TENNESSEE: Vandals Repeatedly Target Campus Home of Sewanee Vice Chancellor
The on-campus home of Vice Chancellor Reuben Brigety II has been repeatedly vandalized throughout his first year of leading the University of the South.
During a Sunday worship service at All Saints’ Chapel, Brigety detailed the nighttime incidents that happened outside Chen Hall, which is where he resides with his family.
“They have trashed our lawn with beer cans and liquor bottles. They have left threatening messages on pilfered signs near our back door and they have taken measures to ensure that my family and I saw the indecent insults that they left behind,” Brigety said in a video of his Sunday address.
Brigety, the first African American to lead the Episcopal college, was appointed vice chancellor and president of the University of the South about a year ago. He has led the small, Christian liberal arts school known familiarly as Sewanee through the coronavirus pandemic. Brigety is also helping the university continue to reckon with its Confederate past.
On Sunday, Brigety not only spoke about the vandalism, but also issued a call to action. While he does not think the vandalism represents who the university community is broadly, Brigety asked everyone to consider what values they want represented at Sewanee and to reject the ones they do not.
“It is up to us to decide who we are, what we will tolerate and how we will live together,” Brigety said. “I invite you to be a part of this conversation to reassert and reinforce what it means for Sewanee to truly dwell together in unity.”
The campus-wide conversations start Thursday, said Laurie Saxton, a university spokesperson, in an email. School leaders do not know the motives behind the vandalism, which has been reported to the university’s director of public safety, she said.
His Sunday remarks spurred alumni to start a petition condemning the vandalism. Saxton said the support is welcome, but Brigety’s talk was aimed at the campus community.
Brigety said during his Sunday address that he kept the indignities quiet for months until a tequila bottle was smashed near their front door on the final day of classes last semester. It happened after he led the university community in mourning the death of a sophomore Ava Hingson, who died last year in a horseback riding accident.
“When that final insult — a liquor bottle dripping with conceit and contempt — was hurled at my family not hours after our community had commended our beloved Ava to the heavens, I knew that I could no longer be silent,” Brigety said. “As a father who desperately loves his own children and as a husband who walks in partnership with his wife, I had to take a stand against the phantoms who continued to disrespect my family and our home in the dark of night.”
Brigety said he has forgiven the vandals just as Jesus teaches. But he also called for reform and said he will not stand for anyone being denigrated or intimidated.
“The sanctity, the security and the dignity of my family are inviolate and we are not leaving,” Brigety said. “I cannot abide and I will not tolerate any further incursions onto the grounds of Chen Hall or God forbid inside of it. In demanding respect for my family and our home, I am simply doing what any other husband or father would do who would be worthy of the name.”