On March 24, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies’ current Leader-in-Residence, Edwin Meese III, delivered a lecture titled “The Post Ferguson World: The Challenges of Police and Community,” stirring controversy among people in the campus community who questioned Meese's authority on the issue.
Meese served as Attorney General during the Reagan administration, but resigned after a special prosecutor uncovered evidence of ethical misjudgment. Jepson did not advertise the dubious elements of Meese’s record.
Nicole Sackley, associate professor of History at Richmond, sought to contextualize Meese’s lecture with information about his past.
“Since Meese was invited to our campus as an authority on policing and leadership ethics, we at UR and the wider Richmond community should be aware of Meese’s record on these issues,” Sackley said. She cited Meese’s history of using military and police force against non-violent protesters as well as his opposition to the Voting Rights Act and other civil rights legislation as concerning examples from Meese's past.
Gary McDowell and Al Goethals are Jepson professors who led the selection process for this year’s Leader-in-Residence. Leaders-in-Residence are chosen each year to visit campus for a few days to work with students and give a lecture in their area of expertise.
“The overarching criterion [for a Leader-in-Residence] is always how well would this individual serve to promote the institutional goals of the Leader in Residence program,” McDowell and Goethals wrote in a statement. “[Meese] was in part chosen based on his many years of public service at the highest levels of state and federal government.”
McDowell suggested the topic of post-Ferguson police relations to Meese, for he has known and worked with Meese for thirty years, recognizing “his interest in, and understanding of the ideas of community policing.”
Gordon Foley, RC ‘16, discussed Meese’s lecture in his Justice and Civil Society class.
“The main feeling was the fact that we had an 83-year-old white man come talk about Ferguson and not give anyone new information,” Foley said.
McDowell and Goethals, however, emphasized how students could learn from powerful leaders who were forced to make difficult decisions.
"Students can learn from listening to those leaders who have made such choices and having the opportunity to question them firsthand about their decisions," their statement reads.
Contact features assistant Kayla Solsbak at firstname.lastname@example.org