Letter to the Editor: Eye Witness to the TA Situation

By Jessica Done, Sophomore, Political Science and English


As a student of Karen Johnson’s African American Experience class, I would like to respond to the article published in the April 10 Daily Utah Chronicle. It is unfortunate that the author, Matt Canham, was unable to report responses of other students in the class, particularly those who were not offended by Amadou Niang’s comments on March 27.

As reported in the article, Amadou was observing three class presentations that day. His indication that the LDS Church was an example of institutional racism came after one of the presentation’s projections that racism is institutionalized in a number of areas.

The student presentation provided several examples, including the coaching and administration of professional sports. Amadou took a moment between presentations to offer other examples. He stated at that time that the LDS Church was a good example because of the community in which we live.

The house editorial in The Chronicle stated that Amadou forbid the class from debating in “an in-class debate on Mormonism.” That is not true. There was no debate in process. The class was clearly a timed period for the three presentations, and Amadou’s comments were in addition to those presentations.

Amadou never insinuated that the students were guilty of racism by association with the Mormon Church. Anyone making that claim has simply embellished or fabricated the intention of the statement made that day.

Amadou was doing his job. The university requires, for all bachelor degrees, that students take a cultural diversity class. The classes are ineffective if they do not challenge the students’ ideas, beliefs and stereotypes. If Amadou is suspended, it will be statement by the university that the education is second to popular opinion. It will demonstrate that there is no room for beliefs other than the majority, particularly the beliefs of The LDS Church.

Already, the response in this class has forced me to seriously consider whether I want to continue my education at the U.

I believe that the class’s response was a hyper sensitive overreaction. I was raised in an active Catholic family. I attended Catholic schools for 12 years. Throughout that time I have never encountered an African American in the administration and clergy of my church. Had Amadou used the Catholic Church as and example, I would have been given the opportunity to reflect on the reasons for that lack of representation.

My conclusion may not have been that the cause is racism, but I would have appreciated the chance to explore a very important question. The class is wholly responsible for their reaction to this example, Amadou is not. His apology was unnecessary, and I believe he has handled this conflict professionally and gracefully.

I also believe that the conflict has been strategically inflamed by William Brooke. It is important to understand that Brooke has openly opposed the curriculum of the class throughout the semester. He has stated that he believes his rights are violated because he is a white male, and that the African American community is hypocritical because they demand special rights above and beyond equality.

His comments in class have instigated heated debates in the past. I believe his reaction to Amadou is a reflection of his personal objection to the class and its content.

I am very sorry to have been a part of a class that refuses to engage in an academic atmosphere. Johnson and Niang are new to the U this year. I am very sorry that this is the impression they will have of our university and its students.

Jessica Done, Sophomore, Political Science and English