Dear Paul Queally,
As a senior, I may be part of the last class to have visceral memories of how your sexist and homophobic comments affected this campus. I wasn’t yet a student here when that New York Magazine article came out, but your jokes were still fresh and stinging the following fall. Since then, your name has been engraved into the first building prospective students see, and now another facility will carry your name and all of the hurtful baggage that comes with it.
That baggage is not going to disappear. Your comments will always be a Google search away. But I am not writing this as a “screw you,” as that would erase the complexity of the situation. I think there is an ethical way for this university to accept your money: direct your charity toward the communities you hurt most.
Regardless of how campus culture develops, I don’t believe this university will ever refuse a donation from you. Money talks, even—if not especially—in higher education. So healing must start with you. A brief apology and an expectation that we would forget is not enough, even four years later. You have the power to change the ending of this story. You are in a unique position to make amends for past wrongs.
The Office of Common Ground, which is devoted to serving the students your jokes slighted, needs more space and resources. The incredible people who work in that office are stretched thin, with more and more students depending on them for support in all spheres of their lives. The LGBTQ+ lounge in Tyler Haynes Commons is tiny. It cannot foster the community it needs to be able to contain. The students and staff who work in Common Ground have wonderful, ambitious ideas. You could help those come to fruition.
Rather than a new building, you could create a scholarship. How about women in leadership? Or LGBTQ+ students pursuing business? You can improve the life of any person you choose. Why not choose someone from a community you have wronged?
Your past charity has undoubtedly helped the kinds of people you laughed at. But in order for healing to happen, your generosity needs to touch those people specifically because of who they are, not just because they happen to pass through Queally Hall every day.
In my first year, I was angry with you. I resented the administration for accepting your gifts. Those feelings haven’t dissipated, but my Richmond education has shown me not everything is black and white. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that you meant that apology. If you truly want people to believe it, well, put your money where your mouth is. I know you can.
Kayla Solsbak, Class of 2018
Contact contributor Kayla Solsbak at firstname.lastname@example.org.