Editor’s note: An incident on our campus in September led to one of the most painful weeks in the university’s history. Amid the varying media reports we want our readers to know the facts.
At 7 a.m. on Sept. 23, a George Fox University employee discovered a life-sized cardboard cutout of then presidential candidate Barack Obama hanging by fishing line from a tree near Minthorn Hall. A sign that read “Act Six reject” was taped to the cutout. The employee immediately removed it. It is believed only two students saw the cutout.
President Robin Baker met that night with the students in Act Six, a scholarship and leadership initiative that awards full-expense scholarships to student leaders from urban Portland and the surrounding area. He addressed more than 1,200 students and staff the next morning. “We will not tolerate such displays and condemn it in the strongest terms,” he said.
An internal investigation led to four students who confessed their involvement. The students expressed remorse and claimed their message was a political statement, not an attack on the Act Six scholars. After an internal judicial process, several disciplinary measures were taken — including immediate long-term suspension and community service.
The incident — which was shared with the media by a concerned student’s family — received international attention, from CNN to the Drudge Report. Hundreds of calls and e-mails flooded the university.
The university’s swift and open response was described as “extraordinary” by Oregonian columnist Steve Duin. Excerpts of his column follow:
“[President Baker] stepped up without flinching. ... He took responsibility for the ugliness that unfolded on his watch.
“Baker later told me ...“If it can be us, we need to own it. If it ends up being someone else, they were just as wrong, and we’ll own that as well, and try to express love to them.”
“Sometimes, I guess, it comes down to this: If you truly believe you are called to model the love of Christ, you can’t forget that he took the sins of others on his shoulders ...
“If it’s surprising what can be done if you don’t care who gets the credit, imagine the miracles possible if you don’t mind taking the blame.”
Read the university’s response at georgefox.edu/response.
As an African American, I am very proud to be a graduate and board member of George Fox, and know this is not indicative of the university and its history.
Brenda Dizer (’04), Board of Trustees member
I am sincerely disappointed that there are splinters of your constituency that would
promote such a deplorable act.
“ Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in his sight.”
That means everyone — including both Republicans and Democrats.
Buena Vista, Colo.
I want to thank George Fox leadership for boldly addressing issues of racism and injustice. We often hold back negative information like this and handle it “privately,” which can lead to actually affirming the negative message in our attempts to protect the institution. Instead, you are making a strong stand. I am so proud of your response and the willingness to make it public.
Steve Bury (’83), Urban Impact
I am thankful for all the support Robin Baker has given to the Act Six students, and not just throughout this incident. The last two years he and the rest of the administration have given us wonderful support and encouragement. The leadership he has displayed is commendable and a great example for the entire campus, especially the student leaders.
Vanessa Williams, Act Six Scholar, ’07 cadre
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