Thursday, March 05, 2009

Presidents Jim Respond

In what is hopefully the nail on the coffin of this "controversy," both President Wright and President-select Kim released letters to the Dartmouth community reacting to the satire sent to the "Generic Good Morning Message" listserv on Tuesday. Although ideally Dartmouth students would be able to diffuse a trivial situation like this on their own, without calling on bureaucrats to address the matter for them, Kim's response reflected well on his ability to maintain a sense of perspective:
Finally, I want to ensure that the student who wrote the email understands the enriching role that people of diverse backgrounds will play in his life. But I also don't want this lapse in judgment to limit his prospects for the future. Dartmouth students are very talented, but we all make mistakes - especially when we are young.

Of note is the contrast between both letters in assessing the student body reaction: President Wright declares that the satire "was hurtful to our Asian and our Asian American community and indeed to all of us," while Kim makes the less hysterical statement that he is "concerned about the Asian, Asian American and many other students who have been upset by this incident."

Both letters, in full, after the jump.

From: james.wright@Dartmouth.edu
Subject: Letters from President Wright and President-elect Kim
Date: March 5, 2009 4:12:08 PM EST
To: All:;@Dartmouth.EDU

Dear Members of the Dartmouth Community:

As many of you know, a student sent an email Tuesday via the "Generic Good Morning Message" listserv that contained a reference to Dr. Jim Yong Kim's appointment as Dartmouth's next president laced with racial stereotypes and slurs. (The GGMM is an independent and tongue-in-cheek summary of the day's news written and edited by a group of students and distributed to about 1,000 subscribers.)
I share in the dismay expressed by many in our community about this unfortunate and unsuccessful attempt at humor.

This message was hurtful to our Asian and our Asian American community and indeed to all of us. The announcement of Dr. Kim's election as the 17th president has been received enthusiastically across the campus and by all members of the Dartmouth community, and it has been celebrated nationally and internationally. In fact, Dartmouth's selection of the first Asian American to lead an Ivy League institution is an historic event.

The student email that was circulated does not represent in any way the mood we share or Dartmouth's characteristic values, and it will not deter us from continuing to celebrate Dr. Kim's appointment. We look forward to warmly welcoming Dr. Kim and his family to this open and gracious community.

Dr. Kim and I have spoken about this. He is committed to the sentiment of so many of us that these kinds of occasions create an obligation and opportunity for learning and for reaffirming our commitment to inclusivity. He asked me if I would share with the community the attached letter (below). During the spring, we will be looking for opportunities for the Kim family to meet with community members who are so enthusiastic about Dr. Kim's appointment.

The editors of the GGMM are equally dismayed and sorry about the posting they circulated, as is its author. They sent an apology this week to their subscribers and to "The Dartmouth," which quoted from it today. My colleagues and I are meeting both with students involved in, and those deeply concerned about, what was posted. As always, I have been impressed by our community's individual and collective capacity to learn and to care for one another.

I wish you well with your final examinations and end-of-term work and thank you for caring so deeply about Dartmouth's values.

Sincerely,

James Wright


LETTER FROM DR. KIM

Dear Fellow Members of the Dartmouth Family,

Let me first thank you again for the overwhelmingly warm reception you gave to me on Monday. I was thrilled to be with you for the first time and I can't tell you how excited and honored I am to be your next President. Since Monday, I have been deluged with welcoming notes from people throughout the Dartmouth family. I am truly touched by the warmth of this community, and I can't wait to get started in July. This past week was indeed one of the most wonderful of my life.

I write to you today, though, because I have received a number of questions about an unfortunate email sent by a student on Tuesday. After some reflection, I have three main concerns that I would like to share with all of you.

First, I'm concerned that people outside our community will not understand the tremendous work Dartmouth has done to build a diverse and inclusive campus that cherishes free speech, but also nurtures mutual respect and civility. President Jim Wright and the entire Dartmouth family have worked tirelessly to foster an open, engaged community that has dealt effectively with issues of racism, sexism and other forms of bias. We'll debate the issues as directly as any campus in America, but always with tolerance and respect for one another. We need to make sure that the world understands that Dartmouth, which is approximately 40% students of color and international students, welcomes everyone.

I am also concerned about the Asian, Asian American and many other students who have been upset by this incident. I know that many meetings and conversations have taken place to discuss it. I understand your pain, and my sincere hope is that this incident will lead to better understanding and greater compassion for the experience of our entire community.

Finally, I want to ensure that the student who wrote the email understands the enriching role that people of diverse backgrounds will play in his life. But I also don't want this lapse in judgment to limit his prospects for the future. Dartmouth students are very talented, but we all make mistakes - especially when we are young.

I wasn't expecting to be addressing all of you again so soon, but I hope we can all learn from this incident and grow even closer as a community.

Baby and Mom are great, and I look forward to seeing everyone again in the very near future!

Warmly,
Jim Yong Kim

6 comments:

Jim Lover said...

I am going to miss Wright's gushiness.

Franny Choi said...

"Trivial"? "Hysterical"? Are you kidding me?

If this incident were a total outlier, a wacky exception to a normally post-race society, then you might be able to call this "trivial." That's just not the case. GGMM's comments aren't shocking to most Asian-Americans, because we've seen so many similar cases of outright racist expression (presented as satire). Don't insult the integrity of people of color by trying to blow this over. Rather, this incident should serve as a solid reminder to all of us that racism continues to pervade our society.

Yes, Kim's response was graceful and incredibly respectful (thank goodness there are still people in this world who are interested in respecting spaces). However, to dismiss Wright's admirable defense of the Asian/Asian-American community as "hysterical" is to challenge the integrity of Asian-Americans everywhere. It is the duty of the Third World Community (and its allies) to fight systems of oppression such as racism. This article suggests that it is your job to perpetuate them. Way to go.

Franny Choi
frances_choi@brown.edu
Minority Peer Counselor, Brown University

ak47forpresident said...

RE: "Third World Community"

STOP ORDERING WORLDS. STOP COLONIZING REVOLUTIONARY MEMESCAPES. DETERRITORIALIZE THE EMANCIPATORY IMAGINATION. DESTABILIZE THE CARTESIAN SUBJECT WITH A RACIST DADAIST JIG.

WE TRUE [R]EVOLUTIONARIES LAUGH AT YOUR INSTITUTIONALIZED LIBERAL PIETIES. YOU ARE NO LONGER THE VANGUARD.

FREE BONNIE RAM

thomas pynchon said...

Above comments are just tastes of my upcoming book, Misanthropy's Ever-Expxanding Wings.

Anonymous said...

Every time a dumbell rings, a misanthrope gets his wings.

Teacher said...

so "Teacher" says...