Editor’s Note: We’ve included Professor Katz’s original email beneath this open letter from Professor Phil Smith to Professor Katz, both of whom are employed at Tulsa Community College.
Dear Professor Katz,
Graduation is a wonderful time. For the students, it is both an end and a beginning. The end of attending classes and studying at Tulsa Community College. The end of staying up late at night reviewing for an important exam or putting the finishing touches on an essay or research paper. But it is also the beginning of a new life, of anticipation of their next chapter in life. Some will be attending a four-year university or pursue a highly-skilled position as a nurse at a hospital or a phlebotomist at a clinic or in an attorney’s office as a paralegal. Regardless of their future, students are excited their time at TCC is over, but also grateful for their experience and looking forward to what is next.
This is why I and some of my colleagues are distraught and saddened by your email encouraging faculty to wear Pride stoles during the commencement exercises. I know that you had nothing but the best of intentions. I am assuming that you and the others on the Faculty Association Executive Board discussed this idea and concluded you wished to do something to support the LGBTQ movement. Saying this, did you take into consideration the many faculty and staff that do not support these lifestyles? Did you consider the many students whose faith does not condone these lifestyles? Did you think about the numerous employees teaching our classes or working with students who hold to biblical teaching? This type of public expression will do nothing but divide our faculty, staff, and student body. Surely, you and the Faculty Association do not wish this? Regardless, graduation is not the arena for such displays. Graduation is about students, not political statements.
Furthermore, by such a gesture you and the Faculty Association are opening up future graduation ceremonies for all sorts of displays. In coming years we may have stoles, pins, hand-held placards showing support for Antifa, Black Lives Matters, the Pro-Life Movement, Traditional Marriage, BDS, La Raza, and on and on. Graduation will cease to be about our students but about whatever we personally support.
I believe you and the Faculty Association’s support for Pride stoles was a mistake. A mistake that could possibly have unintended consequences. I hope that you will rethink your position and retract your support for politicizing what is supposed to be a celebration – Graduation.
Philip D. Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
Tulsa Community College, Metro Campus
If you have already been contacted regarding content of this message, please disregard.
This message to offer faculty the opportunity to purchase a rainbow colored Pride stole to wear at this year’s commencement on May 14. The stoles will be a visible statement of affirmation of our support for LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students at TCC. It is possible to order them in time for graduation, if I receive your order by the end of the day tomorrow (5/3). The cost of the stole is $27 and will have to be paid by check by each individual faculty member. The order will be purchased using FA funds if each person guarantees that the Association will be reimbursed upon pickup of their stole or before. Payment can be made in advance through the PayPal Scholarship donation link on the FA Blackboard page. Login for the FA page is “faculty.” If using the PayPal option, please add $1.12 to the total to cover PayPal service fees charged to the FA. Total payment when using PayPal is $28.12. Please reply to me to confirm your order in an email no later than Thursday, May 3, by 5 pm. Orders not confirmed by email will not be placed.
The purchase and wearing of the stole is entirely voluntary and optional and no one is compelled to do so.
If you have already notified me of your interest in this purchase there is no need to reconfirm.
Robert S. Katz, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Humanities and Music
Tulsa Community College SE Campus