Dear President Bendapudi,
In 2018, you took a courageous stand against racism in response to John Schnatter’s repeated demonstrations of anti-Black bigotry. You removed the Papa John name from the University of Louisville football stadium and Schnatter’s name from a program in the UL business school. Now, in your first days as president of Penn State University, you have unfortunately inherited the outrageous case of Professor Oliver Baker, a committed antiracist professor who—as you surely know—has been subjected to the AC70 termination process for no reason anyone here can explain or justify.
The press coverage has escalated from regional to national headlines. You may be aware of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial of January 23, “Firing Professor Would Taint Penn State”; but surely you are very aware of Emma Pettit’s in-depth coverage in the March 25 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which offers a strikingly damning account not only of the counter-protester whose actions threatened so many attendees at last fall’s pro-vaccine-mandate rally but also of the administration’s unfathomable decision to seek Professor Baker’s termination even after he had been acquitted of all charges in a court of law. Lastly, you are aware of the year-long student protests against Penn State’s treatment of Professor Baker.
President Bendapudi, we suspect that no incoming university president wants to start their tenure at a major university by firing a professor who protected peacefully protesting members of the University community and whose case has already drawn national attention. The damage from doing so would be incalculable.
We are writing, therefore, to urge you to begin your tenure here by doing what is clearly and unambiguously the right thing: reinstate Oliver Baker to his tenure-line position. In doing so, you can send a clear message to all faculty, students, staff, and the greater Penn State community, as you did at Louisville, that you stand with antiracist colleagues and will work to help Penn State recover from yet another of our self-inflicted wounds. We look forward to engaging with your administration in a positive, progressive, and constructive manner.
The Penn State Faculty of The Coalition for a Just University
For additional information. please check the speeches on Professor Baker's termination process by Dr. Bérubé and Dr. Almeida at the rally last month. Here are the YouTube links:
Finally, a request: As you might know, Professor Baker’s legal costs are very high and he is under considerable financial stress. If you have not done so, please consider making a donation to help with Professor Baker's legal defense expenses. This can be done at https://fundrazr.com/51sqG5?ref=ab_1AblD6_ab_9GQ84J7jYLf9GQ84J7jYLf
The Faculty of the Coalition for a Just University
© 2020 Coalition for a Just University at Penn State