Oct. 10 Chancellor Mark E. Pagano referred to chair of the UW Tacoma Faculty Assembly, Lauren Montgomery, as a “slave driver” during the Town Hall meeting.
According to Pagano, he was immediately aware of the gravity of his actions.
“I knew I did something wrong and reached out right away,” Pagano said. “If I could go back in time, I would stop and apologize.”
The first person who spoke about the incident with Pagano was Arwa Dubad, president of Associated Students of University of Washington Tacoma. Dubad herself was present during the Town Hall meeting, with Pagano explaining that she was in the first row of students. The two met the following morning at 8 a.m. for a previously scheduled meeting.
Chancellor Pagano says he apologized to Dubad at this meeting personally, as well as the chancellor’s cabinet short thereafter.
“I just mentioned it to him that what he said was really hurtful and offensive, so from there he did apologize,” Dubad said. “He did tell me that his intention wasn’t to be hurtful … he really thought of it as a compliment and the moment he regretted was the minute he said it.”
Pagano proceeded to publicly apologize via email on Oct. 16 to all current faculty, staff and students for the comment. Some questioned the reasoning behind Pagano taking 6 days to email out his apology. After speaking with him, he explained his reasoning.
“I wanted to be very purposeful in my response to the community,” Pagano said.
The aftermath of the comment along with the apology email has been one of a controversial nature among all facets within the university.
Enriqua Berry, vice president of the Black Student Union, saw the comment as problematic, describing it as “obviously racist.” Berry was adamant that the school’s leader must follow its promise of inclusion.
“I just feel like as a chancellor you are supposed to represent the school,” Berry said. “And the school represents diversity, inclusion and equity.”
Dubad agrees, arguing that UWT’s mission statement is not being followed as well as it should be.
“When this whole ‘slave driver’ comment was said, the light was shined on the fact that a lot of our practices don’t follow our mission statement,” Dubad said.
Speaking to Pagano after the comment and public apology, he reiterated that he is devoted to following and further instilling the mission statement.
“Our campus values have to do with diversity and inclusion, and a statement like that is contradictory to those values, and I’m the chancellor of this campus,” Pagano said. “My job as chancellor is to achieve these things and hold our campus accountable.”
Pagano also wants to use this instance as a teaching moment for not just himself, but others on the UWT campus.
“[I want to] keep the discussion on the the table. Solving it is very difficult, but we need to continue to make progress,” Pagano said.
Deidre Raynor, Interim Assistant Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion, also sees this incident as a teaching moment for everyone on campus.
“For those who have knowledge of slavery in the history of the United States, the comment ‘slave driver’ comes with negative connotation,” Raynor said. “This is a great opportunity to teach people what was wrong with that comment.”
She also recognizes that the comment made was not with malicious intent.
Dubad and Raynor both hope that this situation will spark further conversation and action amongst the entire campus, but also acknowledge that conversation has always been a part of the UWT campus. Raynor explained that people are now wanting a tangible action to be made.
“We’ve been having conversations for a very long time,” Dubad said. “Civil dialogue, sure, I will get behind it. But if if that civil dialogue does not lead to action, than those conversations were a waste of my time.”
Chancellor Pagano recognized people’s need for continued conversation, wanting his incident to result in change.
“What I hope happens it that we learn from it, especially me, and turn it into something positive,” Pagano said.
Kelsie is a senior at UWT and is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Tacoma Ledger. She is double majoring in creative writing and film studies, and has fiction published in the Tahoma West literary arts journal. In her spare time, she enjoys stage managing local Tacoma theater productions and working as a barista at Volcano Coffee in Puyallup.