Of all places, a university ought to know about teachable moments. Concordia University and Russell Dawn, its brand new president, chose the side door last week when Eric Hiller, the university regent with the repulsive social media comments, was quietly slipped off the board in a bare mention within a press release celebrating Dawn’s arrival.
As the Journal began reporting last month, graduates of the Lutheran university led a defense of their school’s values after a long string of Hiller’s Facebook posts surfaced. In those memorialized posts Hiller desecrated women and minorities in racist and misogynistic comments.
The Concerned CUC Family group gathered more than 3,000 petition signatures and garnered a good bit of dispiriting media for the school. Initially Concordia responded with two weaseling press releases and then went dark on the topic.
On Aug. 26, a day which should have been one of celebration as Dawn was installed as the university’s leader and voice, the school’s PR department sent out a release saying Hiller and four other regents were departing. Hiller’s vile views were not acknowledged. And the Journal’s request for an interview with Dawn was denied.
The only thing more awkward than facing up to Hiller’s breach of Christian principles was to ignore it, to not passionately defend the mission of the school to educate young women to accomplish all that they are capable of and choose to undertake, to repudiate racism and ignorance that lets references to Asians as Orientals stand, that doesn’t simply flatten a school leader who approves of judging women by their appearances.
Good that Hiller is gone. Not surprising that he lost his day job at the prestigious McKinsey and Company consulting.
It is now up to Dawn, perhaps to the board of regents, to proactively elevate the values of this school in the public sphere. Acknowledging failings, offering sincere apology, pledging commitment to Concordia’s values instead of whatever tangle this mess has represented needs to be Russell Dawn’s top priority.