Letter to the Editor – Dave Atchison

Edited for space by John Face. This letter was submitted Wednesday December 15 and is just now being posted due to lack of time earlier this week.

Albion College President Mathew Johnson really crossed a line this week from which there is no return.   His only chance for redemption is an immediate resignation.  Mathew Johnson publicly humiliated Hazel Lias; one of the most respected, most beloved members of our community.  The incident at Tuesday night’s basketball game was so outrageous as to defy any reasonable explanation other than Mathew Johnson is a seriously flawed individual.  Perhaps what may be even more alarming is the willingness of some so-called friends of Hazel to dismiss what happened with a callous “Don’t believe everything you read.”  Well, my response to them is: I don’t believe everything I read but I do believe everything Hazel told me.

I heard about the incident last night and immediately called Hazel.   What she shared with me painted a very sobering picture.  Hazel didn’t mention any physical contact or pushing, but there is no question in her mind or my own, that Mathew Johnson was belligerent, grossly invaded her personal space, publicly scolded her – shaking his finger in her face – as though she was a misbehaving child, and verbally abused her.   

What “provoked” Johnson – what egregious actions by Hazel could remotely explain his behavior?  Apparently, Hazel is simply “guilty” of being a friend of someone who attended the recent mental health protest on Albion College campus.  Let that sink in. Hazel was publicly accosted, berated by the president of Albion College simply because she is a friend of someone who Johnson doesn’t like.  Mathew Johnson was so incensed, so full of his own importance that he directed Hazel to tell the offending individual to “get off my campus and stay off!” 

What’s more, it turns out the subject of Johnson’s personal vendetta wasn’t actually a close friend of Hazel – Johnson simply confused the names and identities of a 6′ 2″ black man who IS a very close friend of Hazel, with a 5′ 9″ white man – just because they both go by the name “Moe”.  Regardless, it is ALWAYS unacceptable to publicly abuse someone, to verbally berate a senior, to publicly humiliate a woman.  Mathew Johnson did exactly that in his official capacity as President of Albion College; attending an official Albion College event on the Albion College Campus.

This was not – IS not a misunderstanding, a mistake, or a temporary lapse in judgment.  This is, but the latest in a long line of outrageous conduct by Johnson and MUST be publicly condemned.  If Mathew Johnson treats a senior black woman this way in public – if he is willing to publicly admonish someone – publicly humiliate them, verbally assault them on the basis of here say – we must each ask ourselves how he treats Albion College faculty, students and other people of color in private.  Mathew Johnson is not fit to lead a cub scout troop, let alone Albion College.  

Where is the oversight by the College Trustees? Where is the morale courage of the Albion Ministerial Association?  Where is the indignation and call for action by our local NAACP officials?  How can anyone claim to care about this community or consider themselves a friend of Hazel Lias and remain silent?  

Dave Atchison

Albion Michigan

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