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Yes, it can happen here

Tuesday, Nov 5, 2019

* Western Illinois University’s racial tension and its eventual ouster of the university’s first African-American president Jack Thomas wasn’t covered very well by local media. But the Chronicle of Higher Education has published a deep dive that’s well worth a full reading

Elitism. Incompetence. Kanye. There were lots of reasons people say they soured on Thomas. But the incident that infuriated many of his critics, and directly preceded the “Fire Jack” campaign, was Thomas’s decision to fire Brad Bainter.

Bainter, who is white, is a former WIU Leatherneck basketball star who went on to serve as the university’s vice president for advancement and executive officer of its foundation; his wife is director of alumni programs. Thomas cited administrative costs as the rationale for eliminating Bainter’s job. Bainter, though, had close professional relationships with some of Thomas’s opponents.

In dismissing Bainter, Thomas had disrespected a Macomb favorite son. “That was kind of the final straw, because Brad’s a local kid,” said W. Garry Johnson, an emeritus vice president for student services who worked at Western for 33 years. Firing Bainter was “the dumbest thing that could have ever happened,” Johnson said, because it alienated any remaining supporters Thomas might have had.

The backlash was swift. Days later, the executive committee of the university’s foundation board sent a letter to Western’s trustees, calling for Thomas’s ouster and Bainter’s reinstatement. Soon after, the Alumni Council followed suit with a resolution.

As the town rose up against Thomas, state officials sounded an alarm about the racial overtones of the campaign to remove him.

In early June, Jesse H. Ruiz, deputy governor for education, warned Western’s trustees about the bigotry that was flooding his inbox. He forwarded to the board one of “many” racist emails that he had received about the president, this one accusing Thomas of admitting low-income students as part of a “social experiment of using WIU as a form of welfare.”

“Many of the free and reduced students have brought with them criminal elements and family members who ride their coat tails which has negatively effected [sic] this community,” the person wrote.

In reality, total crime in the city dropped by about 60 percent from 1991 to 2015, according to the latest federal data.

In his email to the trustees, Ruiz urged the board to “stand up to these misinformed and misguided attacks.”

* The article also quoted WIU senior Janiya Haynes

She noticed a group of men in a red pickup truck at a nearby intersection. They yelled a racial epithet at her, Haynes said, and warned that black people “shouldn’t be out at night.”

* In response, Heather McMeekan, the president of the Democratic Women of McDonough County, has published an open letter to Macomb’s mayor and city council

The entire article about our community was profoundly distressing, embarrassing, and consistent with the experiences of members of our organization, campus, and community. It shows a community that has chosen to ignore these issues for far too long. However, we wish to address specifically the abhorrent behavior described in the article by unknown person or person(s) in a “red truck” targeting some members of our community for behavior ranging from verbal harassment to explicit threats.

I personally witnessed a truck with that description displaying flags consistent with the White Supremacist movement in the Aldi’s parking lot in February of 2018. I have sent that photo to the Office of Public Safety Director Derek Watts and WIU’s President, Dr. Martin Abraham.

Our organization has members who have students, friends, or family members who have reported to us having had similar experiences with a truck matching that description. We have also had community members reach out to our organization over the past year with similar accounts, which we always encourage all to report to the police. However, in every single case, those reporting such incidents to us also have reported lack of trust in the police to properly investigate such incidents without retaliation against those making the complaint. Therefore, this behavior targets those already perceived as being marginalized and who also express the belief or perception they aren’t safe from our own police.

* The truck…

- Posted by Rich Miller        

61 Comments
  1. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    Amazing that trustees were more concerned about these issues than dropping enrollment. For all the criticism that administration gets at the state universities in Illinois, blame should also be shared by the trustees and those who appointed them.


  2. - Well - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:32 am:

    Well, they convinced me. We should totally keep funding the school and keep that crappy little town alive.


  3. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:35 am:

    ===We should totally keep funding the school and keep that crappy little town alive.===

    Argue like an adult, please.

    The racism and issues with race can and should be addressed and dealt with, head-on

    Universities are regional economic engines, and engines need a tune up too.


  4. - MakePoliticsCoolAgain - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:35 am:

    All that’s missing on the truck is a Trump 2020 flag. *eye roll*


  5. - Other Directional - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    Soo you’re telling me that the small “under” performing schools in our state are just clout heavy good old boy networks? Who knew such elitism could exist. As to the whole post in regards to the situation in Macomb, seems about white


  6. - Amalia - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    that is very distressing, especially as it reeks of mob mentality. Universities are important regionally but something has to give budget wise. it may be one campus in the system.


  7. - JeffersonTDuncan - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    Bigotry and taped on brake lights. Stay classy.


  8. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    An unpopular and incompetent black man in power brings racists out of the woodwork and gives them an “I told you so moment “. The police should set up a sting operation to get the harassing behavior on tape. Threatening people is illegal.


  9. - Downstate Illinois - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:42 am:

    I’m amazed at adults who think police should investigate a rebel flag. Exactly what crime has been committed? It’s a First Amendment issue. Most people who fly the Confederate battle flag aren’t racist and don’t display it for racial purposes. Young people have a tendency to identify as rebels. The battle flag is better known as the rebel flag. Try to see the connection.

    From everything I’ve read about the WIU university president he was as bad as SIU’s and the recently ousted president at Shawnee Community College. Two of those three were black. All three deserved firing. Whining about race is their way to avoid taking responsibility for their own poor judgment.


  10. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    Second post in two days about people being open with their racism. Can’t help but wonder if Trump has emboldened these people who previously were embarrassed to show themselves in public.


  11. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    “Whining about race is your way to avoid taking responsibility for your own racism.”

    Fixed it for you.

    Also, nobody is asking for an investigation of a flag, you doofus.


  12. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    === It’s a First Amendment issue. Most people who fly the Confederate battle flag aren’t racist and don’t display it for racial purposes.===

    Explain the other purposes, and what is symbolizes.

    I’ll give ya a minute to try to figure out how slavery, oppression, and the “Southern Ways” can be spun as good.


  13. - Ladurf - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:47 am:

    “Most people who fly the Confederate battle flag aren’t racist and don’t display it for racial purposes”

    Ok boomer


  14. - Commisar Gritty - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:50 am:

    I still love people who fly the Confederate flag in Illinois. It is literally the land of Lincoln. I don’t fly Sherman’s flag in Georgia, ya goofs.


  15. - DarkDante - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:50 am:

    ==Young people have a tendency to identify as rebels. The battle flag is better known as the rebel flag.==

    Young people see the “battle flag” as racist. Try to see the connection.


  16. - Jocko - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:51 am:

    ==Most people who fly the Confederate battle flag aren’t racist and don’t display it for racial purposes.==

    Riiiight. And those who fly the swastika are actually devout buddists


  17. - efudd - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:51 am:

    Downstate Illinois-

    I live in downstate-Union county.
    They’re not flying that flag because they identify as “rebels”.
    Don’t even try that garbage.
    Ironically, most nitwits flying that flag couldn’t pick Grant or Jackson out of a lineup.


  18. - 33rd ward - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:52 am:

    “Young people have a tendency to identify as rebels. The battle flag is better known as the rebel flag. Try to see the connection.”

    Big rebel here. Never got close to considering flying another nation’s flag. The American flag is my flag.


  19. - Amalia - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:54 am:

    oh, yeah, lots of lefties flying that flag because they identify as rebels….. its a flag of treason. stop flying it. stop condoning flying it. I have family who lived in the South. they know better because they are better.


  20. - Scott - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 11:55 am:

    Downstate - “I’m amazed at adults who think police should investigate a rebel flag. Exactly what crime has been committed? It’s a First Amendment issue.”

    They’re not investigating the flag, they’re investigating the threats and harassment that the people driving the truck that’s flying the flag are doing. That’s what’s illegal. You can fly a confederate flag if you want (despite the idiocy of it), but you can’t go around threatening people.


  21. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:00 pm:

    These people might not be from Macomb which tends to be blue but the ever more ruby red areas that surround these small population centers.
    This has been a trend downstate since Carol Mosley Braun won Galesburg even as she lost almost every downstate county.


  22. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:03 pm:

    ==Most people who fly the Confederate battle flag aren’t racist and don’t display it for racial purposes==

    ….he said upon returning from his trip to the Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville


  23. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:04 pm:

    Is the taillight taped on or is the truck owner trying to mimic the design of a 1978 Grand Prix?


  24. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:07 pm:

    Lester Holt’s Mustache wins the Internet.


  25. - Merica - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    In 1955, a little boy, a child, an innocent baby from Chicago was kidnapped, tortured, and mutilated because of the color of his skin, by men waiving Confederate Flags. 60 years later…..

    - If you’re just nice to the racists, they’ll stop being racist;
    - If you just reason with the racists, they’ll stop being racist;
    - If we just subsidize their entire existence, pay for their roads and schools and give them all cushy government jobs, they’ll stop being racist.

    enough already! Shut this underperforming school down. Let the racists make their own living. Let’s see them pull themselves up by their bootstraps.


  26. - Joe Bidenopolous - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    ===Most people who fly the Confederate battle flag aren’t racist===

    It’s literally the flag of treason for states that tried to secede from the union to preserve the institution of slavery. It’s connotations are quite clear


  27. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    ===Can’t help but wonder if Trump has emboldened these people who previously were embarrassed to show themselves in public.===

    Yup. That’s pretty much it.


  28. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    “Thomas cited administrative costs as the rationale for eliminating Bainter’s job”

    Everyone complains about bloated administrative costs in higher education and then lose it when their favorite athletic star loses their job…


  29. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:12 pm:

    ===I don’t fly Sherman’s flag in Georgia, ya goofs.===

    Sherman’s flag is the flag of the United States. Georgia is a state. So why wouldn’t it be flown there?


  30. - Almost the weekend - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:13 pm:

    Downstate

    The Union won the war. There are no participation trophies, I’ll use my first amendment right to remind you of Sherman’s March to the Sea and that this flag is a dog whistle that can be heard anywhere in this country. Grow up and stop being a sore loser. It’s been 155 years since the Union won.


  31. - Skeptic - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:26 pm:

    “Shut this underperforming school down. Let the racists make their own living.” And if the racists are townies, how does that help?


  32. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    It was always a terrible location for a University. But at first it was a small teachers college. Monmouth and Galesburg had small colleges and Quincy was more interested in the Veterans home. Then it expanded in the post-war years until the end of Vietnam. It’s been in long term decline since then.
    With the next decline in age group set for 2026 there are going to be hard decisions in all higher ed. Even if there is free tuition.


  33. - Bomber - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    ===These people might not be from Macomb which tends to be blue ===

    Not much blue in Macomb outside of WIU faculty.


  34. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    =Most people who fly the Confederate battle flag aren’t racist and don’t display it for racial purposes. Young people have a tendency to identify as rebels. The battle flag is better known as the rebel flag. Try to see the connection.=

    See comment by @Lester Holt’s Mustache.

    The irony of the picture is the juxtaposition of the American Flag and the racist battle flag of the treasonous members of a rebellion based primarily over the issue of slavery (as noted and evidenced by their own declarations of succession).

    It is galling that these racist flag waving dolts don’t understand that they cannot be American patriots (as they often believe) and supporters of treason and rebellion against the USA.

    Regarding WIU and Macomb: WIU is not a bad school, they do some nice things and have a lot of good people. Macomb is actually growing, if only slightly. That growth is largely due to people from smaller towns surrounding Macomb moving to Macomb per an analysis from the ROE.

    But, people myopia generally leads them to cut off their nose. Most of the poor people in Macomb are ……white.


  35. - 33rd ward - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    155 years. And some people are still racists.

    Takes a loooooong time to educate alllll of us.


  36. - Interim Retiree - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:29 pm:

    Just got back from a week in the Smokies. Saw a truck w/a confederate flag printed on it’s window w/the words “Not racist, southern heritage”. Sickened me, just as the Macomb truck does.


  37. - My head hurts - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:29 pm:

    The Chronicle of Higher Education did a pretty decent job of covering the WIU debacle. However, the under-emphasized issue is that the Macomb town folk blamed the WIU president for Macomb’s troubles, and yet they voted for Rauner, who cut funding to WIU. Furthermore, our local state representative voted five times against implementing a budget that would have helped WIU. And yet, local business owners choose to place the blame entirely on WIU leadership. There is a profound inability on the part of local Macomb business owners to accept the idea that they are at least partially responsible for the economic pain they are experiencing. They voted for Rauner and Rep. Hammond in 2014 and they voted for them again in 2018.


  38. - downstateR - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    Merica

    Please think. The story is sobering, sad, and infuriating and I thought Macomb was better than this. No one is shutting down WIU (or Naperville).


  39. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    Hammond lost Macomb and Galesburg. She won the rural area in a landslide.


  40. - Just a Reader - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 12:37 pm:

    WIU provided me with a great college experience. The mix of kids from Chicago, the suburbs, and western Illinois is — or can be — the university experience at its best. I had good friends from Chicago, from the suburbs, and from the towns and farms around Macomb. There were kids who grew up in the inner city and kids who grew up on a farm. We all learned from each other, and are the better for it.

    Throwing all those kids into the same university is never without challenges, but it is the university experience at its best. WIU is a better university because of that diversity of students. Macomb is a better place because of the diversity of students. And Illinois is a better place with WIU.

    It makes me sad to see WIU struggling under the weight of challenges that are not its fault. WIU was not responsible for the multi year state budget battle, but it’s struggling with the results. WIU is not responsible for the hate that is being encouraged by our leaders — politicians and the media — but it must deal with the fallout.

    I hope WIU will be there to provide the same experience for my kids and our kids that it did for me. I don’t know if it will, and that makes me sad. My heart aches for what our state and our country is doing to places like WIU.

    Western Illinois University is not perfect, but it is, and can be, an asset to our students and our state. It doesn’t deserve the vice that we are placing it in.


  41. - Scott - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 1:19 pm:

    Just a Reader - well said

    Not a Billionaire - true, but I’d bet if you were able to somehow break down voters who are WIU faculty, staff, and students, and their immediate families and compare them to people with no direct connection to the university, you’d find a pretty huge difference between the two groups in terms of who they voted for. I think the differences in Hammond vs Curtis voters in the last election were much more closely tied to how closely affiliated they were with the university.


  42. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 1:21 pm:

    Hammond, when it mattered, was NOT a friend of WIU.

    For a whole General Assembly, voted to purposely hurt WIU.

    That’s a fact.


  43. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 1:31 pm:

    * She noticed a group of men in a red pickup truck at a nearby intersection. They yelled a racial epithet at her, Haynes said, and warned that black people “shouldn’t be out at night.” *

    There has been a rise in hate incidents at college campuses. There also appears to be a correlation between what a POTUS says and ensuing hate crimes. The problem now is not just errant or a few words, but an entire presidential platform, tweets and other communications that demonize minorities.


  44. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:02 pm:

    Scott I think it went beyond university because those numbers are way down.Galesburg makes my overall point South Galesburg has no connection to Macomb or WIU. It’s very blue. Go a few miles south southern Knox went from Blue Dog to Red.


  45. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:08 pm:

    ===Hammond, when it mattered, was NOT a friend of WIU.

    For a whole General Assembly, voted to purposely hurt WIU.===

    Oh look, she does appropriations for higher ed too. Nice: https://tinyurl.com/yxd3mcs7


  46. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    - Nick Name -

    Yeah, those who get duped, that’s on them. Forgetting the 99th GA is misunderstanding who folks are.


  47. - Enviro - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:16 pm:

    ===These people might not be from Macomb which tends to be blue ===

    ===Not much blue in Macomb outside of WIU faculty…===

    The students at Western Illinois University are often from the Chicago area and also from the Quad Cities, Peoria, and Bloomington. WIU is a place where the students from small towns near Macomb hear different political opinions from students who live in more urban areas of the state. This benifits all of the students at WIU.


  48. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:19 pm:

    OW, agree.


  49. - Enviro - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    This “benefits” all of the students at WIU.


  50. - Luke Skywalker - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    —Young people have a tendency to identify as rebels. The battle flag is better known as the rebel flag. —

    I think there’s a rebel flag that the kids these days are much more comfortable with

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebel_Alliance


  51. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    The times are perilous, the anger towards folks, economic anger, racial anger, geographical anger… what has been happening in Illinois since 2013 and continues today is embracing economic/racial differences, not in a welcoming, but in a confrontational way and the warmth others feel to be at their ugly worst and it then be an acceptable public behavior, thought, or action.

    Decency and doing right is to be ignored in a fight where some feel threatened, endangered or attacked… for their now overt bigotry on any or all ways… that is embraced these days. We’re regressing as a society. We need to be better.

    (Tips cap to - Nick Name -)


  52. - My head hurts - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 2:37 pm:

    If I was more cynical, I would suggest that the “Fire Jack” episode in Macomb was really a ploy by local Macomb Republicans, including the local business community, to provide political cover for Norine Hammond, who so obviously failed to support WIU during difficult times.


  53. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 3:36 pm:

    ===(Tips cap to - Nick Name -)===

    And to you too.


  54. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 3:39 pm:

    ===I think there’s a rebel flag that the kids these days are much more comfortable with

    Luke, I know you have been stuck on Ahch-To but we are on to the Resistance now

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resistance_(Star_Wars)

    Same emblem, new problems.


  55. - Blue Dog Dem - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 5:14 pm:

    I am not a fan of the rebel flag. Kinda in your face stuff. But Western is in trouble. As I noted last night, SIUC is in trouble. Murders way to frequent in a town that geographically small. Not enough safe havens on the weekend.


  56. - Proud Sucker - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 5:32 pm:

    The only association with the flag on that truck is intimidation. It is not an historical representation, nor is it being used in an educational setting. It is being used along with threatening words directed at minorities.
    That’s why the ‘confederate flag’ in the photo has a silhouette of a machine gun on it. Not sure what the white letters along the bottom spell, but I don’t think its ‘Have a Nice Day’.


  57. - Illinoised - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 7:51 pm:

    The Fire Jack campaign was hurtful for us Macomb/WIU folks who wholeheartedly welcome all of our students. The diversity of our student body is one of the reasons we’ve lived in Macomb and worked/taught at the university.
    It has been disheartening to discover that so many of our friends and neighbors—people we thought we knew—hold such narrow minded views and harbor resentments toward people of color. Our mean spirited POTUS who preaches fear and hate definitely played a role in the painful events last summer. Dark times in Macomb reflect dark times in America.


  58. - thechampaignlife - Tuesday, Nov 5, 19 @ 9:41 pm:

    A similar incident, but with a white truck, happened at UIUC about 2 weeks ago:

    https://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/courts-police-fire/witnesses-man-yelled-racial-slurs-while-driving-truck-with-confederate/article_cc386e61-c5e4-580b-b654-5bc263772fa2.html


  59. - ... - Wednesday, Nov 6, 19 @ 1:16 pm:


  60. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Nov 6, 19 @ 2:17 pm:

    Missing from the Chronicle article was sufficient discussion of what a horrible administrator Dr. Thomas was. He was indecisive, he made difficult (and often wrong) decisions for which he later threw subordinates under the bus, and he never really had the ability or desire to learn the details necessary for good decision-making. As a result, he relied too much on others’ judgment and/or conclusions, and when those decisions proved unpopular, Dr. Thomas blamed them on his subordinates.

    Of course, equally distressing is the just-under-the-surface racism revealed by this (much as Trump’s presidency has revealed the same among much of the US populace). It’s extremely disheartening.

    But make no mistake: Dr. Thomas was an awful president at a time WIU needed a rock star.


  61. - Former WIU Employee - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    Anon @ 2:17 nails it. The article also failed to mention how many jobs Dr. Thomas applied for at the end of his tenure, how many rounds of finalists he made it to and was ultimately passed over. He also knew it was time to leave but was unable to find a new position. He should have been let go several years ago and the board let him linger when it was painfully apparent he and the other upper administration of WIU had no vision and no ideas. Race is a very complex topic and certainly played a role in this but he also showed serious performance deficiencies.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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