Oct. 6, 2017

This past week, Buena Vista University has come under scrutiny and has experienced tension on campus following the actions of several football players and cheerleaders who chose to kneel during the national anthem. 

Emotions, opinions, and tensions are high — and legitimately so. It is understandable that each individual has deeply-rooted beliefs and experiences that shape our opinions and actions. Our campus has been a microcosm for what is currently happening in our nation, and it is our responsibility as a university to deepen the conversation for the better. The very nature of a protest is to cause disruption, yet it is the choices that are made after that disruption that are of significant importance and have the potential to shape the future in positive ways. To our students who protested — you were not only noticed, but you were also heard.   
Throughout the past week, I have met with our athletes, as well as numerous students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, to listen and talk. I found the conversations to be thought-provoking yet enlightening. Yes, we did not always agree, but we respectfully listened to one another’s thoughts and perspectives. With each conversation, I digested comments, suggestions, and opinions. Reaching a clear path forward is not easy, however, working in collaboration with the campus community has brought some clarity. I do believe we have found an alternative solution to move forward. Thank you for your patience as we underwent this important process — one of talking, sharing, and reflecting. The process was constructive, and I stand behind the solution.
Moving forward, BVU student athletes and cheerleaders will stand for the national anthem as a unified team. However, student athletes and cheerleaders will be allowed to kneel before the anthem if they choose to do so. As we all stand to honor our national anthem, I have promised to physically stand by their side as a demonstration of support for their desire to impact social change, and I commend them for their courage. BVU, nor our student athletes, meant any disrespect for the national anthem or the flag. Many of you found the action upsetting, therefore, please accept my sincere apology.
As a key component to our solution, and in the spirit of Education for Service, I will provide financial support to advance the topic of social change. Over the next few weeks we will be working directly with students, faculty, and staff to plan several campus gatherings that will create an open discourse that is meaningful and purposeful. Our events will be mediated so all voices can be heard, and the environment will be one in which it is comfortable to share perspectives. Details are forthcoming.  
Let me reaffirm BVU’s commitment to honoring our national anthem and flag as well as respecting the Constitution of the United States. As I stated to the campus community last week, “BVU respects our military members and our veterans. BVU also respects the rights of our students, employees, alumni, fans, and friends to demonstrate their civil liberties in ways that are peaceful and lawful. As an institution of higher learning, BVU believes in open discourse. Through our conversations, BVU seeks to better understand our opinions and the opinions of those whose differ from our own. I simply ask that our community members respect one another through language and action."