LTE: Open Letter to Northwestern Leadership and Community on Cheer Team Incidents

80 Northwestern women faculty, Letter to the Editor

To President Schapiro, Provost Hagerty, and the Northwestern community,

As women Northwestern faculty, we are dispirited and angry to hear of the recent allegations of racist and sexist practices on the cheer team. Many of us teach topics associated with the history of women, gender and patriarchy, and their intersections with racism and imperialism. We are frankly astounded that at the exact same time that we have been teaching our students about the baneful impacts of these phenomena in history and culture, the university where we work has evidently been engaging in them in blatant and illegal ways.

We take this personally. As women faculty, we stand in solidarity with the women Northwestern students who allege that employees of the university repeatedly demeaned them with racist and sexist policies and did not take their complaints seriously. We are all part of the broader Northwestern community, and we will not stand by in silence.

The “care and support” offered in the administration’s message of Feb. 5 are not what we are looking for. We want accountability. The Daily (Feb. 4th) has reported that “interviews with current and former cheer team members indicate consistent negligence and cover-up from other University officials.” We understand that the details that have emerged so far do not represent the whole story and that there is currently at least one case in federal litigation.

We expect that whatever the resolution of the litigation, the university will prioritize transparency and accountability moving forward. How was it possible that the cheer contract included racist stipulations about cheerleaders’ hair? Which NU employees heard allegations about Pamela Bonnevier’s behavior, and how did they respond? What will be the consequences for those who allowed this to happen, or who failed to follow their legal obligation to report . . . or who tried to keep the matter of Bonnevier’s firing a secret? Who allowed the perpetuation of this broader climate of racism, sexism and entrenched fear of retaliation against those who dared to speak out?

We want the university to apologize directly and unequivocally to the women’s cheer team and indeed to the entire community for the abdication of leadership that this episode represents.

Beyond this incident: When will Northwestern change? We are tired of feeling like our employer is incapable of adequately addressing issues of structural racism and sexism. We are tired of not seeing proactive efforts to get ahead of these challenges. We want to see Northwestern become a national leader in creating and successfully implementing policies that emphasize equity and inclusion across the board, for all people associated with the university – students, faculty, and staff. We are sickened that we are starting so far behind. We demand more from university leadership.


Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Professor of Political Science and Crown Chair in Middle East Studies
Kate Masur, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies
Jessica Winegar, Professor of Anthropology
Amy Stanley, Professor of History
Laura Beth Nielsen, Professor and Chair, Sociology
Susan Pearson, Associate Professor of History
Simone Ipsa-Landa, Associate Professor, Human Development and Social Policy
Ji-Yeon Yuh, Associate Professor of History and Asian-American Studies
Deborah Cohen, Professor and Chair of History
Ann Shola Orloff, Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Board of Lady Managers of the Columbian Exposition Chair
Christiane Rey, Professor of Instruction, Department of French and Italian
Penny Nichols, Associate Professor of Instruction, Spanish
Heather L. Colburn, Professor of Instruction, Department of Spanish & Portuguese
Nathalie Bouzaglo, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portugese
Myrna Garcia, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Latina and Latino Studies
Deborah S. Rosenberg, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Emily Weiss, Mark and Nancy Ratner Professor of Chemistry
Katherine Hoffman, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Caitlin Fitz, Associate Professor of History
Martha Biondi, Professor of African-American Studies
Alyssa D. Garcia, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program
Leslie M. Harris, Professor of History
Lydia Barnett, Associate Professor of History
Mary Weismantel, Professor and Chair of Anthropology
Yarrow Axford, Associate Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences
Kasey Evans, Associate Professor of English
Anna Parkinson, Associate Professor, Department of German
Helen Tilley, Associate Professor of History
Shalini Shankar, Professor of Anthropology
Rebecca Zorach, Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art and Art History
Megan Geigner, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Cook Family Writing Program
Sarah Jacoby, Associate Professor & McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, Religious Studies
Dassia N. Posner, Associate Professor, Theatre and Slavic
Julia Stern, Professor of English
Angela G. Ray, Associate Professor of Communication Studies
Miriam Petty, Associate Professor, Department of Radio/Television/Film
Natasha Trethewey, Board of Trustees Professor of English
Mary Pattillo, Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies
Ava Thompson Greenwell, Professor, Medill
Monica Prasad, Professor of Sociology
Christine Percheski, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Helen Thompson, Professor of English
Michaela Kleber, Assistant Professor of History
Elizabeth Tipton, Associate Professor of Statistics
Sarah Maza, Professor of History
Laura Hein, Professor of History
Janice Radway, Director, Gender & Sexuality Studies.
Patti Wolter, Professor, Medill School of Journalism
Michelle Molina, Associate Professor of Religion
Susan Mango Curtis, Professor, Medill
Katharine Breen, Associate Professor of English
Cynthia Nazarian, Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian
Onnie Rogers, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology/IPR
Christina Normore, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Art History
Susan Hespos, Professor of Psychology
Megan Y. Roberts, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Catherine Carrigan, Lecturer, Radio/Television/Film
Rosemary Bush, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Jillana Enteen, Associate Professor of Instruction, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Assistant Professor of Political Science & Environmental Policy and Culture
Elizabeth Son, Associate Professor of Theatre
Fay Rosner, Associate Professor of Instruction, French
Hilarie Lieb, Associate Professor of Instruction Emeritus, Department of Economics
Mary McGrath, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Erica Weitzman, Associate Professor of German
Loubna El Amine, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Sheila Donohue, Professor of Instruction in English/Creative Writing
Chloe Thurston, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Amanda Logan, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Melissa Rosenzweig, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Anthropology and Environmental Policy & Culture
Sera Young, Associate Professor, Anthropology
kihana miraya ross, Assistant Professor of African American Studies
Karen J. Alter, Lady Board of Managers of the Colombian Exposition Professor of Political Science and Law
Karen Smilowitz, McCormick
Ana Arjona, Associate Professor of Political Science
Carol Heimer, Professor of Sociology
Lina Britto, Associate Professor of History
Michelle Weinberger, Associate Professor, Integrated Marketing Communications, Medill
Ariel Rogers, Associate Professor, Radio/Television/Film
Mimi White, Professor, Radio/Television/Film

Contacts: Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, [email protected]

                  Jessica Winegar, [email protected]

                  Kate Masur, [email protected]

                  Amy Stanley, [email protected]

If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.