Seven members of the University of Richmond Faculty Senate wrote in a statement on March 30 they were deeply troubled by the tone, tenor and substance of their meeting with the Board of Trustees on March 26.
The meeting was called to discuss campus events that followed the Board’s decision to keep the names of Douglas Southall Freeman and Robert Ryland on Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls, according to the statement.
The Faculty Senate members wrote that the meeting involved "the Board utterly failing to model reasoned dialogue and respect for all participants regardless of status." The Faculty Senate members wrote that the meeting also included numerous statements from the Board that they regarded as offensive.
The seven members of the Faculty Senate, along with three representatives of the University Staff Advisory Council, met with UR President Ronald Crutcher, Executive Vice President and Provost Jeffrey Legro, Rector Paul Queally, Vice Rector Susan Quisenberry, Trustee Jeff Brown and Trustee R. Lewis Boggs, according to the statement.
The members of the Faculty Senate were specifically disappointed with the conduct of Queally, they wrote.
The attending members of the Faculty Senate collectively elected to issue a statement in order to keep focus on the issues ahead of the UR community, while fulfilling the Faculty Senate’s obligation to inform the UR community of the substance of the meeting with the Board, according to the statement.
The Collegian obtained the statement, which was sent to UR faculty via an email list on Tuesday night.
Queally interrupted a Black staff member in the middle of her initial comments during the meeting, the Faculty Senate members wrote. According to the statement, Queally "noted that the staff member sounded angry."
Queally interrupted the staff member after opening statements made by Williamson and USAC Chair Mark Stanton, who are both white men, were not interrupted, according to the statement. A follow-up comment by another white male faculty member also went uninterrupted.
Queally proceeded to direct a series of comments and questions at the staff member in an adversarial manner, the Faculty Senate members wrote.
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“At one point, [Queally] challenged her credibility by stating that because the staff member has only been at the university a few years, she does not appreciate the progress that has been made,” they wrote. “At another point, [Queally] said to the staff member she should not talk to him like that when she challenged him by asking what he meant by the term ‘the real world.’”
According to the statement, Queally said that UR would be failing its duty to prepare students for the "real world" if it removed the names of Freeman and Ryland. Queally proceeded to say he considered the issue of building names on campus to be a closed matter, but that he was interested in discussing what other steps could be taken to help Black students, according to the statement.
“At one point, [Queally] stated he wanted to help Black, Brown and ‘regular students,’” the Faculty Senate members wrote. “He further opined that he regarded the demand for changing the names to be part of ‘cancel culture.’”
The Collegian emailed Queally at 4:03 p.m. on March 31 for comment on the March 26 meeting, and did not receive a response by 11:12 a.m on April 1 when this article was published.
The Faculty Senate members expressed their anger with Queally’s treatment of the Black staff member considering that the conversation revolved around the racial climate of UR, and she was the only speaker who was interrupted, they wrote. The Faculty Senate members also wrote that they had been proud of their colleague for continuing to engage with Queally and respond to his statements.
Senior Kayla Corbin, a member of the UR Black Student Coalition, said she had been upset -- but not surprised -- by Queally's comments after having spoken with him in a March 26 meeting with seven other students who were all Black women. The meeting with students took place directly after the Board's meeting with faculty, according to an article in The Collegian.
"He treated us with the same demeanor, so it wasn't surprising at all," she said. "We definitely feel for that staff member. And we are so proud [of her] and glad that she was able to hold her own against him because he is vicious, in terms of his rhetoric, specifically toward Black women from what we saw. It's not easy being in a room with him as a Black woman."
Corbin sees Queally's comment about "Black, Brown and 'regular' students" as representative of how some students of color feel they are viewed at UR, she said.
"I think it's something that we see reflected in the day to day workings of the university, you have students that are the 'other' and then you have students that are considered the norm, the regular, and they're white," Corbin said. "It, once again, wasn't surprising that he views white students as the 'regular' students and the rest of us are the 'others' that are here by chance or through charity or through obligation, and he doesn't see us or value us as members of the university community."
Junior Noah Goldberg said he felt the comment about students of color had demonstrated Queally's inability to advocate for all students in his position as rector of the Board.
"I don't know how [Queally] can make decisions to help students [whom] he considers non-regular,” Goldberg said.
The Board's decision to not change the names was released in a statement to the UR community on March 17 after the BSC called for the names to be removed from buildings in a March 4 statement. The Board wrote in the statement that removing building names would be inconsistent with the pursuit of UR’s educational mission.
In response to the Board’s decision, the BSC called on students, faculty and staff to disaffiliate from UR -- which is defined by the group as ceasing involvement with any UR task forces, student organizations and fundraising -- on March 25. The group originally outlined two disaffiliation deadlines, one on April 1 for seniors and the other on April 15 for other undergraduates, but the date was moved up following the March 17 announcement, according to a Collegian article published on March 18.
Since March 25, over 90 organizations have posted organization-specific disaffiliation announcements or statements of support for the BSC.
A silent protest occurred during the March 26 meeting, which took place in a tent outside of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.
Julie Laskaris, associate professor of classical studies and a member of the Faculty Senate, wrote in an email to The Collegian that Queally's unwillingness to engage in a free and open discussion with the UR community on an issue of such importance violated the tenor that should prevail on an academic campus.
"In the meeting with staff and faculty, he targeted for abuse the only person of color in the room, apart from President Crutcher," Laskaris wrote. "That, together with his arrogance towards the students who sought to have a conversation with him is something the faculty will not abide in silence."
Laskaris noted in her email that there are standards established by the professional organization for higher education boards of trustees, the Association of Governing Boards, that address diversity, equity and inclusion. Laskaris wrote that, in her view, Queally acted outside of these standards.
The seven Faculty Senate members wrote in the March 30 statement that faculty would be willing to work with the Board to find an appropriate way to acknowledge UR’s institutional history without retaining Freeman and Ryland’s names.
The seven Faculty Senate members who wrote the statement are Karen Kochel, professor of psychology; Stephen Long, professor of political studies and global studies; Cassandra Marshall, professor of finance and member of the senate executive committee; Noah Sachs, professor of law, director of the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Center for Environmental Studies and member of the Faculty Senate executive committee; Andrew Schoeneman, program chair and assistant professor of nonprofit studies and Faculty Senate chair of committee on committees; Peter Smallwood, professor of biology and Faculty Senate vice president and Thad Williamson, professor of leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics and law and Faculty Senate president.
“We remain committed to helping build the University of Richmond that all of our students, faculty, and staff deserve,” they wrote. “We hope in the near future there will be additional opportunities for dialogue with members of the Board of Trustees, and we encourage any Trustee to reach out to members of the Senate publicly or privately to have a more productive dialogue. The painful, embarrassing, and disrespectful meeting of March 26 shows just how much work we have yet to do."
The Faculty Senate previously sent a statement to The Collegian on March 19 stating that it supports removing the names of Freeman and Ryland from UR buildings as a step to achieving the paired goals of telling a more honest institutional history and creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all current and future students, staff and faculty members.
Williamson wrote in an email to The Collegian that the Faculty Senate would continue to focus on doing its part moving forward.
“We have a lot of work to do as a community,” he wrote.
The Faculty Senate will meet on April 2 at 3:00 p.m., and will discuss items including disaffiliation and the current campus climate, according to the meeting agenda.
Contact managing editor Meredith Moran at email@example.com and editor-in-chief Morgan Howland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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