that we remain fully committed to understanding and best fulfilling God’s plans and purposes to serve as a globally and culturally diverse community that’s dedicated to changing the world for Him—and to seek to first fulfill that task on our very own campus.

Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org. Additional reporting by Jared Wright.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6677

(David Read) #2

The idea that race is a false category with no underlying biological reality is common in scientific writing these days. I think this is an overreaction to the bad old days when racism was given a scientific justification. But nevertheless one frequently sees, in very respectable scientific writing, the opinion that there is no such thing as race. So I don’t see why this young man is being pilloried for parroting this idea. See here, for example:
http://www.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123


(Steve Mga) #3

We REALLY do not know WHY the article was written, WHAT was behind the article being written the way it was, or WHY the campus newspaper saw the worthy-ness of printing it for campus broadside.
Apparently it HAS done what probably NO OTHER Black History Event on campus WOULD have done!!
It has Allowed for both Blacks and Whites a Forum to discuss what it means to Campus Students to be black and white, to be black or white female, black or white male, and friends with each in 21st Century and to look back to the 20th and the 19th Centuries of treatment, culture, and feelings that skin color, location of living [North, Southern Rural], or genetic size [tall, medium, short, REALLY short] can mean for self-acceptance, and for acceptance by what ever culture and community one finds oneself in as one moves from place to place in this 21st Century Mobile America.
It apparently has allowed those living on campus to talk to each other, if only by Letters to the Editor, by E-mail, by Facebook as no other Event during Black History Month probably did. It allowed covered and bandaged psychological and physical wounds to be unbound, and laid open for all to see, to be discussed, and to be explained WHY they are there, WHY they are NOT healing. Why still ALL the un-resolved Pain still lasts on a Seventh-day Adventist campus.
Most Black History Month Issues are either in Lecture [those in the audience Please Be Quiet, Do Not Talk or Otherwise Interrupt The Speaker and Leave Quietly], or pictures posted somewhere.
This, more than anything, apparently, has swept All this away, has allowed the students to find their Vocal Voices, find their Thumb and First Finger and a pen or pencil and paper, or All Ten [10] fingers on a keyboard, and express and articulate their Brain Thoughts to the Adventist World on Campus, and beyond though Social Media such as Spectrum.

I say Praises Be for such creative writing, Praises Be for the courage of the Editors to print such a piece. The Rug has not only been lifted, IT has been Thrown Out! Perhaps NOW some really and truly ALL the life-long Psychological and Emotional and Mental Pain can be Identified and find Healing.
NOW Every Month can be Black History Month around the cafeteria tables, in the student lounges, in other places where students gather on and off campus.


(le vieux) #4

It’s a pity that the president caved into the PC crowd. The author of the article made some valid points, especially the part about “Anti-Stereotyping.” But that would never fly with the folks who want to perpetuate the “victim-hood” of various ethnic groups. I’ve noticed they love to feign “outrage,” “hurt,” and “frustration.” Frustration that they don’t always get their way? Ah, but being offended is fashionable these days. If someone doesn’t’ like what was said, why not write a rebuttal, or just say, “well, that was dumb,” and move on; rather than make a federal case out of it?

If whites wanted to designate a month as “White History Month,” the outcry against them would be deafening. I’ve become bored with the whole thing. I’d be more interested in an “Indian History Month.” After all, they were here before Blacks or whites.


(Alisa Williams) #5

Dear Birder,

You mentioned that you’d be much more interested in an “Indian History Month.” So, you might be interested to know that Native American Heritage Month is November. More information on this month is available here:

http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/

In addition to Black History Month (February) and Native American Heritage Month (November), there are also: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month (May), National Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month (July) and National Italian American Heritage Month (October).

Each of these ethnicities has a well-documented history of discrimination in America, and heritage months serve as a wonderful and uplifting celebration of all that has been overcome and accomplished despite adversity, and a reminder of the work still left to do in this country.

I hope this information is helpful to you.


(Sirje) #6

What, no Irish American month?


(Thomas J Zwemer) #7

Stupid to make it the lead article that gave it the backing of the editors. if any thing it should have been an opinion piece and so identified. Andrews is a multiracial campus and has been for. Ages. Over the exit doors of the old chapel were the words “The Gospel of the Kingdom into,all the World in this Generation”. In those days missionaries were sent out with only two years of college and return after seven years to complete their degree. They would be our Sabbath School Teachers. I learned Geography and sociology in Sabbath School. Tom Z


(Steve Mga) #8

YES! They are the ones who give us Green Rivers on St. Patricks Day here in Georgia.


(Kevin Paulson) #9

Those who have never walked in the shoes of an ethnicity other than their own would be wise not to dismiss the value of historical remembrances they and others might find uncomfortable. It is not a matter of “political correctness,” but of not forgetting the past. The late novelist Gore Vidal had a point when he spoke of America as “the United States of Amnesia.”

The relationship between the United States and persons of African descent has been—and continues to be—a major, decisive feature of the American experience. Ignoring it is simply not an option, especially for Seventh-day Adventists living in the final moments of the great controversy between good and evil.


(jeremy) #10

racism in america is such a big subject, it’s likely that no-one can comprehend it…everyone who discusses it is simply describing the part of the elephant they’re feeling with their hands - blindfolded…i don’t doubt that nathan davis thought he was making an interesting, constructive suggestion…


(George Tichy) #11

This is the problem, whites don’t want a month, they feel entitled to the whole year while “others” get one month almost as a concession…


(Kim Green) #12

If I could have my druthers- we would all take our turns in having whatever month or maybe rotate them all.

Though I am fully aware of the significance of celebrating “Black” history, etc. I don’t think that it is helping us all to move past the past…it is simply just a reminder of where we all still are. The real question is how we can move more closely towards a “colorless” society. I think that the author of the student article has his points but we aren’t prepared, as a society, to look or deal with the real issues of racism and how to change them.


(Kevin Paulson) #13

Jeremy, racism is a big subject in America because, as the late U.S. presidential historian Theodore White wrote years ago, America is “the only peaceful multi-racial civilization in the world” (Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon, p. 323). It is one reason America is compared to a lamb in Bible prophecy (Rev. 13), because the United States is a nation bound not by ancestral loins, but a chosen collective identity and dream. Like the sheep in Christ’s parable (John 10:3-4), Americans have come together by choice. This has created tensions and produced occasional conflict, but it is nevertheless a key feature of the American experience.


(Interested Friend) #14

You have again hit the nail on the head. Many are weary of special interest groups promoting the thesis that they have been so badly injured we should all do obeisance to them and support the cause.

Who wants to move on when there is a cause to push and maybe even some $$$$ to be made.
In The Grip of Truth


(Sirje) #15

OK, at least they have that. But it does leave out the Poles and the other minorities.

The problem with all this is that it tends to divide people more than it celebrates uniqueness. If you really want equality, then you don’t see the color, or the culture, or the nationality at all. There will always be the uneducated who keep reminding everybody that there is a difference. There can be no assimilation when we are periodically reminded of those differences. Better to celebrate the various disciplines like science, literature, the national history, altruism etc. and give all their due together. What happens to the minority of the minorities… There are cultures from every corner of the earth represented by the American flag. By emphasizing any one of them, there is always going to be somebody left out. But, if these monthly celebrations make people feel goo, so be it.


(Interested Friend) #16

“Many of our basic policies of race and racism have been developed as a way to keep these leaders and their followers in control of the way we live our modern lives. These leaders often see themselves as the best and the brightest.”

Excerpt from the article David Read cited. Could it be that this writer is on to something?

Racism is a big thing now because, as is obvious, certain persons are promoting it with vigor. And some have a voice in the media and some are in high offices. You can name them, I have no doubt.


(Interested Friend) #17

When will there be a “hard working American citizen” month?

Some are weary of this liberal agenda of promoting past grievances. Why not get on with the present and the future? Continued preoccupation with past alleged and real inequities does nothing to enhance good will and mainly opens up new wounds.

In the vein of an inquiry: why not a Dutch month? A fair number of early settlers were Dutch.
In The Grip of Truth


(George Tichy) #18

This has always been the case, isn’t it?
For how many years now???2.
And who has always promoted it throughout all those years???

In The Grip of Reality, not the River in Egypt…


(jeremy) #19

my understanding is that black americans came to america by force, not choice, and that many other groups came simply to escape oppression in their homeland or participate in new opportunities unavailable in their homeland…nothing in america’s founding history reflects the choices of blacks, or natives, for that matter, hence the recurring conflict we see…but your point about america being the grand, acknowledged multiracial experiment is well-taken, although understand that it is canada that has the charter of rights and freedoms designed specifically to promote multiculturalism at the expense of the dominant conquering culture…


(George Tichy) #20

Past history created by whites has nothing to do with liberals or conservatives. Actually, if one want to be fair I think that it’s not difficult to easily identify which side of the isle has been more responsible for racism and discrimination of minorities.

Sure, let’s forget about the past. Fair.
Let’s now concentrate on the present, to see if the future holds some water. Let’s start with Ferguson, the streets in New York, then the park in that residential complex, then the supermarket where a black guy was playing with a plastic gun in the toys dept, then, then, then…

What a bright present, isn’t it? Surely a foreshadow of a magnificent future.

In The Grip of a Magnificent Future (based on the bright present!)