Important Muhlenberg Update

A message from President Harring to the Muhlenberg College community

 Friday, September 4, 2020 06:02 PM

To the Muhlenberg Community,

I am writing to you today to correct a number of inaccuracies being circulated about the removal of face masks from the College bookstore as a result of a recently published news story. While a Friday evening is not an ideal time to write, I feel compelled to do so in order to share factual and contextual information. 

We were faced with two issues when dealing with the face masks in question, one policy-related and the other values-focused. The College’s practice is to not sell merchandise that supports political or social causes. We believe profiting from any cause would be against our basic values to respect differing viewpoints and constructive discussion. That is why the bookstore was instructed to remove “Thin Blue Line” face masks once we learned they were being sold. And it’s important to note other cause-related face masks, such as those for Black Lives Matter, have not been sold in the bookstore.

Additionally, and of critical import, is what the Thin Blue Line has come to represent. For those unfamiliar with the symbol, it includes a black and white American flag with a single blue line running through the middle (Thin Blue Line). Traditionally, the Thin Blue Line symbol stood for respect and support of our nation’s police officers. In recent years, however, it has been adopted by white nationalist groups, along with Confederate and Nazi imagery. It is unfortunate this symbol has been co-opted and come to stand for division between the police and communities of color.

The College supports safe, equitable and inclusive policing practices and our campus law enforcement officers, who are important members of the Muhlenberg community. We have great respect for law enforcement officers and first-responders who play a valuable role in maintaining the safety of our College and local community.

Media coverage to date of what occurred, and why, have been inaccurate and led to disrespectful and at times threatening messages to members of our campus community. Muhlenberg is committed to a diverse community, to an environment where differing points of view can be shared and healthy discussion can ensue. This is what institutions of education do: foster respectful dialogue and support the exploration of differing perspectives.

Supporting our campus law enforcement officers and working to become a more inclusive and anti-racist institution are not antithetical goals. Both actions are aligned with the College’s mission. Muhlenberg remains committed to the difficult and necessary journey to ensure that we live our values.

In the weeks ahead we’ll be sharing information about events for the Fall semester that provide opportunities for community members to come together and discuss issues like this and to learn from one another.

With respect,

Kathleen E. Harring