July 27th, 2020
Dr. David Owen, Interim Dean – College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, President
Dr. Beth Boehm, Provost
The Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) at UofL are in receipt of the correspondence to Dr. Ricky Jones dated April 1st, 2020 regarding the investigation and alleged complaints filed against him for comments he made on his show on February 9th, 2020 and in an open forum February 10th, 2020. BFSA is writing this letter to state our concern and opposition over the University’s recent action regarding Dr. Ricky L. Jones.
After a thorough review of the correspondence, we do not agree with the University’s decision to reprimand Dr. Jones in this situation. Many on our Executive Board were in attendance at the open forum. While Dr. Jones jokingly mused about what may have happened had he been in Dr. Story’s position, he never made an actual threat toward any student or referenced any actual plan or intent to cause harm to a student at that time or in the future. Therefore, we assert that a hypothetical scenario is not sufficient to be “interpreted as threatening in nature and promoting violence” as stated in the reprimand letter provided to him. Additionally, we emphasize that those of us who attended the forum did not perceive Dr. Jones’ words as encouragement to harm individuals or to participate in any action that could be deemed threatening toward any student.
We believe that the University's decision to reprimand Dr. Jones for his comment was an infringement on his right to free speech and serves to inhibit his right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, we object to the University's decision to take what we perceive to be an innocuous incident to punish Dr. Jones and simultaneously promote the stereotype that black men are "threatening".
We stand with Dr. Jones in requesting that the following actions be taken:
- Release copies of the investigative materials and final report from the Integrity and Compliance office which led to the letter of reprimand;
- Release copies, logs, or reasonable summaries of all phoned-in, verbal or written complaints made against Dr. Jones to any university official in this case or others which he may not be aware;
- Release a summary of names and actual complaints of any faculty or staff complainants and the specific personal interactions in which they complained of Dr. Jones being threatening or otherwise improper;
- Release the names and specific situations in which Dr. Jones has been personally threatening, bullying, etc. to accusers from outside the university, such as alumni, board of trustees’ members, or others;
- Release the details of the two anonymous reports submitted to the University compliance hotline that formed the basis of the letter of reprimand.
In addition to the above request, BFSA request the following:
- Provide university-wide training for faculty, staff and students on implicit bias, specifically addressing the unfounded belief that Black men are more threatening and dangerous than their white counterparts.
- Supporting evidence: The student in question was not considered a threat because he was “married and recently closed on a house”, even though he was handing out literature that espoused violence and caused numerous students to feel threatened. BFSA asserts the student in question was not considered a threat due to his inherent privilege as a white male. We believe the same level of respect and consideration has not been extended to Dr. Jones due to the Administration not having a clear understanding of how their own implicit bias is at play.
- Remove and rescind the letter of reprimand from Dr. Jones’ file.
- Supporting Evidence: Dr. Jones’ right to be informed of an investigation into his conduct was violated by the administration. Additionally, his right to be provided with the evidence that led to his investigation is actively being violated by the administration. Therefore, due to his due process being violated, the letter and reprimand should be deemed invalid and if no such evidence exist to its validity, the charges should be deemed unfounded.
- Explore the use of restorative justice practices when dealing with complaints made against UofL faculty, staff and students in general but especially those of color.
- Supporting Evidence: We have provided research below on how restorative justice practices provide a fair and equitable resolution to repairing harm, increasing understanding and building community.
The framework and contextual nature in which we formulate the definition of "restorative justice" is established by encompassing these main principles;
- Restorative justice ideally facilitates outcomes such as relationship repair, closure, and fairness (Fehr & Gelfand, 2012).
- The main elements involve voluntarily, truth telling, and a face-to-face encounter (Howse & Lelwellyn,1998)
- Restorative justice is a process whereby all parties with a stake in a particular offense come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future (Braithwaite,1999).
- The fundamental premise of the restorative justice paradigm is that a crime is a violation of people and relationships, rarely merely a violation of a law (Zehr, 1990).
BFSA has determined based on our own review of the evidence that the Administration has not demonstrated equitable responses toward the two individuals involved. And therefore, with the lack of evidence that was provided, and no due process invoked the reprimand letter/ documentation Dr. Ricky L. Jones received needs to be removed from his faculty file. We believe that unconscious biases, which perpetuate systemic racism and continue to adversely affect Black faculty, staff, and students, are and were a factor in the decision making of those who played a role in the determination of what justice looks like in both circumstances.
We look forward to broader discussions on how we can work together to ensure that all faculty, staff, and students on this campus can feel free to express themselves without fear of retaliation or silencing from others. We have faith that the university believes in these areas of openness and freedom of expression, as evident by the response to the student's behavior that sparked this entire incident.
As a community, everyone's personal process to grow and thrive must be not only be respected but treated fairly. As a university, it is vital that we learn from our experiences and consistently examine ourselves in our commitment toward becoming a premier anti-racist community and, ultimately, a better place to live, work, and learn.
Black Faculty and Staff Association Executive Committee:
Riece Hamilton, Vice president/President Elect Karan Chavis, BFSA Executive Champion
Ria Chandler, Secretary Carrye Wilkins, Membership Secretary
Michael Wade, Treasurer Sandra King, Financial Assistant
Leondra Gully, Webmaster Diamond Davies, Social Media Coordinator
Douglas Craddock, Faculty Affairs Co-Chair Belknap Cynethia Bethel Jaiteh, Faculty Affairs Co-Chair HSC
LaJa Hurt, Staff Affairs Co-Chair Belknap Ashley O’neil, Staff Affairs Co-Chair HSC
Katrina Elliott, Student Affairs Co-Chair Belknap Marc Ellis, Program Coordinator
Fannie Cox, Parliamentarian/Historian Rashaundra Jacobs, Credentials and Nominations Chair
Research regarding implicit bias stereotypes of black males
Taylor, E., Guy-Walls, P., Wilkerson, P., & Addae, R. (2019). The Historical Perspectives of Stereotypes on African-American Males. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 4(3), 213-225. doi:10.1007/s41134-019-00096-y
Brown, Anthony L. (2018). From Subhuman to Human Kind: Implicit Bias, Racial Memory, and Black Males in Schools and Society, Peabody Journal of Education, 93(1), 52-65.
Research regarding restorative justice in higher education