To the Sewanee Community:
I’m saddened by the decision by the VC McCardell to not revoke Charlie Rose’s honorary degree. It’s an embarrassment to the University. It not only dishonors current women students but all of us who have come before. “What have we done on campus?” is not the right question to ask. “What have we said to our alumni and what have we said to future students about the values of The University of the South?” is the question to consider at this juncture.
While I love my school for all that it did for me, I also remember what it didn’t do. It didn’t prepare women for the sexist world of employment that we would face. It didn’t value us when we were athletes, giving us third-rate facilities compared to the men’s sports and no locker rooms with showers for the whole four years I was there. We had to fight for a women’s center for four years, despite it being promised in our first year. There were lots of short comings when it came to offering women a fair and equitable learning experience.
Most recently, I noticed that Sewanee continues to overlook viable women leaders for all its various fundraising campaigns and opportunities to serve on the board of regents. I believe I see what constituency McCardell is courting. It will be short lived. Other institutions of higher learning see value in embracing women in leadership as volunteers, faculty and staff.
However, this Charlie Rose decision goes beyond common sense. I cannot and will not forgive Sewanee for continuing this antiquated thinking now. I’m seeing this through the eyes of a woman graduate and that of my 16-year old son, who will decide what type of school best represents the future he wants. For this, I’m embarrassed.
When you work at a university and make policy, you look ahead in decades, not just years. McCardell is myopic and it will hurt Sewanee. I’m sorry for that.
And in the words of McCardell, him saying he is being more disappointed than hurt, as if this is just about him, well, I’m not hurt. I am surprised at the leadership and I’m sorry that Sewanee seems to be led in a direction that doesn’t acknowledge women graduates.
Perhaps it was a failed experiment and the University just needs to do what they seem to do best: serve men.
I hope that VC McCardell has the grace to realize he made a mistake and correct this error.
Elizabeth Estes Niven C’85
Former Editor-in-chief, The Sewanee Purple