Petition calls for busts of Reagan, Thatcher, others to be removed from Chapman U. campus

The petition suggests that eliminating and replacing the busts would "create a safer and more inclusive environment for Chapman's marginalized students and community."

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U.S. President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in May 1982
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in May 1982
(Shepard Sherbell/Corbis via Getty Images)
Updated: August 8, 2020 - 12:45pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

An online petition calling for Chapman University to remove five busts from campus, including those of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, has garnered more than 700 signatures.

"In order to create a safer and more inclusive environment for Chapman's marginalized students and community, we feel the busts of Ronald Reagan, Albert Schweitzer, Margaret Thatcher, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand need to be removed and replaced," the petition says.

The petition includes the text of a "letter to the administration that will be sent to them once this petition has been shared enough."

The letter states: "We feel it is hypocritical as an institution to express support to your marginalized students yet allow for the continued presence of busts that invoke feelings of exclusion and oppression each day as they walk through campus. Along with the removal contributing to a more inclusive and welcome environment, taking down the busts would aid a predominately white institution’s efforts to diversify its student body and faculty."

It includes examples of objections against the five figures, accompanied by a "Works Cited" section.

"Ignored the AIDS epidemic for much of his presidency while thousands of gay people died," one of the points listed under Reagan's name says.

"Despised immigrants from other cultures (non white) as she feared they would change the culture of Britain," a point listed under Thatcher's name declares.

The letter also includes nine suggestions for possible alternative replacement busts, including: Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Harvey Milk, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, John Lewis, Cesar Chavez, James Baldwin and Dolores Huerta.

"While some believe the removal of busts and statues equates to erasing history and hiding past mistakes, we believe their removal provides opportunity for deeper understanding and engagement in history," the letter reads. "We believe the removal provides not only a display of allyship, but also a hopeful opportunity for educating students on the ways these historical figures abused their power to mistreat others."

In a campus email that the institution provided to Campus Reform, Chapman University President Daniele Struppa said that he had read the petition but that he disagreed with the idea that removing the busts would accomplish the aims the petition discussed.

"I have carefully read it [the petition] and I appreciate its emphasis on a shared reflection of who we are as an institution and how our physical campus reflects our collective values," Struppa wrote. "As stated in the petition, many believe the removal of particular busts will provide an opportunity for deeper understanding of and engagement with history while creating a safer environment for students. While I am deeply committed to both of these goals, I strongly believe that the removal of these busts is counter to accomplishing those very objectives."

Busts of former President Reagan and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz were stolen from the campus in 2011. The bust of Shultz was later located in a garbage bin, according to the Orange County Register

In 2015 students placed yellow "caution" tape on the bases of the same five busts that the new petition seeks to have removed. The tape was accompanied by signs that were also posted on the bases.

"Ronald Reagan is under student review due to racism, classism, and homophobia," a sign placed on the base of the former president's bust declared.

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