Thursday, October 22, 2009

HU President Issues Statement Regarding Miss HU

To:The Hampton University Community
From:William R. Harvey
Date:October 20, 2009
Re:Miss Hampton University

Miss Nikole Churchill, a beautiful, talented, articulate, and personable young lady, was elected by a panel of judges to reign as Miss Hampton University for the 2009-10 academic year. Miss Churchill was born in Hawaii, the same state as our founder, General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, and President Barack Obama. She is of mixed heritage with her mother being Italian and her father from the island of Guam.

With her being the first non-African American to hold the title of Miss Hampton University, it drew a lot of attention to the University, some of which was negative. Just two days after being named Miss Hampton, Nikole, feeling unaccepted by some of her peers, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama to share her dismay. The letter was posted on the internet, and it quickly circulated nationally and internationally. She later issued a statement to the campus community informing them that she "took the comments of a few and blew it out of proportion.”

After explaining what prompted her letter to President Obama and apologizing for doing so in a meeting with over 100 of the student leaders, they not only accepted her apology, but gave her an ovation and pledged to work with her. Even though it turned out not to be as major an issue as some tried to make it, the media has continued the controversy.

As President of Hampton University, I firmly disagree with any who believe that Miss Hampton should only be an African American. Many of us have fought white racism all of our lives, and therefore will not allow black racism (even from a few) to rear its ugly head at Hampton. It is very clear to me that the vast majority of our students, including the SGA President and other elected leaders are very supportive of Miss Churchill and her selection as Miss Hampton University. At the Homecoming Week Fashion Show, the students in attendance also gave her a standing ovation.

Throughout our history, Hampton has been a beacon of light for equality, freedom, and tolerance. Starting with our founder, who was white, the collective efforts of our faculty, staff, students, and administration have prompted and promoted diversity. General Armstrong opened a school for black recently freed slaves. Some ten years later, he pioneered Native-American education in this country. Additionally, he traveled widely inviting students from many, many countries to be a part of the Hampton family. General Armstrong used to say often that Hampton students "girdled the world." Therefore, we have always had people of all races and colors associated with us as students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Currently, Hampton University has 29 countries represented in the student body and 45 countries represented among the faculty. Having embraced diversity as part of our history and legacy, Hampton University has been able to establish itself not only as an historically black university of exceptional note, but also welcomes and embraces students and their cultures from around the world. That is our history, legacy, and mission. And we shall continue to be true to those ideals.

Miss Nikole Churchill will make a wonderful Miss Hampton University. She will represent the students and the University in an exemplary fashion. I urge all Hamptonians to support her enthusiastically and not participate in any media sensationalism regarding this issue.

# HU #