Opinion submission: Disappointment in the inaction of Fr. Poorman
This past weekend, I was excited to return to Portland. I had spent the weekend in Mobile, Alabama, as Assistant Coach of the UP Bioethics Bowl team and we were bringing home a 1st place National Championship trophy. The Bioethics Bowl team experience was one of my favorite parts of my experience at UP, and it has been an honor to coach the team this year and watch them compete via discussions that were often rooted in social justice, the recognition of social oppression, and moral sensitivity.
So, of course, I was dismayed to come home to the news regarding the Wally awards. It was difficult to read Olivia Sanchez’s Beacon article, and not feel both ashamed and embarrassed to be a UP alumna. As I am sure readers are well aware, what happened at this event was revolting. I read the statement issued by the speaker (whom I refuse to name), and was further infuriated. Then I read the statement issued by Fr. Mark Poorman, and was even further disappointed.
In the statement by Poorman, he states “Along with many others, I am appalled by the student’s actions…I spoke with Athletics this morning. They have already taken steps to hold this student accountable”. The speaker has since been removed from the tennis roster.
I am not interested in delving into the reasons, which are plentiful, as to why this student’s speech (and ‘apology’) was so abhorrent. I am interested in why Fr. Poorman was willing to sit through the speech and allow it to continue. The speaker should absolutely be held responsible for his actions, and reprimanded accordingly. However, speaking with Athletics and doling some form of punishment for this student’s actions is not applaudable. It is necessary, if Fr. Poorman truly believes that these actions were inexcusable, and a deplorable stain on the university.
I am interested in asking Fr. Poorman why he did not stop this student from speaking at the event. I am interested in asking him why he didn’t, at the least, walk out with the fellow coaches and students who refused to give the speaker an audience. Fr. Poorman stated that “As president of the University, I remained at the event to honor those who gathered to celebrate athletes, teams, and Athletics staff for their many accomplishments in the past year”. To sit in the front row, listen to the speaker spew misogyny and racism, and do nothing, suggests that he found this an acceptable way to honor those the event was intended to honor. It is not. Fr. Poorman additionally stated, “I did not want what happened on stage to take away from the recognition of others in attendance”. I seriously doubt that it is feasible to think that what happened on stage could somehow not take away from the recognition of others in attendance. To suggest that it wouldn’t have, is to be culpably ignorant of the consequences of this speech.
I am vastly disappointed in Fr. Poorman’s statement, and his inaction at the time this event occurred. To listen to a college athlete make disgusting remarks on stage is one thing. To see the University President, a person who is in exactly the position of power that could have shut this speech down, is by magnitudes more disappointing.
Elisa Reverman ‘17 majored in biology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.