Department Chair Message - Spring 2014
James D. Lee, Ph.D.
It was with shock and dismay that I learned along with many of you that an African American SJSU student had allegedly endured racially motivated bullying and harassment in his campus dorm. This type of behavior is deeply offensive, and it damages the spirit of community and accomplishment that we have at SJSU. Given that you are students of justice, I hope that I am expressing your sentiments too when I say that I condemn bullying and dehumanizing behavior as absolutely unacceptable.
I encourage all Justice Studies students to stand up to hateful speech and behavior. Such things are the foundation of much of the suffering that we have pledged to work to improve. For this reason, I ask that when you see something wrong, you say something about it. When you suspect abuse, report it. When you suspect victimization, help the victim find a voice. The work we do to prevent or suspend hatred is far more beneficial and satisfying than the quest to punish it.
I will leave it up to the responsible parties to determine what should be done with the alleged criminal students. However, I will offer this wish: At some appropriate time, the young men should be offered a chance to apologize, work to restore good will within the community, and learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Their actions represent the dark side of the human heart. Our goal must always be to expose the light. Hatred does not submit to punishment; it is converted by a warm embrace and an honest look at the faces of its victims.
Let's also take a moment to reflect on our own prejudicial attitudes and weaknesses of character. We all come from backgrounds that favor some and denigrate others. It is not a flaw to acknowledge that. It is not virtuous to ignore it. Ask whether you might have stood by silently or even participated in bullying someone for whom you had predisposed ideas. Ask whether you are adequately outraged that a fellow student was humiliated for months and reacted only with hope that things would get better. Let's all take a pledge to learn more about those persons we think of as "others." Let us all look into each others' eyes and acknowledge our shared humanity. Let us all resolve to talk about and celebrate our differences--we do not need to be the same to enjoy our time together on Earth.
Finally, I want all Justice Studies students to know that your faculty and staff are united in their condemnation of intolerance and hatred. If you ever have concerns about the climate in the Department surrounding issues of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, regional background, immigration status, language, and so forth, you should bring your concerns forward to one of us (or directly to me). We are serious about fulfilling our duty to make the Department as inclusive as possible. After all, our Department's climate should be a model for what we seek in the rest of the world.
James Lee, Chair
Justice Studies Department