Collis board apologizes for 'White Party' e-mail

by Alison Polton-Simon | 12/1/10 11:10am

The Collis Governing Board has apologized for a campus-wide e-mail sent by One Wheelock on Nov. 19 that advertised its "White Party," which featured the subject line "WHITE Supremacy." Approximately 30 students complained to the Collis Governing Board about the message's subject line, according to Tim Yang '13, the Board's chairman.

The Collis Governing Board "immediately started working on how best to respond" after members of the organization's board of directors received the "WHITE Supremacy" e-mail, Richard D'Amato '13, a member of the group, and Mason Luke Cole '13, the Undergraduate Finance Committee representative, said. All three students said they were "shocked" by the way the subject of the message was phrased.

The e-mail was not drafted by directing members of the Collis Governing Board, but by "one or two people" in the One Wheelock subcommittee of the organization and "was not written or approved by anyone in the [Collis Governing Board]," D'Amato said.

Although One Wheelock receives funding from the Collis Governing Board and the two organizations work together to host events, they are administered separately, according to Yang. Although the Collis Governing Board was not directly responsible for the e-mail, Cole said that as the "parent organization" of One Wheelock, the students felt that it was important for them to "take responsibility" and not just "shake it off to another group."

The board of directors of the Collis Governing Board issued a response apologizing to all students who had complained about the "WHITE Supremacy" subject line a day after the initial e-mail. A copy of the letter is posted in One Wheelock, Yang said. Members of the organization are also in "close communication with different diversity groups" around campus, Cole said.

They have spoken to the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, as well as other student organizations, about the inappropriate nature of the subject line, which they described as an accident that should "never be repeated," Cole said.

Part of the Collis Governing Board's mission is "promoting diversity," Cole said. The White Party was held in conjunction with the International Students Association's Kaleidoscope show, which was billed in advertising as "An International Culture Night."

Members of the board declined to say who had written the e-mail, and representatives from One Wheelock did not return requests for comment by press time.

The Collis Governing Board gives One Wheelock $17,000 each year, The Dartmouth previously reported.

As an individual with living relatives who went through the difficulties of the Jim Crow policies, Cole emphasized the need for the board to be more sensitive in its future actions, particularly where matters of diversity are involved.

Although the Inter-Community Council has mentioned the possibility of the board sending a campus-wide apology e-mail, the directorate of the organization "did not want to escalate the matter too much" by writing a message to all of campus, Cole said.

Those individuals who responded to the organization's apology were generally satisfied with the steps taken, Cole said.

Aimee Le '12, who said she did not see the original e-mail until after the apology had been issued, said that while she recognized that the message was intended as a joke, "there's a way in which context and tone don't appear in [an e-mail]."

Le said she "wished that they had sent the apology to all of campus since they had sent the original [e-mail] to all of campus."

Le said she recognized that "people may be loathe to criticize the [e-mail]" since the Collis Governing Board has a history of favoring diversity, and said that campus might have been more critical had the same message been sent by a fraternity, for example.

The entire Collis Governing Board will be discussing the ICC's suggestions and the proper way to apologize to campus in its meeting today, the club's first conference since the original e-mail was sent to campus, Yang said.

Update: A facilitated discussion of the incident is being planned by students and College officials, Timothy Duggan, assistant director of the Collis Center, said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.