July 4, 2014
Dear Arizona State University Provost Page and President Crow,
On behalf of the National Council of Teachers of English and its Conference on College Composition and Communication, we write to express our indignation at the violent arrest of Dr. Ersula Ore by Arizona State University police and the university’s subsequent statement of support for the officer who accosted and arrested Dr. Ore. These actions by law enforcement entrusted by the university with serving all its faculty, students, and staff and the university’s expressed support of these actions leave us deeply concerned that Arizona State University is not a safe place for faculty, students, and staff of color. We feel particularly compelled to take action at this time under the auspices of NCTE’s Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Teaching and Learning. Among the key recommendations in this statement are that all English language arts educators
Actively identify and challenge individual or systemic acts of racism, bias, and prejudice in educational institutions and within our profession, exposing such acts through external communication and publications.
Support the enforcement of laws and policies that provide sanctions against racial and ethnic discrimination in public education.
If there is any institution we should be able to count on to advance the ideal that all people are equal, that all people should feel safe in the pursuit of learning, it is the university. However, the treatment of Dr. Ore by university police, vociferously supported by President Crowe’s statement of support undermines our confidence in Arizona State University’s commitment to basic equality and leaves us questioning whether ASU is in any way serious about its often expressed commitments to diversity.
While we take some mild encouragement from the fact that the matter of Dr. Ore’s encounter with ASU police and subsequent arrest will be referred for an outside investigation and are glad to see that the FBI will be investigating the incident, we believe that these represent only the smallest steps in what must be a long walk. We believe this incident and the university’s response to it demonstrate that Arizona State University is not a safe space for faculty, staff, or students of color and that any progress toward equality or diversity demand significant soul searching by the institution and its leaders. We request immediate actions of you in beginning the process of making this travesty right by Dr. Ore and attempting to regain the confidence of so many:
We request that your office immediately ask the ASU police to drop all charges against Dr. Ore in this matter.
As the intensity of public support for Dr. Ore from people all over the country and the negative attention directed at Arizona State University from around the nation attest, this is far bigger than an individual encounter with a police officer gone horribly wrong. The university’s reputation and climate are at stake; the public’s confidence in Arizona State University as an institution truly willing to serve Arizona’s citizens (and the nation’s, given the recent, highly publicized agreement with Starbucks) pursuit of higher education hang in the balance.
While the violent arrest of Dr. Ore by one of your police officers is a horrifying event, it is incumbent upon university leadership to begin to make it right by Dr. Ore, a talented scholar and faculty colleague, and to begin to make it right by your broader constituency in the state of Arizona and a nation that will be watching your response. On behalf of more than 30,000 language and literacy educators at all levels, and more than 5,000 college and university faculty, we sincerely hope you act swiftly and boldly to take necessary steps to begin a healing process.
Ernest Morrell, President, NCTE
Adam Banks, Associate Chair, CCCC