As proud Richmond students, we are disappointed with our institution's decision to award Jepson's 10th Year Reunion Recognition to Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation Virginia, a group that lobbies against homosexual rights and anti-discrimination legislation.
We believe that Jepson is making a grave mistake honoring her because her views not only directly contradict the Richmond Promise, but also Jepson's mission of understanding. Minority rights are not simply a political issue but are a matter of human and civil rights.
If Richmond is serious in its quest to develop a "culture of inclusivity," (section 2 of the Richmond Promise) then Jepson should take the lead in fostering these ideals.
Her award description states: "The 10th Year Reunion Recognition Awards are presented to one or more Jepson School graduates of the last decade who have exhibited exemplary qualities of profession and/or scholarly achievement of community/public service. Honorees are acknowledged for significant accomplishment and promise that reflects the mission of the Jepson School."
The Jepson mission is about understanding; the Jepson mission is about inclusion; the Jepson mission talks about highest ideals; Cobb does not live up to any of these and actively challenges the core of Jepson's values. The only way Cobb reflects the Jepson mission is if we break the mirror and our moral compass.
The Jepson administration has said that the award is for her achievements rather than her politics. However, this distinction is artificial because she is a political leader. This distinction means we are giving her an award purely based on her acquisition of power, in which case we would be equally valid giving the award to the president of Virginia White Pride or any other group with power.
By giving the award purely because of her position as president of a group, we devalue the work that the past award winners achieved; people whose achievements we celebrate.
For example, the other person being honored this year is Elizabeth Hopfinger Thompson, who has been a passionate advocate for marginalized and underserved people, teaching tolerance and inclusion, which is ironic considering who she will be sharing the stage with.
Furthermore, in no other area of the Jepson School do we separate leaders actions' from their leadership. Jepson's goal is to promote "moral and competent leadership," which means looking at action as well as achievement. So why are we starting to distinguish now?
Cobb's actions and values are a stark contrast to Jepson's: Jepson has been giving family benefits to homosexual couples since 2002, while this year Cobb led the fight to have such benefits banned and to declare such contracts void.
The Richmond Promise, article two, declares that Richmond will create "a culture of inclusivity," yet Cobb would have such civil rights groups barred from campuses.
My acceptance letter from the dean says that "the primary source of strength in Jepson is its people," however, Cobb believes that some of our people deserve to be shunned. We should not and cannot honor hatred.
By presenting Cobb with this award we are stamping the Jepson seal on her message, and permanently associating ourselves with an organization built on hatred. We do not oppose her organization's right to free speech or political activism, but we do oppose the selection committees' judgment to honor discrimination.
If you are not a Jepson student, we urge you to email Sandra Peart, dean of the leadership school, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and President Ayers at email@example.com, asking them to uphold the Richmond Promise and refuse to honor hatred.
If you are a Jepson student or in a Jepson class, discuss the award in your class; ask whether or not Cobb represents what you want to be in ten years. Ask why we are honoring Cobb. We need to demand that Jepson stand up to all it could be and act on its highest values.
We are one of the most diverse groups on campus. Let's be proud of it. E-mail Dean Peart and President Ayers and remind them of their promises of inclusivity.
We want our school to support a tolerant, inclusive atmosphere that respects all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation, and thus we ask and appeal for your support to stop us from honoring hatred.
Sophomore Leadership Studies Minor
Sophomore Leadership Studies Major