President David Yellen
3399 North Road
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
Dear President Yellen:
I’m sorry to make this my first email to you as the new president of Marist College; however, as an alumnus (MPA ‘14), donor, and member of the LGBT community, I feel compelled to share my concern regarding the College’s decision to take the University at Albany’s place in a basketball game against Duke University this Fall. Ordinarily, I’d welcome the opportunity for Marist to challenge Duke; however, in this particular instance, I believe Marist has shown blatant disregard or ignorance of the discrimination taking place in North Carolina.
As you may know, North Carolina recently passed HB2, a law which legalized discrimination against the LGBT community. In response to this abuse of the legislative process, Governor Cuomo banned non-emergency travel to North Carolina for state-funded agencies and commissions. The Governor was joined by leading corporations (e.g. Salesforce) in denouncing HB2 and the National Basketball Association (NBA) moved the association’s All-Star Game in protest of the law.
Most recently, in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order (which does not apply to private institutions like Marist), and in a statement of solidarity with the LGBT community, SUNY Albany (an institution from which I obtained my BA ‘08 and MA ‘10) withdrew from a scheduled game with Duke University. It was in the wake of this cancellation that Marist was offered the opportunity to replace SUNY Albany. Even in light of Albany’s reasons for withdrawing, Marist appears to have gleefully accepted the offer to play even with full knowledge of the fact they would be going against Albany’s principled decision for declining the match.
As a member of the LGBT community, Marist’s decision to demonstrate a complete disregard for the Governor’s order, Albany’s reasoning for withdrawing, and the well-being of Marist’s LGBTQ students, athletes, and alumni is deeply concerning. Further, the college’s participation in this match threatens to convey a message that Marist is willing to simply “accept” North Carolina’s legalized discrimination solely for the purpose of playing a basketball game. This action stands in stark contrast to the College’s mission statement, which clearly states:
“Marist is dedicated to helping students develop the intellect, character, and skills required for enlightened, ethical, and productive lives in the global community of the 21st century.”
Nothing about North Carolina’s HB2 is “enlightened,” “ethical,” or “productive” under any degree of scrutiny. In fact, it’s quite likely that this law violates the U.S. Constitution.
Of course, with regards to Marist, mistakes are made and sensitivities are overlooked, however, now is the time for Marist College to serve as a moral leader in this ongoing effort by some states to legitimize discrimination by establishing laws that undermine and restrict the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ Americans. Marist has an opportunity to withdraw from the game against Duke on the grounds that its participation would serve as a silent acceptance of bigotry ― an action that would be contrary to the very values upon which the College and the Marist Brothers were founded.
It’s also an appropriate time for the College’s administration to take courageous steps to reassure the institution’s LGBTQ students, athletes, alumni, donors, and staff that Marist is an inclusive institution of higher education that values the rich diversity of the college community.
Marist must not accept the status quo, must not bring into question the veracity of its own mission statement, and cannot allow a basketball game to put LGBTQ students and athletes at risk of feeling alienated by their college community.
I trust you will take every step necessary to ensure that this matter is addressed in an expedited manner so as to avoid any confusion regarding the College’s position on equal opportunity and nondiscrimination. To emphasize my earlier point, I further hope that you and the other members of the college’s leadership team will take this moment to learn and extend an apology for the pain that this announcement has caused those of us who are the targets of North Carolina’s discrimination.
Thank you for your attention to this issue.
Joseph Amodeo, MPA ‘14
Note: A copy of this letter was emailed to President David Yellen and other members of Marist College’s administration on August 16, 2016