Open Letter to Georgia Southern University Community,
The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Executive Board condemns the behavior of the Georgia Southern students involved in the burning of Crucet’s book, Make Your Home Among Strangers.
Destructive acts, such as book burning, in response to encountering differing opinions, are antithetical to learning. The history of book burning shows us that this is a fear response and a violent one. One chilling example is the Nazis’public burnings of books by Jewish authors. Thus, we know book burning is a profound act of symbolic violence, violence directed toward the authors, their identities, and their work, toward those who express ideas similar, and even toward those who encourage or tolerate the unfettered academic inquiry central to academic life. Such acts fly in the face of Georgia Southern’s values and mission. The mission states that the, “University creates vibrant learning environments that foster an inclusive, student-centered culture of engagement designed to prepare students for lifelong service as scholars, leaders, and responsible stewards of their communities.” Book burning activities are the direct antithesis this statement and should be condemned.
We commend the George Anne reporters who covered this story. When university students are burning books, we can think of little more important than a free and courageous press. Their bravery and sense of civic obligation is the only thing that tempers the profound sense of shame we feel for the actions of other Georgia Southern students.
On behalf of the WGSS Program and it supporters, we apologize to you, Jennine Capó Crucet, that this was your experience on our campus. We value and welcome the work you do and support immigrants and migrants of all kinds and we work alongside you to dismantle white supremacy. The actions of these students have brought much shame on our university community. The Code of Student Conduct requires, “All who are privileged to be a part of Georgia Southern campus life must remain aware they are representatives of Georgia Southern University, whether they are on campus or elsewhere, and are therefore expected to avoid behavior that brings discredit or dishonor upon themselves or the University as an institution...A Student centered University embraces a campus climate in which civility and respect among members of the campus community is viewed as vital to the overall ethical development of its students.” This why we are graced by your presence and your scholarship. Sharing a diversity of experiences is the only way to learn about the world broadly, and is the most constructive path to discussion and understanding disagreements.
WGSS remains committed to the difficult yet necessary work of dismantling white supremacy (reflected in actions like book burning) even when such efforts are arduous and ongoing. As such, we offer our support and expertise to the university administration in the hopes that they continue to provide valuable and diverse learning opportunities in the public realm for students who benefit from unrecognized privilege of all kinds.
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Executive Board
Lisa Costello, PhD
Nikki DiGregorio, PhD
Michelle Haberland, PhD
Nancy Malcom, PhD
Trent W. Maurer, PhD
Jane Rago, PhD
Gulzar Shah, PhD
Felicity Turner, PhD
Marieke Van Willigen, PhD
Robert Yarbrough, PhD