Beloit’s MLK Convocation Controversy

Ian Hedges

As many students returned to Beloit after winter break, they were greeted by a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration two days after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Students additionally found an intensified debate on Beloit’s stuboard.
The emails began with Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Debra Majeed stating, “Tomorrow marks what should be a beautiful day of remembrance and service on campus commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but tomorrow will not be a good day to be a Beloiter!”
Majeed then highlighted why it was critically important to host the MLK Convocation on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “For me, the significance of King’s birth, life and death becomes real every day. Without the sacrifices and subversive activities of many of my ancestors and others, without them living and dying to set the stage for me to experience the privileges I do, I COULD NOT HAVE BECOME one of the first two African-American tenured professors at Beloit.”
Majeed continually emphasized how an institution like Beloit, dominated by white students and faculty, would not have diversified had it not been for the social movements started by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Several other professors such as Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Roc Ordman, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Amy Sarno and Professor of Education Sonja Darlington contributed to the conversation after Majeed voiced her concerns.
Ordman added that “I have it on my schedule to attend the MLK convocation at 4 p.m. on Monday,” and said that he was hoping that Majeed was wrong because it would affect our efforts to attract a more diverse faculty and student body.
Sarno then replied to the emails that she was glad that “this discussion was being made public” and that she “felt it was a grave mistake to move the celebration.” Darlington later sent a StuBoard announcement supporting the concerns of Sarno and Majeed.
In response, Director of Communications and Marketing Jason Hughes sent out a stuboard announcement apologizing for moving the convocation. Hughes stated, “I’d hoped that by moving this to a day when we were all back on campus and in classes we could improve attendance by students, faculty and staff, as well as by our neighbors and community.”
In a follow-up interview, Hughes said that he made the decision to move the event in consultation with Assistant Dean of Sttudents Cecil Youngblood. However, he admitted that, “I don’t think it went better than last year’s [event]. I did not think it was going to be diminishing to this event.” When asked if the college had received a negative response for the event, Hughes replied that there was “no negative response, but that doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about it.”
Majeed did not respond to a request for an interview.



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