Students Protest ‘Racist’ Comments of OU Donor

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A handful of students staged a quiet protest outside of Ohio University’s Schoonover Center for Communication on Friday in response to what they call “racist” comments made in an email by an OU Foundation trustee.

The protestors, primarily members from the Ohio University Student Union, issued a petition earlier this week, calling for the resignation of OU Foundation trustees Steven Schoonover, Charles Beck, and Ray Schilderink. The protesters also issued demands for the removal of Schoonover’s name from the new home of the Scripps College of Communication and increased transparency from the university.

“I would appreciate (Schoonover’s) resignation from the board. We don’t need that kind of negativity toward our students and faculty,” student protestor Ellenore Holbrook said. “But I mean, money? If he wants to give us every single dime out his bank account, that’s fine by me.”

Schoonover, a major Ohio University donor and OU Foundation Trustee, donated $7.5 million for the construction of the Schoonover Center.

The Athens News previously reported that Schoonover wrote an email to other Foundation Trustees and OU administrators suggesting administrators “handle it the same way the Democrats do every time Republicans attack President Obama… They label them racists.

“So if you are worried about the petition by the Faculty just play the race card and call them racists and make them defend themselves! They pull that in Washington everyday!”

In further comments, Schoonover called student and faculty demonstrators “loudmouths.”

Schoonover’s remarks were supported in separate emails by Beck and Schilderink.

Schoonover references the student and faculty protests over the university’s decision to spend $1.2 million to lease a property for President Roderick McDavis and his wife, Deborah McDavis.

In an op-ed for The Athens News that ran on July 15Schoonover apologized for his comments, saying that they were not meant to be taken seriously.

“My off-the-cuff statements were not intended to be serious, nor do they reflect my actual feelings toward the faculty and students at Ohio University,” Schoonover wrote. “Read carefully, the “race card” comment was actually a criticism of the way things are handled at other places, not at Ohio University. I would never seriously recommend any such action, nor would President McDavis or the university administration condone such accusations.”

Schoonover also reiterated his contributions to the university and his volunteerism on the OU Foundation, a fundraising arm of the university.

The university did not comment on the Schoonover controversy in an emailed statement sent Friday afternoon, but commented on the protest.

“Ohio University deeply values free speech,” OU spokesperson Katie Quaranta wrote. “We are glad that members of the university community feel comfortable voicing their opinions in a peaceful manner.”