President Bullock on Social Media Posting

Feb 28, 2017 | UD News

To: The University Family
From:  President Jeffrey F. Bullock

Re:  Social Media Posting  

You may have viewed a social media posting of two University of Dubuque students that is completely antithetical to our University culture and values, particularly as we conclude Black History Month.  I want to address this posting with you, as members of the University family, directly.

In the strongest possible terms, the University of Dubuque expresses its disapproval and disdain for the disrespect for persons exhibited in this social media post. It is an example of spectacularly poor judgement. This post is completely at odds with our University culture in which diversity is not only appreciated, but embraced.

We are a faith-based community of teaching and learning. We intend to assist all of those involved in this situation by helping them to understand there are better choices to be made and much better ways to be and lead in this world.

Even while we fulfill these commitments, we’re also cognizant of the pain that these kinds of actions cause for members of our community and those beyond our community. We’ll do our part to, in the words of Scripture, “To teach and learn a yet more excellent way,” which is, at its core, what our commitment to restorative justice is all about.

"Some Thoughts at the End of the Day" (2/28/2017)
Jeffrey F. Bullock, Ph.D.
President, University of Dubuque

It has been a rough day. However, the kind of day that I have experienced is nothing like the day experienced by many of our students who are African American, or my African American colleagues in residence life, administration, or in the classroom. Many of them have been deeply wounded and hurt by the "black-faced" photograph posted on social media last evening by another student who, in this case, is Caucasian. It is a hard picture for me to look at, which is why I keep it in front of me. Sometimes Presidents want to avoid hard things. Hopefully, I'm not one of them.

It has also been a difficult day for the student who posted the picture. What, perhaps, started as an attempt to exercise her First Amendment rights as an American citizen boomeranged. There are, indeed, consequences to free speech. Now she's the one with mud on her face. But it's not the mud of shame or embarrassment that is bothering her; rather, it is the coming to grips with the fact of how profoundly she has hurt her classmates, friends, strangers, and fellow human beings. That's the really hard part. When I spoke with this young woman and her family this afternoon, it was very clear to me that there was no punishment - including expulsion - which I could administer that would be nearly as effective as the words of hurt she experienced from her Worldview classmates. She blew it. Her actions, even if they were free, were insensitive, mean-spirited, and terribly hurtful. Even racist. Her classmates told her that, and other people are telling her that, too, primarily through social media outlets. I'll spare all of you the gory details, but I'm proud to say that her classmates were much more constructive in their criticism than a lot of what we've been receiving online. I'm really proud of them and wish I could have been there.

So, I'm inviting our campus community to a Conversation tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. (UPDATE: Watch the Livestream). To be honest, I'm a little anxious about the Conversation. I'm not really sure who will show up, and I've not yet determined what the format will be. I'm sure that I'll do far more listening than talking, at least I hope so. I believe that we all need to hurt in moments like these, particularly those of us like me who have never experienced the kind of hurt and disrespect symbolized by the photograph. In fact, I hope that I continue to hurt for a long time. Maybe in "hearing," we can all get a little better at authentically "doing and being." At least that would be a good start.

The picture will stay on my wall.

Watch the Campus Conversation online.