Looks like we have closure on the Nigaleian controversy. Below is the letter sent by Dean Lenhart to all faculty and staff yesterday. (Thanks to fellow EphBlogger Andy Chiu ’00.)


To the Williams Community,

I am writing to update you on the matter of the discrimination grievance proceedings that I spoke about at the Faculty Meeting in September. The faculty members involved — Professor Laylah Ali and Professor Aida Laleian — have come to an early agreement. The process that led to this agreement was initiated by Professor Ali and accepted by Professor Laleian.

I have been asked by both faculty members to make public the apologies of Professor Laleian. Her two letters — to Professor Ali and to the college community — are printed here below, in full.

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Dear Professor Ali:

In the studio honors meeting held on May 17, I conducted myself toward you in a manner which was unconscionable. I used racially charged language that was enormously hurtful. What I did was profoundly wrong and was completely unprovoked. Your statements were reasonable and professional, and I responded in a manner that was unreasonable, angry, emotional, and deeply offensive.

There is no excuse for that sort of expression in any discourse, and certainly not in the context of an academic institution. As a result of my behavior, the atmosphere in the room became so offensive that you were essentially forced to leave the room. As a result, you were excluded from participation in an important aspect of your work within the department. In this you were doubly wronged, first by the hurt that I caused, and secondly by your being prevented from taking part in departmental discussion and decisions. I accept responsibility for creating a climate in that room most inhospitable to you as a colleague: a climate that interfered even with your ability to do your job.

Both for the pain which I caused and for the manner in which I have compromised your ability to effectively work within the department, I have the deepest regrets. I want to offer to you a sincere apology for this.

Sincerely,

Aida Laleian

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To the College Community,

I have not addressed the Williams community before this because I was asked to maintain confidentiality, but also because I remain deeply ashamed of my words and behavior. I am immensely grieved to recognize that the hurt, which I caused, is now felt by the whole of the community. Continuing to this day, I feel terribly saddened and enormously sorry for having caused this harm to Professor Ali, to the other members of my department, and to the college as a whole. I want to make my most sincere, heartfelt apology to all.

Sincerely,

Aida Laleian

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In response to Professor Laleian’s apology, Professor Ali has asked that the following statement also be released:

My reason for pursuing the discrimination grievance procedure was to see that the gravity of the incident was recognized by the person responsible. I felt that it would only be possible for us to work together in the future if Professor Laleian took responsibility for her actions at our May meeting. She has made a statement of apology that offers a sense of the fundamental breach that occurred at our meeting, and I accept that apology. By her acknowledgement of the seriousness of what happened, we can begin to move on, and I hope that some trust can be rebuilt over time.

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At this point, Professors Ali and Laleian have agreed to bring this matter to a close. I am hopeful that this agreement will allow the community to move forward.

Sincerely,

William J. Lenhart
Dean of the Faculty

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