Letter To the Editors: Tolle Lege Award

On Friday September 11th, I attended the Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Science Welcome Back faculty meeting hosted by Dean Lindenmeyer, where new faculty were introduced, numerous faculty accomplishments were announced, and faculty award winners were recognized. During this virtual event, I was troubled by the lack of racial diversity in the winners. At the end of the meeting we were directed to check out the Dean’s newsletter for more information on the awards and winners. When I did this, I noticed at the very end of the post, for those who read that far, that Dr. Emory Woodard, Dean of Graduate Studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the chair of the 2020 CLAS Faculty Award Committee shared a letter from a faculty nominee for the Tolle Lege Award. This anonymous long-time faculty member offered congratulations to all of the winners for their accomplishments. This faculty member also requested that his/her/their name be withdrawn from consideration for the award because “I could use the privilege and honor of this nomination, for which I am truly grateful, to disrupt a national and even, dare I say, an institutional system that has historically made people like me matter more than people who don’t share my racial assignment. Until Black Lives Matter none of this matters.”

I too offer my congratulations to all of the winners for their accomplishments. This in no way diminishes their rewards. I also want to thank the anonymous nominee for their thoughtful and courageous letter requesting the withdrawal of their name from consideration for the Tolle Lege faculty award. At this time at Villanova University when so much of our dialogue centers around our responsibility to embrace diversity and inclusion, this letter reminded me that it is more than lip service that is needed. This professor made a choice not to accept a nomination which could have led to an award that would have greatly enhanced a personal vita. To me this letter was a powerful reminder that working for justice, is not always easy, and at times requires personal sacrifice.  While I respect this professor’s desire to remain anonymous for whatever reasons, I believe their words deserve a broader audience and invite all of us to read the letter and be challenged by it to “take a deep uncomfortable and internal dive into the structural inequities that have plagued this country” and I would add, on a local level, our university, of which we are all a part.  I invite all of you to read the letter posted below and consider what it calls each of us to do as our part of dismantling racism at Villanova.