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Hillsdale Col­lege’s Fred­erick Dou­glass statue, crafted by sculptor Bruce Wolf. Breana Noble | Col­legian Archives

There’s an open letter addressed to Hillsdale College that is making the rounds on social media — a letter that essen­tially accuses the college of par­tic­i­pating in, or at the very least not pre­venting, racism. Sur­pris­ingly, this letter was penned by a Hillsdale grad and signed by dozens of others. 

The author wants Hillsdale to speak up on matters of sys­temic injustice, racism, and bru­tality, as have many others uni­ver­sities and cor­po­ra­tions over the past few weeks. And in a way, she’s right. The con­tinued protests over George Floyd’s death and Congress’s impending action on law enforcement reform make it clear that now is pre­cisely the right time to advance the prin­ciples of equality and justice — prin­ciples Hillsdale has always stood for, even when it was not popular to do so. 

The author of the open letter acknowl­edges Hillsdale’s work towards civil rights and equality, but then says that this is not enough. Why? Because Hillsdale has not pub­licly com­mented on the matters of the day, namely, the Black Lives Matter movement or the reforms its activists have pro­posed. This silence, states the letter, is evi­dence that the college has “aban­doned its founding prin­ciples” and con­sented to “white supremacy” and the “tyranny of our mil­i­ta­rized police force.”

Such accu­sa­tions should be backed by sub­stance. But as far as evi­dence goes, the letter pro­vides very little. Indeed, the only proof the author offers is, again, Hillsdale’s “silence.” This is non­sense. We do not expect the college to release a statement explaining its position on murder, nor do we require its faculty members to take turns pub­licly dis­avowing sexism. But I have yet to see an open letter from alumni accusing the college of con­doning either sin. And that’s because Hillsdale’s position on both murder and sexism is plainly evident to anyone familiar with the school — and so is its position on racism. 

Which is why this letter was so dis­ap­pointing. Each name on that list knows the school and what it rep­re­sents. As grad­uates, we of all people know that Hillsdale values indi­vidual liberty, equality for all, and justice as it is due. Hillsdale is not perfect, and it never will be. But to char­ac­terize the entire school, and the many faculty members who have built it, of com­plicit racism is shock­ingly unfair. 

The fact is that the college advances equality’s cause day in and day out — not by pub­licly siding with a social-justice-driven movement, or by posting a black box on social media, or by caving to a col­lective nar­rative that erases the concept of per­sonal respon­si­bility, but by teaching indi­vidual stu­dents to pursue truth, to love it, and to use this truth to influence the hearts and minds of others. This has always been the college’s mission, and every single current and former student is a tes­tament to its success.

Kaylee McGhee is a 2019 graduate of Hillsdale College.