Letter to the Editor: Ransdell’s actions not noteworthy

John Winstead

I take umbrage with the Herald’s editorial staff for their piece “No Room for Racism.” My hangup is simple: Do we really need to set the bar so low that simply saying racism is bad is enough to get glowing praise from the school newspaper? 

I do not, in principle, disagree with the editorial board’s position, but I do think that the article tacitly endorses a standard for praiseworthiness that is too low, especially for a university president. I do not praise my friends when they refrain from murdering people at random, because I already expect as much from them. So, remaining consistent, I cannot praise Gary Ransdell for his rebuke of racism, because I already expect as much from him. 

Saying racism is bad does not earn you praise. Fighting racism earns you praise, and in the spirit of fighting racism, I think, there are a number of things that Gary Ransdell should be held accountable for. While I have many grievances I would like addressed, I have coupled together a list of questions (that is by no means exhaustive) that I would like Ransdell to answer in light of his recent rebuke of racism:

1. Where’s the black cultural center many people have been asking for, for little over a decade now? 

2. Why do we have so few black professors? 

3. Where’s the scholarships for people of color? 

4. Why is the Honors College so disproportionately white?

I am sure being president of a university is a demanding job, but there isn’t a semester that has gone by in which a new building project hasn’t been announced or tuition hasn’t increased and yet somehow the budget never has any accommodations for the students of color on this campus.

Ransdell and I probably share the same sensibilities that allows us both to notice racism and call it out and feel good about ourselves for doing that, but that self-congratulatory pat on the back shouldn’t be where the conversation stops. If he truly feels that racism is an awful social ill, then I’d like to see him take steps to fund a black cultural center or increase funding to scholarships to students of color. Because until such programs materialize, his speech to the members of SAE are empty words.

And history has had enough rich white people feeling pleased with their empty words.

—John Winstead