An Open Letter to Samford Faculty Members
Dear Samford faculty,
Seven months ago, Dr. Westmoreland made the decision to derail Samford Together’s university recognition process after you voted in near unanimous support of the group. For some reason, I expected outrage or at least clear pushback. I expected that you would organize and respond to what was obviously a sharp departure from equal treatment on campus and a public rejection of your collective assessment. A&S faculty members voted in support of a related statement, but nothing else came.
For the last seven months, I have spent countless hours wondering why while also acknowledging that speaking out often comes with a price. I have reflected on my time at Samford and the lessons that I learned there. I have revisited texts that were particularly meaningful to me during my stint on campus. Namely, I’ve been poring over Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”—which I believe is now required reading at Samford.
Sadly, I have lost count of how many times a faculty member has called my actions as the leader of SAFE Samford some shade of “unwise and untimely.” A member of the Samford administration has criticized my leadership style for supposedly being emotionally-led instead of tactically-led. I have wasted a great deal of my time justifying my choices to people who are incapable of understanding my experience as an LGBT person who attended Samford. In response to these criticisms, I wish to follow King’s lead; I hope you’ll allow me to explain exactly why I am here on this webpage reaching out to you.
I am here because I love Samford. No one spends 7 years fighting to better an institution unless they care for it deeply.
I am here because injustice exists at Samford, and it should be called exactly what it is.
I am here because there are LGBT students enrolled right now who know that they are considered second-class on campus.
I am here because “tactics” and negotiation with the administration have failed on more than one occasion.
I am here because “justice too long delayed is justice denied,” and because “wait” is no longer an acceptable response.
I am here because Dr. Westmoreland's formation of a hand-picked group to address sexuality is insulting and insufficient.
Let me be clear when I say that I know I am an imperfect person and leader. And let me also say that just because I am leaning on King’s guidance and written word, does not mean that I am equating this struggle with his massive undertaking. What I am doing, however, is taking the historical lessons that many of you taught me and using them to fight for what I know to be right. I realize that among more moderately-positioned faculty members, there is a belief that waiting for board leadership to shift is the only path forward. But I am here to share another truth I learned at Samford, which is that oppressive systems self-perpetuate, and lying in wait only allows them to strengthen.
Recently, the faculty vote/evaluation element was removed from the student organization process. Perhaps this streamlines it and improves it in some ways (and maybe many of you supported the change), but it is difficult for me to see the move as something other than a direct response. To me, it reads as the administration finding a new way to ensure they can control what lines of thought are deemed “acceptable” for groups on campus—and to prevent another Samford Together “situation.”
You are some of the very best and brightest in this state and in our country. If we cannot count on each of you to speak when injustice is thrust upon us, who then can we count on? I implore you to use your power as a unit to call for real change and correction, and I ask that you not allow feelings of demoralization to diminish your voice on campus.
To each of you who has offered support, counsel, kindness, money, and more to the SAFE Samford or Samford Together causes, I thank you from the depths of my heart.
I do not write today to shame or to offend. I write with a rallying cry. I write with urgency. I write with great hope and love.
With respect and gratefulness,
Class of 2008
Founder of SAFE Samford
“But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
"Letter From Birmingham Jail"
Disclaimer: This message comes directly from Brit Blalock and does not represent the opinions of the SAFE Samford organization as a whole.