ATHENS, Ohio (AP) — Some students and faculty at Ohio University want a major contributor to leave the school foundation’s board and have his name removed from a campus building after he advised administrators to “play the race card” in a dispute over purchasing a new residence for the university president.
More than 200 had signed a petition against Steven Schoonover as of Monday.
The protest followed an email that became public Friday, which Schoonover wrote April 2 after hundreds opposed a plan to spend $1.2 million on a new residence for President Roderick McDavis, who is black. In the note, Schoonover, who donated $7.5 million to the Schoonover Center of Communication, urged university leaders to do what he said Democrats do when Republicans criticize President Barack Obama: “call them racists.”
Schoonover’s email also called demonstrators “loudmouths” who “have probably never given a dime to OU.”
Opponents called Schoonover’s statements inappropriate.
“It’s something that has no place in an academic community or any kind of community,” said Joe McLaughlin, former chairman of the faculty senate and an associate professor of English.
Messages to Schoonover seeking comment weren’t immediately returned Tuesday.
The school has distanced itself from the email, the newspaper reported.
“Mr. Schoonover made his remarks to express his personal opinion on the matter,” said spokeswoman Katharine Quaranta.
The petition also calls for the removal of Charles Beck and Ray Schilderink, two foundation trustees who wrote to support Schoonover’s sentiments.
Such comments hurt the school’s efforts to promote diversity, said junior Ryan Powers.
“I think it sheds a lot of light on what kind of people make up Ohio University Foundation trustees,” Powers said. “It really shows how out of touch and self-interested Schoonover and the board members are.”
The university could use the email as a teaching moment, said Beth Quitslund, chairwoman of the faculty senate and an associate professor of English. She said officials need to talk out the situation before names are stripped from buildings or positions are resigned.
“I would always prefer open discussion and debate to swift punishment,” she said. “I would like to see the result of this be a greater institutional willingness to discuss issues of conflict rather than to manage them.”