Letter to the Editor From former MRC Dean Arthur Fisher

Since I understand that my name has been mentioned as part of the proceedings of the lynch mob, I am writing to clarify some facts. When I was dean, I fired, in mid-course, two part-time instructors. The first had a reputation as an expert teacher of English grammar and was at the time employed as a curriculum specialist by the Washington State Department of Instruction. Students began to complain to me that large amounts of class time were being given over to conventional discourse on “social justice”. In meetings in my office, I explained to the instructor that class time is precious, that students needed to be taught grammar, and that anything else was simply off the map: unacceptable. The individual replied that these concerns were very important to her personally and part of her mission as a teacher. I replied that, on the contrary, they represented a sort of violation of our implicit contract, that students had enrolled and paid to be taught needed skills in grammar, and that lengthy digressions therefrom constituted a sort of theft. When the problem continued, I fired the instructor via overnight registered letter in what I recall to have been the seventh or eighth week of the course.

A second episode took place when I sought from the College of Education a part-time instructor to teach the strategies and techniques of tutoring to first-year students in the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities for Teaching. Again and similarly, students complained. They brought their curricular materials, which indeed had little or nothing to do with tutoring but a great deal to do with race and educational inequality, subjects that had never been mentioned in my discussions with the instructor. Again what followed was a series of meetings in my office in which I was told that “this is what they need to learn!” When I explained that these topics were fully covered in other courses in our required curriculum, e.g. “Poverty in America” and “Education and the Polity”, and by experts with relevant doctorates, that cut no ice, and the problem persisted. Our students were out working in the schools, one-on-one with students needing help. I asked whether the instructor was able to teach tutoring. I even brought to the corner of my desk some fourteen books, texts on tutoring, and offered to lend them if it would help. The books were never opened. “I know all that!” I was told. The outcome was foreseeable, and I fault myself for not having taken action sooner.

During those same years, I found myself needing to speak sternly to two full-time faculty who were taking class time to launch into thinly-related “fervorinos”, short pious emotional homilies on moral or ontological themes. Fortunately both quickly saw that theirs was hardly a prudent path, and the problem disappeared. A podium is not a pulpit. I never saw my actions as infringing on academic freedom but instead as defending, and indeed enforcing, academic integrity. “Academic freedom” is in place to protect legitimate experts with well-grounded but nonetheless differing views on academic issues; it is not a license to enter the classroom to do whatever your heart desires to do to your captive students.

I want to add that I have known Jodi Kelly as a professional colleague for almost thirty years. The charge that she is a racist is an actionable slander. Her best friend as a girl was Natalie Cole, the daughter of Nat “King” Cole. That’s public information; you could look it up. See what Natalie had to say about Jodi in the months before her death. I have seen Jodi teach, year after year, respectfully and sympathetically, the autobiography of Malcolm X. Anyone who knows her at all well will tell you the same thing: a malicious, preposterous charge. Ironically, one of those who has known her even longer is Steve Sundborg. Dean Kelly’s accusers are plain liars, all heat and no light. Steve Sundborg knows perfectly well that Jodi Kelly is no racist. It was negligent and wrong, almost criminally so, to criticize those who called her that as “disrespectful”. Shades of Tawana Brawley and the “Reverend” Al Sharpton! What he should have said was this: “I’ve known Jodi Kelly for thirty years. I know that she is no racist! Her accusers are liars.” What is it that prevents him from standing up straight and saying what he knows to be true? What prevents others?

—Arthur L. Fisher: Dean Emeritus, Matteo Ricci College

↑ Back to top
  • The Mob

    Nail them up!

  • Akaila Ballard

    This is a shameful defense of Dean Kelly that has done nothing but deepen my understanding of the actions and demands of the MRC Coalition and reignited my support for this brave group. The power of their love, wisdom, and passion is much greater than the power of your white supremacy.

    • Alan

      White Supremacy? You keep using that term, I don’t think it means what you think it means.

      And “shameful,” that always seemed to mean “full of shame.” All I can see Dr. Fisher saying is the Dean Kelly isn’t a racist. If he’s correct how is that shameful? Even if he is wrong, his defense is in good faith (unless you discount him because he is male and white?? Which is both sexist and racist) And why isn’t he correct??

      It sounds like merely because Dean Kelly won’t allow a number of self entitled hypocritical soft handed children of privelege dictate to her how she should run her school you name her racist. What if she is merely neutrally anti foolish?

      Are you kids certain you aren’t frightened by a strong intelligent competent woman? Just saying.

      What a case of ipse dixit.

      Alan

  • Student Trying TO STUDY

    Finally a voice reason! The MRC Coalition is a vitriolic group of immature kids who captain their cause of “social justice” under a banner of extremist rhetoric. If so-called “micro-aggressions” are the bane of their lives then they should consider themselves very fortunate. Their disrespectful actions and embarrassing behavior should be condemned with the level of prejudice they think they’ll already under. College is not a place for “safe spaces” and if they feel that there’s needed changes to the curriculum, perhaps they should take a more productive approach than what they learned watching “social justice warriors” on Fox News. Grow up, MRC. Students go to college to be challenged emotionally and intellectually. Go to class or go home.

    • Chipman

      College is not a place designated for “safe spaces”, I agree, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a safe space at all. I too came here to study. And be “challenged emotionally and intellectually.” I don’t have to give parts of my identity and things that matter to me in order to be successful in that. Many subjects taught here are taught worldwide. I shouldn’t have to limit myself to falling in love with and relating to figures and writers from one area of the world of the standard gender (cisgender male). “Go to class or go home.” I would, except that no matter where I go, these problems persist. I came to college to be challenged and I will challenge college right back.

  • Guest

    Teaching on Malcolm X or being friends with Nat King Cole’s daughter does not absolve one from being racist…. what books you read or who you’re friends with cannot be the only metric by which we measure racism or any other form of -ism……

    • Alan

      By what metric do you measure racism??

      “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

      Ok, works for me.

      Now, be so kind as to tell me the measure you use to accuse dean Kelly of Racism?

      Incidentally, allow me to ask, is it racist to say the United States makes the best main battle tank in the world?

  • Guest

    Mr. Fisher,
    This is perhaps the most bigoted, excusatory and offensive response to the MRC Coalition I have read to date. As a former leadership figure in the Seattle University community, it is truly repulsive to see the use such terms as “lynch mob” to describe a group of peaceful and deserving students who have the perspective and resilience to TEACH white supremacists like yourself a thing or two about humility and privilege. Although teaching is NOT the student’s job in any way– rather it is YOURS to teach THEM– I am genuinely heartbroken and pained to see such ignorance and lack of understanding for the true issue in the forefront. You are quick to come in defense of a racist woman– which makes sense, considering you obviously hold racist beliefs yourself– but you have deeply failed in acknowledging and recognizing the root of this movement, and the pain and struggle Matteo Ricci College has placed upon these students of color. To be a defender of social justice, liberation and inclusivity is not a crime, it is a right that is so often overlooked in higher education. By exhibiting your painfully obvious white fragility through this open letter, you have (likely unintentionally) humiliated yourself and brought to light your interpersonal pain, racism and inability to listen as a privileged male, and as a former leader for the College. I urge you to refrain from publicly involving yourself with this cause in the future, despite your insecurity of your name being mentioned. You are just another example that fuels the coalition to CONTINUE to fight for their rights and liberation and against the REAL issue– that euro-centric, male, white supremacists at our University have historically and are continuing to deny people of color their RIGHT to be recognized, celebrated and cherished in the curriculum and culture of the Matteo Ricci College. Shame on you Mr. Fisher, shame on you.

    • Alan

      What exactly is a former leadership figure? Meaning you did what ?? when?? And you speak of rights? Which rights do you speak of. The rights of Man? The right to life, liberty, and property? The right to speak and assemble? The right to be secure in your person and papers from search and seizure?? The right to keep and bear arms? The rights you you demand for yourself, but deny others.

      Shall we pretend for a moment that the university chooses to teach Eurocentric western civilization? So what?

      What right does any have to compel them to do differently. Isn’t that the university’s prerogative?

      I smell the fetid stench of hypocrisy.

  • Catherine

    I suggest that Dr. Fisher read the most recent statements by the American Historical Association on pedagogy and curriculum. If he took the time to inform himself of his own profession, he would quickly realize that the MRC Coaltion students are, in fact, entirely in tune with professional standards that have been in place for decades. Further, if he took the time to inform himself of accepted standards adopted by other academic disciplines, he would see the same carefully considered recommendations for a curriculum that does not discriminate. The MRC Coaltion members are hardly vitriolic or immature. They simply insist that MRC follow the best standards for education articulated by the most prestigious scholarly bodies in the United States, not an ad hoc policy based on bias and misinformation.

    • Arthur Fisher

      It is typical of the stewardship of this controversy that my letter is openly signed while mostly my critics write anonymously. When you are calmer, re-read what I actually wrote, if you can manage to do so. I never commented on any issue of assigned curriculum but rather on instances of departure therefrom as part of a discussion of academic freedom. When I comment on curriculum, you will, I hope, be able to tell the difference. In my years as dean, I oversaw the expansion of sections of our required course “Poverty in America” from three sections across alternate years to eleven sections per year; that is, an expansion of over 600%. That course has since, under Dean Kelly, spawned a sequel titled “World Poverty” and also a Center for the Study of Poverty. Of the former, most of the sections were taught by professors who for many years had personally experienced extreme poverty; one was (and still is) an African-American; the third is a passionate advocate for social and racial justice. As dean, I sponsored courses on Japan and China, several times; I initiated and sponsored, several times, courses on India, Russia, and The Islamic World; this last was taught several times until the professor, a religious Moslem, left for a better job in Saudi Arabia. I myself taught courses on Mexico and The Novel of the Mexican Revolution.

      • Alan

        I applaud your letter and the logic and reason behind it. I appologize for the comments of undisciplined and spoiled children. They are too old to spank and so I fear nothing can save them from the inevitable dose of reality coming to them in large doses.

        Respectfully,

        Alan

    • Alan

      Alas, it is not the students business to dictate to the school. Dialogue is one thing dictatorship is another. And your assumption that the university is doing anything based on bias and misinformation is speculative at best, and otherwise totally unfounded. Yet, if you were correct, it would still be none of your or the students business. Other than to elect to go somewhere else.

      And I have grave concerns about what you term prestigious scholarly bodies. Especially, you are espousing apologist arble garble that is racist in its own right.

      I’ll show you my doctorate if you’ll show me yours.

      Alan

      • SU Student trying to LEARN

        Alas, it is the STUDENTS who pay the tuition.
        If a student pays $48,000 a year, they have the RIGHT to have a say in what their curriculum consists of.

        As a white female that has attended SU for the past 4 years, I can truly say that I have recognized more racist comments on campus here in Seattle than I ever did in my hometown in the Southwest. If these comments and attitudes can resonate with a white woman, I can’t even imagine the hostility POC feel on campus daily.

        This letter was disgusting. To claim that Dean Kelly is not racist because she had one POC as a friend is nothing short of laughable. In addition, social issues are extremely relevant in a grammar class. Studying how judging a person because their grammar does not conform to white culture can be extremely important.

        The MRC has done a great job at allowing for Eurocentric values and curriculum to dominate on a campus that claims to put emphasis on diversity. This letter from the previous dean does nothing but further prove this fact.

        • Alan

          Dear Female White Student from the Midwest – I’m afraid you don’t understand how this works. The students pay to come to school and be taught the published curriculum. It’s called a contract, every culture under the sun, both those you like and those you dislike, have rules relating to agreements. Most of which are, keep your agreements. We have already discussed the right to speak in the proper time manner and place does not equal the right to occupy property that does not belong to you.

          I would ask that you tell me some of the racist remarks you have heard? Please do share. What persons racism is another’s innocent comment.

          “I like Plato and Socrates.”

          “Sir Isaac Watts invented the steam engine.”

          “Hiram Maxim invented the machine gun.”

          ” Louis Pasteur invented the pasteurization process for milk.”

          “Robert E. Lee was a brilliant tactician.”

          “Charlemagne helped drive the moors from Spain.”

          Which if any of those are racist comments.

          As far as to Dr. Fisher’s letter, maybe you should look to your own logic. You and your ilk accused Dean Kelly of racism, “j’acuse??” Dr. Fisher said he had known Dean Kelly for 20 years and knew she was not anything other than a conscientious educator. He did not offer proof, merely anecdotal reasons supporting his belief and contention. If you will recall he nor she need offer anything by disdainful silence. Because I’m still waiting, and I’m sure everyone else is as well, to hear one shred of credible evidence that Dean Kelly is a racist or, for that matter, that your co-rousers of rabble are anything other than spoiled petulant children.

          Frankly, your personal accusations are actionable as slander/libel, and no no no vicious untruths are not constitutionally protected.

          Go home, study hard, and equip yourself to be a good successful citizen, vote the way you chose, acquire property, build a future, and use your head. The world doesn’t pad it’s corners, there are no safe places except those you have personally made safe, with lock and key and powder and ball (it’s a metaphor!! I didn’t mean go buy a musket).

          Be kind, be open minded, but keep your radar on, your hand on your pistol, and your pistol out of sight.

          I wish you a long and productive life.

          Respectfully,

          Alan

  • Mondale

    This dude is totally in the right. Imagine shelling out tuition money and instead of learning anything you have to be subject to lectures by radical leftists trying to push a very sick view of the world where all problems are caused by straight white males. This is happening in universities across the country and it is resulting in a generation of students totally unable to function in the real world outside of their safe space. Good on you sir and stand strong against the hordes who will try to shout you down with their usual racism accusations.

  • Alan

    I can’t imagine this voice of reason being attacked so vehemently. The student is the student, not the master. I didn’t know “whiteness” was a word. I doubt very much that Socrates was a racist. What happened to voting with your feet. If you don’t like the curriculum, why not go elsewhere.

    I am puzzled at the university’s response. Why not simply explain to the students that while they have to right to opinions, and arguably, forum dependant, the right to be heard. They do not have the right to dictate curriculum, make personnel decisions, or occupy property that belongs to others without permission.

  • Alan

    I wish my thumbs were less fat or that I was typing on something other than a smart phone screen. Oh for the ability to correct a typo.

    Such is life, it does not typically have a backspace key.

    Alan

  • Jeff

    The MRC has been acting pretty immature, sending out emails to the student body with disinformation about events that have taken place. In one email, SGSU actually disavowed an email previously sent. They are discrediting this entire letter because of the use “lynch mob”, a common phrase that at worst is hyperbole, not racist, as some commenters seem to think. Meanwhile, their entire language is hyperbole, referring to perceived slights as terrorism, racist, and violent to name a few buzz words they use. I’ve read their complaints and demands, all broad statements that lack ill intent. Is the program inadequate? Perhaps, but is it institutionalized racism as they claim? No.

    • Alan

      Well said!

  • Randy Francisco

    I have been curious about this ruckus. I don’t know any of the participants in the dispute, but given the style of ad hominem attack on Ms. Kelly and the inability to grasp Arthur Fisher’s comprehensive responses, I am not impressed by the quality of “argument” the MRC Coalition brings forth. From their statements it is apparent that some of the commentators here should welcome an introduction to logical thinkers from most any background. Those who accuse others of not listening, don’t seem to listen well themselves.
    It also looks like the SU leadership is running scared and doesn’t have the courage to stand up for the program. If something is out of balance, develop a process to examine and fix it, but don’t pile the problem onto a scapegoat.