While medical workers have been at the frontlines fighting the spread of COVID-19, we, your students, have been at the frontlines of another lethal disease: institutionalized White supremacy.

Chapman University has recently shared headlines with the words “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “birtherism,” all thanks to a formerly tenured law professor named John Eastman. After he emboldened the White supremacist incitement at the Capitol, you let him retire. Is this your best attempt to salvage our reputation? Now, students, staff, faculty, and alumni have to forever be associated with an institution that did not properly condemn White supremacy.

In his retirement statement, Eastman says, “I applaud his [Struppa’s] defense of me in particular and academic freedom more generally in this recent controversy.” This comradery that continues after Eastman’s exit provokes many questions.

Are you here to support students, or provide a structure for White supremacy to thrive? Whatever happened to students’ rights and wellbeing? Did you forget about the university’s written commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion? When did academic freedom and an equitable learning environment become mutually exclusive?

Our President, Daniele Struppa, says that John Eastman’s retirement closes a “challenging chapter for Chapman.” We disagree. It is a mere vignette inside the centuries-old book of institutionalized racism at the university.

Eastman’s racist, xenophobic, birtherist work is indeed a reflection of the leadership at Chapman University, despite what Struppa says. Every school year, students endure incident after incident of blatantly hateful behavior. Here are a few examples that are detailed further in this student-made timeline:

Our former President Jim Doti said a Cross-Cultural Center would “ghettoize” the campus. It took decades of student organizing to finally establish this basic collegiate staple in 2017. 

A movie poster for the racist blockbuster “Birth of A Nation,”–known for empowering a resurgence of the KKK–hung in our film school for years. The university justified its presence as an opportunity for dialogue. The poster was taken down in 2019 solely thanks to student protests led by the Black Student Union. 

The right-wing extremist group Patriot Front posted xenophobic and colonialist propaganda on our campus multiple times, creating an unsafe environment for students who are undocumented. Nothing was done about this despite student complaints.

A former student felt confident enough to show up drunk to class and say he “fcking hates n*****s and fcking hate f*****s too.” The student was only punished for assault and vandalism, and unenrolled on his own accord. Nothing was done by the administration to eliminate White supremacy and homophobia on our campus.

A former tenured law professor helped incite a White supremacist attack on the Capitol of the United States of America. The professor was not punished and retired on his own accord. Nothing was done by the administration to eliminate White supremacy on our campus.

Your failure to denounce White Supremacy has made this our history. If you are not proud of this history, own up to it. Let it fuel institutional change. If you are limited by policies, then change those policies. Your performative diversity, equity, and inclusion is retraumatizing us. It doesn’t acknowledge our past or present in the way we need it to. The insincerity of your minimal efforts is embarrassingly superficial and insufficient. We plead and beg for better leadership. Our community is scathed, heartbroken, and tired of fighting on our own. We want to thrive and be proud of our university.

We need you to implement the reforms proposed in BSU’s Action Plan last summer:

  1. Aggressive recruitment of Black faculty and staff in all disciplines.
  2. Hiring of Black therapists.
  3. Re-hiring of the Case Manager position in the Office of the Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs.
  4. Mandatory Diversity/Implicit Bias Training for all students, faculty, and any public safety or fire and life officers.
  5. Required diversity classes in the general education program.
  6. Improved recruiting and screening practices of prospective students and faculty to increase diversity and promote inclusivity in undergraduate enrollment.
  7. Black Greek life to be brought to the Chapman campus.
  8. All Greek life advisors, Presidents, Executive board members, active members, and incoming members, to attend diversity training.
  9. All student leaders and Executive board members to attend diversity-leadership training.

We need you to invite diverse donors that represent all students of our university.

We need you to answer this simple question with one word: Will you denounce White Supremacy?

Natalia Ventura, Lucile Henderson, and Juliana Tarallo are co-leaders of the Chapman Activist Coalition. As roommates living in the City of Orange, their dinner table conversations revolve around social injustice present on their campus and in the world. They will graduate from Chapman University and begin their careers this year. 

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