Several members of the Liberal Arts Faculty at The Juilliard School have written a letter of support for Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry after a recent public conflict between her and Wake Forest University.
On Jan. 21, Harris-Perry, the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest, criticized the institution’s role during slavery and its current unfair labor practices in which she stated that the school fires its foodservice workers every summer, and then rehires them in the fall, during an MLK event.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry
A couple of days later Harris-Perry alleged that Wake Forest provost Rogan Kersh emailed her asking her to eliminate the Anna Julia Cooper Center, an interdisciplinary research center founded and directed by Harris-Perry since 2012 and offered her a “payoff.”
“We understand that as a result of naming some hard historical as well as ongoing truths about Wake Forest University and the Winston-Salem area, that Professor Harris-Perry has come under increasing public and private scrutiny. Yet we believe that it is precisely when questions of speech strike closest to home that they need to be most protected,” the faculty members said in the letter addressed to Kersh, Harris-Perry and members of the press.
“We are also disappointed in the timing of Wake Forest University’s decision to shutter the Anna Julia Cooper Center which is suspicious and, regardless of intention, signals that academic freedom might not be seriously protected at this institution. Just as King once encouraged ‘men of genuine good will,’ to recall the obligations that such goodwill requires, we urge Wake Forest University to hold firm to its mission, which promises to protect a ‘climate of academic freedom and an unfettered search for truth.’”
The faculty members urged Wake Forest administration to “initiate a formal inquiry” into it’s involvement with Jim Crow and slavery and restore its support for the center.