Hollins University, like many colleges, recently surveyed its old yearbooks to see if they contained racist images. On Tuesday, the university was debating (with help from social media) what to do about the images it found.
A Hollins employee posted to Twitter about being ordered to block digital access to some old yearbooks with racist images. Some on Twitter viewed this as an effort to cover up the racism and criticized Hollins.
President Pareena G. Lawrence sent a letter to the campus on Tuesday offering a different view. Lawrence said that the university's review did find racist images in some issues of The Spinster, the yearbook. "We have found … images of some of our former students in blackface and similar makeup, along with racially insensitive cartoon drawings and other materials. Regardless of the year and time, the intent, or the context, these materials are hurtful and disturbing, and they do not embody the values of our community," Lawrence wrote.
The print copies of the yearbook available in the college's library will now include a statement about the images and the racism reflected in them. Lawrence said that an equivalent system will be put in place for digital versions, but until a system is set up, she said that the digital versions would not be available.
Wrote Lawrence, "Some members of our community will support this move while others will find this action excessive. I would never be so presumptuous as to believe that I have the only answer to this very delicate issue. But the one thing I do know is that small acts of injustice engender greater acts of injustice, just as small acts of compassion are the seeds of great ones. With that spirit in mind, I ask for your understanding and your support of Hollins."