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Members of the University of Portland community nearly filled Buckley Center Auditorium on Thursday night for the event "Reaffirming Pilot Values: Assessing Rape Culture, Sexism, and Misogyny." The student-led event, hosted by Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), Service and Justice coordinators (SJCs) and the Feminist Discussion Group, was announced Wednesday morning in response to the controversial speech made at the fifth annual Wally Awards Sunday night.
With a title like Service and Justice Coordinator, it should not come as a surprise that behavior such as at Sunday night's Wally Awards both disappoints and frustrates us. That being said, what disappoints us more as proponents of service and justice is the culture at UP that allowed such behavior to happen when we all work fiercely to uphold the Moreau Center's core commitments of social justice, community, solidarity, and reflection. It is our feeling that those core commitments were not upheld that night. For this reason, we as Service and Justice Coordinators feel it is necessary to revisit those commitments and speak about what upholding those commitments looks like for our community.
My name is Rebecca Howard and I’m a grad student on the cross country and track and field teams at the University of Portland. The annual Wally Awards was held on Sunday April 15th to recognize and celebrate the athletic success of the 14 sports teams here at UP, and has remained the topic of every conversation I have had since.
To the community of UP:
Several on-campus groups will host an event Thursday night in response to the incident at the Wally Awards. Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), Service and Justice Coordinators, Feminist Discussion Group (FDG) and other groups are organizing “Reaffirming Pilot Values: Assessing Rape Culture, Sexism, and Misogyny.”
My name is Brent Knutzen. I am a senior here at the University of Portland and a member of the Men’s Cross Country and Track team. As an attendee of the Wally awards, I felt compelled to write in and share my experience, and to both explain and apologize for my reaction to the night’s events.
To the University of Portland community:
As a UP alum and young woman, I was extremely dismayed to hear of the events that took place at the athletic department's Wally Awards on April 15. Mr. Sundaram's disgusting attempts at humor were far from comical. His sexist words about women have absolutely no place at UP, and in fact, were scarily reminiscent of our current president's similar language on a secret Access Hollywood tape.
University of Portland President Fr. Mark Poorman apologized to students, parents, regents, faculty and staff late Tuesday afternoon, in response to accounts of a racially and sexually insensitive speech given during Sunday's Wally Awards. Poorman has been widely criticized for sitting in the front of the room and not intervening. Many said his initial statement did not go far enough.
There have been a lot of strong emotions after this Wally Awards ceremony Sunday night. I don’t want to take away from this response because we have a right to be angry, upset, and saddened about what happened. In fact, I am glad that so many people are angry, upset, and saddened by what happened Sunday night, because if we were okay with it, then we would have way more work to do. The problem is that when we get so angry at one person, we fail to see how our own actions have led to something like this happening. And that means we aren’t doing the work to make sure this never happens again.
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.
As a parent of a UP senior I have an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have read the articles and responses to the appalling remarks made by the emcee at the Wally awards. I expected that these last few weeks before graduation were going to be filled with bitter sweet moments, stress over finals, excitement for the future, but never with a slap in the face that disrespect towards women can grab a microphone at UP and not once, but multiple times objectify us. One remark after another he spewed out. Leadership remained seated. Where was the defense of the dignity of every person who was in that room? Is that not what the UP mission statement promises? Apologies for what occurred, but not for the lack of action.
As a former student at the University of Portland, OR, I’m ashamed to say that the few times it has landed in national news is because of a hateful, misogynistic speech at the Wally Awards – a yearly awards ceremony to celebrate the hard work that the University’s athletes had put it throughout the year. This year, however, it was tainted by the insensitive rhetoric given by the evening’s emcee, Goutham Sundaram.
On the morning of Tuesday, April 17, I submitted an op-ed to The Beacon regarding the Wally Awards incident. Late in the afternoon, before the op-ed was published, Fr. Poorman sent out a second update to the campus community, one that begins to address some of the issues I raised in my piece. In order to do justice to the information we had when I set fingers to keys, however, I’ve decided to go forward with the original op-ed, unaltered, which follows:
First let me say that I am in no defense of Goutham Sundara's speech, and I beg that the community does not label me as someone on a "side". I am a woman of color on the track team (yes, the school has a track team, even if the Wally's never recognized it), so this speech was the most offended I'd been in awhile. However, I am not writing this to talk about how it hurt me personally. I personally don't believe that Olivia Sanchez's opinion piece was a broad enough perspective to represent the evening, and especially not enough to enrage an entire campus, many of which, never even heard the speech they are so enraged about.
Last night, a University of Portland student athlete opened the University's annual athletics award banquet, the Wally awards, with a diatribe filled with vile misogynistic comments. His words were unacceptable. His words are a stain on our University and our fellow students. Not only were these remarks incredibly offensive, but they also came at a time when just last week there were efforts around campus to spark conversation and education through a Sexual Assault Week of Awareness. Last week the students of this University showed where their values lie. Last night, those values and the mission of our University were undermined. In line with Green Dot, our University’s anti-violence initiative, everyone who live, learn, and work on this bluff are committed to a community free of power-based personal violence.
Dear University of Portland community,
Having read the article by Olivia Sanchez about the outrageous behavior of emcee Goutham Sundaram at the recent Wally Awards, I felt compelled to respond. As the parent of a UP women's tennis player who graduated from UP in 2016 and as a consultant in the area of sport psychology, I found the account nauseating and infuriating.