The University of Portland president, Fr. Mark Poorman, this afternoon issued an apology for his failure to take action Sunday night when a student emcee at the University's sports banquet veered off the rails.
"As president, I was in a unique position to stop the proceedings, and I should have done more," Poorman said in a statement released this afternoon. "I am deeply sorry for what happened and for what should have happened, but did not."
As WW reported earlier, the emcee, senior tennis player Gautham Sundaram focused his remarks on his desire to have sex with white women.
Olivia Sanchez, a rower and the managing editor of The Beacon, the UP student newspaper, attended the banquet and wrote an op-ed condemning Sundaram's "violent, misogynistic" remarks.
Those remarks led some in the audience, including Pilots men's basketball coach Terry Porter, to walk out of the event but Sanchez noted that Poorman did nothing.
Yesterday, the university removed Sundaram from the tennis and Poorman issued a wishy-washy statement.
"These offensive statements do not reflect us, and they do not reflect our mission," Poorman said in his statement on Monday. "This important tradition was the purpose of the evening, and I did not want what happened on stage to take away from the recognition of others in attendance. I apologize to all of you that this occurred."
Late this afternoon, Poorman took a second crack at explaining himself. Here's the full text of his statement:
Dear Members of the UP Community,
I would like again to address the disturbing events of last Sunday night at the "Wally's." I have heard from many of you, and I thank you for your engagement and investment in our community. As president, I was in a unique position to stop the proceedings, and I should have done more. I am deeply sorry for what happened and for what should have happened, but did not.
In a community where we work so hard to ensure all members feel safe and respected, sometimes it is through experiencing events like this firsthand that we can truly learn. Sometimes we teach our students, and sometimes our students teach us.
As members of our community have so eloquently stated, it is our collective duty to stand up and make our voices heard. We cannot afford to remain bystanders. If we see or hear something that violates our standards of conduct, we must speak up, speak out, and ask questions. We all must take responsibility for each other.
Many people have asked me what will happen now. I have full confidence in the integrity of the University's policies and procedures to address these situations. The comments that night were offensive – to women, men of color, women of color, to all members of our community who believe in dignity and respect for all individuals. The student conduct process, including Title IX procedures and our policies addressing unlawful discrimination and harassment, will be used to review and determine violations of these policy areas, as well as to determine disciplinary sanctions as appropriate.
There are great expectations of us as members of this community, and we hold ourselves to a high standard. When we fail, it is a deep disappointment. But it is our responsibility to learn how to move forward. We can do better, and we will.
To this end, I have asked members of the President's Leadership Cabinet to plan forums where community members can discuss the underlying issues behind this troubling incident and what we are doing at UP to promote a campus that is free from violence and harassment and is imbued with respect for one another.
We have already taken action in these areas, from the Title IX Ad Hoc Committee to the GreenDot program to a new implicit bias training implemented by Human Resources. But this will be an important continuation of that work. You will be hearing more about these forums, which will be held next week. I hope you will plan to attend or take advantage of other opportunities for input that we will provide.
I look to our students and other members of this community to help us show the world who we really are at the University of Portland. As I have said previously, the opening of Sunday's event was contrary to our values and to our mission. We will learn together from this incident, and we will become a better place for it.
Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C.
President, University of Portland