In a recent email, employees in the College of Science and Mathematics were asked to, among other things, consider what aspects of the Ku Klux Klan they agree with.
COSAM administration has since apologized and acknowledged the mistake.
The email was sent to all employees in COSAM, including student workers, on Monday morning. It was part of the college’s ongoing 30-Day Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Challenge.
In the email, COSAM administration asked employees to read an article from the History Channel about the KKK and ask themselves the following questions about the hate group:
- What do you find interesting about the organization?
- What do you agree with?
- What do you disagree with?
- What surprises you about the KKK?
- How could you deal with aspects of the KKK in your relationships and interactions?
Those who developed the email said the intention was to connect the KKK’s existence to civil rights organizations that were created at least in part in response to the dangerous and terrorizing presence of the hate group.
Sydney Williams, sophomore in apparel merchandising and College of Human Sciences senator, brought up the email during Monday night’s SGA Senate meeting. Brandan Belser, sophomore in political science and College of Liberal Arts senator, said he saw a screenshot of the email in a group message of around 900 Black students and alumni he’s in.
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“From what I’ve been hearing overall, many people were just upset about the wording of the email more than the content,” Belser said. “They just felt that it was a little off-color and if it had been worded properly, it would have been received in a better fashion.”
SGA vice president Cole Callahan, junior in biomedical sciences, wasn’t aware of the email until arriving at the meeting but expressed strong disapproval.
“If it was not made already vehemently clear by myself, senator Williams and senator Belser, we do not condone the email,” Callahan said. “We do not think it was appropriate to have that form of language openly sent out without any warning or preface to seeing something that was asking for both pros and cons to the Ku Klux Klan.”
Kimberly Mulligan, assistant dean for inclusion, equity and diversity, has said that the discussion for the topic will still take place on Thursday and she invites everyone to join and voice criticisms and speak their mind.
Twelve hours after the original, a follow-up email was sent, written by Mulligan and COSAM dean Nick Giordano. They addressed their role in developing the 30-day program along with the consulting company BestGurl.
“While the goal of the activities are to challenge our thinking and sometimes make us uncomfortable as we reflect on our own DEI journey, we realize that the framing of today’s topic was upsetting because it was conveyed in a manner that felt tone-deaf and did not acknowledge the role the KKK has played in the history of racism and violence in this country,” they wrote. “We realize that we should have done a better job ensuring the activities chosen are addressing these challenging topics in a way that aligns with the ultimate goals we are trying to achieve in COSAM. For that we apologize and are committed to doing better moving forward.”
In an interview with The Plainsman on Tuesday, Mulligan elaborated on how she thought employees could learn from the exercise if it were worded properly.
“I think that when you talk about extremist groups, when you talk about groups that have been rooted in hate and violence, one thing that you have to recognize is that in some kind of way they get people on board,” Mulligan said. “They’ve been able to thrive for years and years and years, and what is it about them that has allowed that to happen? What is about them that has allowed January 6th to happen in this country? And so I wish that it had been framed in that way, because that’s really what it is.”
Giordano and Mulligan, who is a Black woman, were both adamant that it was never anyone’s intention to cause harm but recognized that the email’s poor wording did hurt many people.
“When I talk to students and I know that they are hurt by this, I hurt for them because I understand how loaded these things can be,” Mulligan said. “We were wrong, period. At the end of the day, Nick and I are the leadership, it should stop with us, and that’s it.”
Mulligan and Giordano will also both be attending the Black Student Union's general assembly meeting on Monday to address the issue and listen to attendees.
Reporting for this story was contributed by Emma Kirkemier | Reporter.
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