Harry Hellenbrand, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs of CSUN extended the invitation “Let’s talk” in his letter posted in the Daily Sundial on Monday. I have to respond to the question in his letter, “Some in the audience responded very crudely. Do we now shoot them?” This is facetious at best and, considering what happened at Virginia Tech. lately, completely and horrifically inappropriate in the realm of possible negative interpretations. Just as student racist comments shouldn’t be allowed and students should be held to high standards of decency on our campus, so should this ill-conceived option in this letter be castigated. It is an extremely bad example and in no way contributes to a healing process. I believe another apology is now in order and those in charge of our campus need to search their souls to see if they are being guided by truth, dignity and respect for their fellow man. People have been fired for a lot less than this.
I would also like to talk about the Provost’s desire to evade assigning culpability by his use of vague ideas in the letter that suggest that we are all guilty and suggesting that it would be a “fork left” if we started “treating a few individuals as scapegoats for all of our errors.” This statement would suggest he would conveniently like to let the administration off the hook. That’s not okay.
The mass media condemned Mel for his outburst, as would any clear-thinking person; it is not okay to tell a professor “F*** off, lady,” no matter who you are. While criticism of Mel’s outrageous behavior was coming from all sides on the news on TV, on Google news, and in the papers, one source stood out as the exception defending Mel: CSUN’s administration.
The Provost’s rambling letter in the Sundial posed lots of “What if?” scenarios but did nothing to explain how this administration allowed a professor to be evicted when her academic questions were valid and the one who lost his temper and insulted her was allowed to continue. It does not explain how racist comments in the audience by those moved by Mel’s mood were not brought to order or the meeting stopped because of the insulting behavior of the students.
But right now I want to ask the Provost: What were you thinking when you wrote “Do we now shoot them?” What mood were you in and do you now realize how inappropriate it was? It explains a lot if you do not. In that case Mel saying what he did would seem okay too.
We need apologies and strong ones, now.