A message from President Harring to the Muhlenberg College community
Monday, September 13, 2021

To the Muhlenberg Community,

Our commitment to becoming an inclusive and equitable community requires us to reflect not only on our present but also on our past with a critical lens. I want to share an incident that occurred several years ago that was recently shared with me. The incident involved past theatre performances at Muhlenberg containing offensive racial stereotypes. While these shows were performed more than 10 years ago, it is important to acknowledge the impact that the use of racial stereotypes had—and continues to have—on members of the Muhlenberg community. Specifically, we were made aware of a 2010 production of The Mikado at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre which featured examples of yellowface and a related photo gallery of the performance that was on our website. We removed the images and we provided a footnote explaining the reason for this action.

Also troubling was a backstage video that was independently created by a student during the time of the production. The video displayed overtly racist behaviors and was posted on an individual's personal social media. Fortunately, this video is no longer available publicly and from all that we can tell, has been removed from circulation by the owner. The video of past student behavior coupled with the production of The Mikado are important reminders that we must be diligent in considering the selection of works we offer in our community and must consider the ways they may influence or give rise to overt and implicit bias actions by community members.

On behalf of the College and the Theatre & Dance Department, I want to offer a sincere apology for the harm that the stereotypes depicted in these performances and associated photos have caused current members of our AAPI community and alumni who may have been subjected to this incident when it occurred.

Finally, I want to thank the alumni and members of the Asian Student Association who, together, brought these important issues to our attention. The courage of students then and now who speak up about injustice has made us a better community.  And yet, we know we have much more work to do to fully realize the ideals of equity and inclusion for all members of the Muhlenberg community. We must remain committed to this collective effort as we begin a new academic year.

Kathleen Harring