Ohio’s University of Toledo is changing its process for bestowing its Inclusive Excellence Award after facing backlash from students and alumni for giving this year’s prize to a conservative law professor.
Dr. Willie McKether, the vice president of diversity and inclusion and vice provost at the university wrote in a school blog post last week the nomination and review process would be updated “to be sure we have diverse perspectives during the selection process for this honor.”
University of Toledo Law School Professor Lee Strang captured this year’s award, only the second time it’s been presented, after “an overwhelming number of faculty nominations focused on his presence in the classroom where he ‘enjoys and respects a good healthy debate,’ as one nominator wrote,” McKether explained.
Students and alumni however, were outraged, at the celebration of intellectual diversity.
According to a local NBC affiliate reporting Tuesday, sophomore Liam Walsh, the outlet described as “a member of the LGBT!+ community,” launched a petition which garnered more than 800 signatures to protest the school’s decision.”
“You don’t feel included or safe,” Walsh said after students unearthed a 2003 opinion piece from Strang critical of homosexuality he wrote while at Harvard. “I’m still going to be who I am, but I am less inclined to be open about that on campus.”
When reached for comment, the university pointed The Federalist to a statement on the award posted by McKether on the school’s page for diversity and inclusion.
“In these first two years of the awards in 2019 and 2021,” McKether wrote, where last year’s award was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the recipients have been selected based exclusively on the nominations submitted.”
“We are working to revise the nomination and review process to be sure we take a comprehensive approach in selecting the recipients to ensure their bodies of work represent our diversity and inclusion values,” McKether continued.
Part of that reform, includes requesting submissions for nominees from alumni.