Post-election letter drafted by faculty accumulates 502 signatures

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Update, 2:42 p.m., Dec. 1, 2016:  This story has been updated to include information about a letter released by student leaders of several University of Miami organizations on Thursday afternoon. 

More than 500 members of the University of Miami faculty and staff have signed a letter to the community published in The Miami Hurricane’s Opinion section taking a stand against intolerance and re-emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and inquiry.

The letter was drafted by English professors Brenna Munro and Timothy Watson. It was conceived when approximately a dozen faculty members discussed the idea after seeing similar statements and letters from other institutions after the election.

The letter was sent out as a Google Form to departmental listservs and individual contacts to procure signatures, and the link circulated on social media over Thanksgiving break. It has now collected signatures from different departments and campuses, including the Miller School of Medicine and Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

“We condemn all acts of intolerance and anything that contributes to the creation of a ‘post-truth’ world,” the letter reads, which refers to incidences of science denial and hate that have occurred before and after the election.

Associate professor of political science Merike Blofield, one of the original faculty members discussing the letter, described the letter as having a “snowball effect.”

“I think the group is heartened by the extent of faculty support for the values put forth in the letter,” Blofield said.

The 502 signatures on the letter show an unprecedented amount of support, considering both the reach of similar statements from other schools and UM’s small size. Based on UM’s 2015 Fact Book, there are around 3,000 full-time and part-time faculty members on all three campuses; the signatures amount to one-sixth of that total. The total number of employees, including research and staff, is around 14,000.

Blofield also noted that the fate of undocumented students on campus was a major concern. President Julio Frenk is one of more than 400 university presidents who have signed a statement drafted by Pomona College in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA was enacted in 2012 to give temporary asylum to “dreamers,” undocumented individuals brought over as young children.

There has been a push at many schools across the country, including the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan University and California State University, to become “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented students. However, a piece recently published in Inside Higher Ed entitled “Can a Campus Be a Sanctuary?” argues that universities have a limited ability to protect students from immigration authorities.

Following the publication of the faculty op-ed, leaders from Student Government, the Indian Students Association and Muslim Students of the University of Miami released a joint letter on social media early Thursday afternoon. The body of the letter is included below:

Correction, Dec. 1, 2016: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that 503 individuals signed the letter, including UM Athletics staff. It has since been updated to reflect the correct number, which is 502 signatures, and that the list does not include names of individuals employed by UM Athletics. Submitted signatures were vetted by Brenna Munro and Timothy Watson to ensure that individuals were current UM faculty members. 

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