Anthony Lowrie memo misses the mark

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • November 2, 2017

At issue: Rogue email sent to faculty & org leaders

Our take: Division won't lead to revision

Anthony Lowrie, chair of Emerson’s faculty assembly, wrote in a memo Monday afternoon that student protesters had falsely accused faculty of discrimination, and encouraged the students who participated in the walkout to pursue legal action.

The language of the memo is condescending and contradictory. Lowrie suggests that students should pursue legal action rather than engage in a conversation with the staff and try to understand one another. He also tells students that “we have democracy and the rule of law in the United States,” but fails to take into account that democracy also means the students have the right to peaceful assembly in the first place. He tells students that discrimination from faculty “is not acceptable behavior and those who act in this way should not have a place at Emerson.” But later in the piece, he suggests that some students may have been “encouraged to exaggerate and in fact there is no factual basis for any of these complaints.”

Lowrie’s hostile choice of words is rooted in his apparent view of the student activists as an enemy force. Describing the peaceful protestors as “menacing” and accusing them of defaming the faculty constructs a clear division between students and faculty.

His illustration of nonviolent protesters as dangerous threats set on humiliating the administration could not be more inaccurate. It should go without saying that students weren’t motivated to plan a walkout and dining center sit-in because they wanted to abuse the administration. Perhaps if Lowrie hadn’t been so busy interrupting student activists at the demonstration last week and actually paid any attention to their words, he would have understood the true purpose of the protest. His implied doubt of student claims delegitimizes the bigotry experienced by POC students every day in the classroom.

Furthermore, Lowrie’s heinous suggestion that students seek private legal counsel to resolve claims of bias presumes that protestors, who explicitly expressed they will not continue to educate educators on basic cultural competency, should conjure up the time and financial resources to hire private lawyers. The faculty assembly chair suggested that students who can not afford legal services “bunch together” under a class action lawsuit. However, Lowrie fails to address that students pay to attend Emerson to focus on their education, not to right the mistakes of Emerson’s administration. Lowrie also advises accused faculty members to seek legal redress—this only furthers the divide between students and faculty instead of taking the first steps to better our campus climate together.  

As stated at the very beginning of the memo, Anthony Lowrie was solely responsible for the content of the email. It seems as though he went rogue, and crafted this multi-page rant with little input. But however little knowledge of the memo faculty had prior to its dissemination, the lack of response from the administration speaks volumes. While his position is in many ways symbolic, he still speaks for the faculty as a whole. The fact that he has made such egregious accusations and employed such inflammatory rhetoric in his memo, and that no faculty or administration has refuted his claims, is troubling.

No matter what Lowrie’s memo may suggest, students and faculty are not inherent enemies. Under no circumstances should either party be encouraged to seek legal recourse when much more reasonable means of negotiation are possible. In the absence of a renunciation, however, the faculty has made their position clear. It seems as though every classroom should now be considered an interrogation room, and every hallway a site of trench warfare. Lowrie’s condescending and self-contradictory email implicates faculty and administration, if only through their silence. Student activists emerge more validated than ever, with clear evidence that Emerson is far from achieving the inclusive excellence for which it claims to strive.

 

Mark Gartsbeyn and Nathanael King did not contribute to this editorial.