Hillsdale College is refusing to fold under pressure from alumni and students to make a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a response Thursday morning, the conservative college insisted its past and present actions on racial injustice and police brutality speak for themselves.
"The College is pressed to speak," the administration wrote in a letter published in the school’s student newspaper, the Collegian. "It is told that saying what it always has said is insufficient. Instead, it must decry racism and the mistreatment of Black Americans in particular. This, however, is precisely what the College has always said."
Hillsdale, a college in south-central Michigan with about 1,500 students, has often stood apart from its liberal arts counterparts because of its reputation for bringing in conservative-leaning students. While Harvard, Yale, and dozens of other universities across the country have issued statements following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Hillsdale has remained silent.
Two letters pressuring the Hillsdale administration to release a statement in support of protesters circulated on Facebook and other social media platforms over the weekend and received hundreds of signatures from alumni, students, and other members of the Hillsdale community.
One letter, written by 2013 graduate Shelby Kittleson, called for the school to "Say that Black Lives Matter, and they will be protected by Hillsdale College and its graduates."
Another letter, the author of which asked not to be named, said the school’s silence on recent events is "deafening."
Both writers declined to comment.
The administration said in its response that, while the school has addressed problems of racism through education, current movements resort to a "cheap," "bandwagon" approach to confronting such problems.
"There is a kind of virtue that is cheap," the administration said. "It consists of jumping on cost-free bandwagons of public feeling—perhaps even deeply justified public feeling—and winning approval by espousing the right opinion…. But the fact that very real racial problems are now being cynically exploited for profit, gain, and public favor by some organizations and people is impossible to overlook."
Denver resident Rick Russo, whose daughter graduated from Hillsdale College last year, said he was "shocked" when he read the letters.
"I didn't believe a Hillsdale graduate wrote the piece," Russo said. "There were so many citations of statistics and statements that really were, I believe, simply cut-and-pasted from Black Lives Matter literature, and there really didn't appear to be much thought reflected in the piece about what those statistics meant."
Not all Hillsdale alumni thought Hillsdale was morally obligated to make a statement. Kaylee McGhee, who graduated from Hillsdale in 2019 and is now a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner, told the Washington Free Beacon that the letters are just part of a movement to shame groups over remaining silent and force them to make a statement.
"It's not compatible with reason or any response expected prior to the Black Lives Matter movement, and we would not morally expect that Hillsdale or Walgreens or every other business to condemn every murder that happened," McGhee said. "The college's actions speak for itself."