Letter demands presidential action after symposium keynote

Laura Studley

Colorado State University students have drafted a letter to President Joyce McConnell addressing the University’s 20th Diversity Symposium speaker choice, Melina Abdullah. 

Abdullah has been associated with Nation of Islam’s leader, Louis Farrakhan. In a tweet posted by Abdullah in May of 2019, she shares her anger about Farrakhan being banned from Instagram and Facebook. Additionally, Abdullah has attended events hosted by NOI.  

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Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have been connected to anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-Semitic ideals

“In the public denunciation of Dr. Abdullah, you have solidified whiteness as a standard that allows white supremacist speakers to come to campus and exercise their right to free speech without condemnation, while failing to hold the same standards for one who fights for Black liberation.” -Letter to President Joyce McConnell

“This (letter) is not intended to feed into the division between our communities,” the letter reads. “This is about our right and ability to be pro-Black and to acknowledge the intersections of religion, sexuality and gender within our Blackness. This is about our constant fight for our multitudes of identities to exist simultaneously, not to be separated.”

The letter addresses an email sent out by McConnell on Oct. 19. In the email, McConnell clarifies that the Office of the President was not responsible for making the decision to bring Abdullah to campus, but recognizes that, as president, she will be held accountable. 

“As President, let me be clear that I unequivocally condemn the racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric of the Nation of Islam, which is recognized as a hate group by most experts,” the email reads. “I will always stand up for our Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities to ensure they receive equal protections against hate.”

The letter to McConnell explains that it is because of her response that she is unable to support different marginalized identities at once, stating that there have been multiple occasions that McConnell has “ostracized and silenced the Black community.”

“In the public denunciation of Dr. Abdullah, you have solidified whiteness as a standard that allows white supremacist speakers to come to campus and exercise their right to free speech without condemnation while failing to hold the same standards for one who fights for Black liberation,” the letter reads.  

The letter calls for change, providing ways McConnell and the University can take action. 

First, it calls for a mandatory, “more intensive” diversity training for top administrators, in efforts to “reconcile the history of harm done in their messaging and failed courses of action.” Second, it says to make policy changes that last. 

“This would demonstrate the University’s unequivocal support for marginalized communities without the empty promises to which we have grown accustomed,” the letter reads. 

The letter has over 100 signatures and welcomes any student to sign.  

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Laura Studley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurastudley_