March 3, 2022
Yesterday, I was shown a cartoon published by a group of students, who identify their work to be a “radical publication.” The cartoon depicted a senior member of my administration and a student leader, both Black men, with guns behind their backs at a purported ASUO meeting. While I am not sure what message, if any, the cartoonist was seeking to convey, it left me with a profound sense of disappointment and bewilderment.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I believe deeply in the right of members of our community to express themselves, regardless of whether I agree with what they say. That is true in this instance as well. However, just because someone has the legal right to do something doesn’t mean that it is morally correct. In this case, the depiction of gun violence was repulsive and, in this era of mass shootings, irresponsible. In addition, the fact that the two people carrying the guns in the cartoon were Black feeds corrosive stereotypes that we must not perpetuate.
I am incredibly proud that over the seven years I have been your president, we have simultaneously celebrated our diverse backgrounds and our differences along with our commitment to being part of an academic community that treats every member with respect and dignity. We are not perfect by any stretch and one of my most important priorities is to build an inclusive climate of mutual respect. I call on all members of the University of Oregon community to decry and disown any behavior that violates these two principles.