The weeks following the death of George Floyd have brought protests, rioting, and a growing movement known as Black Lives Matter. Despite their distance from campus, students and alumni from Hillsdale College, a small, yet mighty liberal arts college in Michigan, drafted a letter and petition demanding that the school speak out on Black Lives Matter.
That’s when one alumni pushed back…
Tori Hope Petersen published a powerful letter on her experience as a black student at Hillsdale College. As the conservative college does not accept any federal funding, they are not required to record and/or report any statistics to the government, but by-and-large the student body is primary caucasian. That being said, Petersen began writing, “Dear Hillsdale College, I was one of your ‘token black’ students.’
(The Collegian/Carmel Kookegey)
But this letter doesn’t lead where the media wants you to believe it does!
Hillsdale College responded to the student body and alumni call for a statement regarding Black Live Matter by pointing to its stellar record on racial equality, methodically dismantling the argument (as the college teaches its students) that making a statement of solidarity was necessary.
Petersen, a black woman who went into the foster care system at age 12 after growing up in Ohio with a “single, mentally-ill, abusive mother,” attended the school on a track scholarship and a grant. She’s now a wife, a mother, and an advocate for foster youth living in Minnesota, according to The Federalist.
“I look at my acceptance letter and diploma as symbols of the institution seeking justice and equality for those who represent me, and that is: former foster youth, underprivileged, undereducated, pregnant student, white, black, woman, and person,” she wrote.
Petersen’s full letter to the college can be found on her website: HERE.
(Photo/Tori Hope Petersen)
Since the school refuses to accept any government funding, Petersen went to the extent to state that “Hillsdale College’s stance and assistance freed me from the government system that oppressed me and stifled my voice, the system that still shackles young, vulnerable men and women of color.”
She wrote of her experience with Hillsdale College President, Dr. Larry Arnn, recalling her senior year when she attended a casual round table lunch with him. “After I expressed my heart and dream to someday build up a home for those without parental figures, Dr. Arnn affirmed he wanted the same for myself and those children. He offered me an opportunity to visit a home for underprivileged youth that had been one of the most successful homes in the nation, and purchased plane tickets for me in less than twenty-four hours,” she added.
Then the improbable happened.
(Photo/Tori Hope Petersen)
Upon graduating, she became pregnant out of wedlock. Her biggest supporter…Hillsdale College. Petersen wrote, “I felt some students were unkind and some Christians I admired for their faith failed to reflect Jesus when I announced the life of my child, but Hillsdale College’s deans and leadership rallied to support me, my then-boyfriend, and my pre-born, biracial baby. This is a statement of seeing all life as equal.”
The student body and alumni petition collected hundreds of signatures calling for a break of “silence” from the college. In concluding her heartfelt, passionate response, Petersen wrote, “I have never viewed Hillsdale College as silent. I still yearn to practice a virtue the college taught me and displayed in the midst of the most recent racial turmoil— prudence. Hillsdale College doesn’t have to be loud with their words, because they’re bold in their actions and consistent in their education, as they whisper “justice.”
Firm to these words, people immediately responded to Petersen’s post including the woman who wrote the original petition. The petition has since been removed. In a phone interview with The Federalist, Petersen recalled, “She thanked me for starting the dialogue, and then she told me that she was going to donate to the Fostering the Good scholarship. She said, ‘I disagree with you, but I thank you for starting a dialogue and I’m going to donate to the scholarship.’” Fostering the Good is a fund Petersen helped start for Hillsdale students.
“Bold in their action and consistent in their education.”