On June 23, Dr. Mark George, adjunct professor for the Women’s and Gender Studies program (WGST), used his VSU email to send a letter to the governor and General Assembly asking them to “no longer endorse, promote, and support Confederate holidays, events, and historic sites.” Dr. George’s social justice action was conducted on behalf of the Mary Turner Project (MTP) for which he is the coordinator. MTP is an anti-racism organization that Dr. George and VSU students started while he was a tenure track professor in the Sociology Department (2008).
During the week of July 16 I received a visit from Provost Dr. Rogers to talk about Dr. George. Dr. Rogers said Dr. George had used “state resources for political purposes” and that was not allowed per BOR policy. I explained the WGST program does social justice work per our program’s and university’s mission and the faculty identify as “activist scholars.” I stated that I send letters to the governor and other elected officials all the time concerning battered and sexually assaulted women. He said I could do that as a “private citizen using my g-mail account” but “not as the WGST director” and I could “not use my VSU account” –“state resources for political purposes.” I said WGST wouldn’t be able to do any social justice work (clothesline project, etc.) because everything we do is political.
In August I wrote a letter to President McKinney which resulted in a meeting. I told Dr. McKinney the WGST program would not be able to do any social justice work (Clothesline project, etc.). He stated “I like what you do.” I said if there is a policy stating that we can’t use “state resources for political purposes” and Dr. George’s anti-racism social justice action was not allowed the other WGST social justice actions were just as political and could not be allowed either. I stated it would not be fair to allow social justice actions which gain positive attention for the university and are politically correct but to deny actions that are controversial and gain negative attention. I stated the only BOR policy that I could find talked about political campaigning and endorsing candidates and had nothing to do with what Dr. George did or what I do. He stated he would contact the BOR attorney to get the policy so we could clarify what is allowed. I still have not received the policy.
On October 21 the chief of staff, Dr. Kimberly Luce, contacted me after she was contacted by a Spectator reporter concerning the Clothesline Project. Dr. Luce contends that the two actions “are unrelated issues.” They are not unrelated! They are BOTH political social justice actions. If one is unacceptable per a policy, then both are. The administration cannot have it both ways. If they say there is a policy that prohibits the “use of state resources for political purposes” and warranted the actions taken against Dr. George then they need to produce the policy.
Tracy Woodard, Ph.D.
Director, Women’s and Gender Studies
Professor of Sociology