By Ethan Nichols, Staff Writer
If you picked up a copy of Newswire’s Manresa edition last week – which I hope you did you – may have noticed a letter on page 11 from Ohio Supreme Court Justice and Xavier’s new “Justice in Resident,” Joe Deters.
Now, many of you may not know who Deters is or what the “controversy” he referenced in this letter was all about.
Well, I’d like to lay some of that out for you.
Back in March, it was announced that Xavier would be bringing Deters onto campus to “as part of his role, upon mutual agreement with program leaders and faculty,…participate in various class sessions. He will also take part in events outside of class in academic and co-curricular programs related to his area of professional expertise.”
What many on campus didn’t know was that Deters has a long history of problematic stances, opinions and statements that are openly antithetical to Jesuit values.
Deters, a former Hamilton County prosecutor, not only supports the death penalty but also wants to bring back the firing squad. Numerous courts, civil rights groups and legal experts have condemned the firing squad as cruel and inhumane. Deters believes that death row inmates take “too damn long to die.”
In fact, Deters was condemned by Vatican and Jesuit officials for his stance on the death penalty. The Rev. Paul Mueller, vice director and superior of the Jesuit community at the Vatican Observatory said, “I am disappointed, embarrassed and scandalized that you, not only a Catholic but also a fellow alumnus of St. Xavier High School, have used the platform of your public office to oppose and confuse the moral teaching of the Church in so open a fashion.”
For those unaware, the death penalty is “inadmissible” according to Catholic doctrine.
Now, as you’re probably aware, Xavier has committed itself, multiple times, to principles of anti-racism. How does this relate to Joe Deters, you might ask? Well, let me explain.
Joe Deters does not believe that systemic racism exists. In fact, he believes that the concept of anti-racism harms the Black community.
Deters stated that “the false narrative that police are hunting Black men in the streets hurts the Black community. The belief that we should reduce sentences of violent people because of systemic racism hurts the Black community.”
After an incident in which a group of Black men allegedly beat up a white man, Deters used language so inflammatory and racially insensitive that the Cincinnati Enquirer Editorial Board condemned his remarks.
“The root cause of this is there’s no discipline in the homes, they don’t go to school, you know, they live off the government, no personal accountability and they just beat people up for no reason, and it’s disgusting,” Deters said.
“This is a disturbing set of worn stereotypes for an enforcer of law and order to utter. He should take care not to use his bully pulpit to feed racial discord in our community,” the Enquirer Editorial Board said in response.
Deters consistently flies in the face of not only Jesuit values but also basic principles of human decency.
In fact, last semester, a group of 21 faculty members including the chairs of the history; English, Classics and Modern Languages; Race, Intersectionality, Gender, and Sociology; Philosophy; the Best Chair for Ethics/Religion; and the Chair of the Faculty Committee, wrote an opinion piece in this very publication stating that “the administration’s silence is disingenuous, especially at an institution of higher education that espouses using and teaching civic engagement,” and that “he [Deters] invoked racist dog whistles and victim blamed a sexual assault plaintiff whose case he tried.”
Deters has received pushback from students, faculty and community members. Universally.
Meanwhile, I and others who have spoken have been openly maligned and attacked in the press by the Attorney General of Ohio, local judicial candidates and conservative talk show hosts. I have been called an “atheistic marxist,” “uneducated” and far far worse.
We have been accused of trying to “cancel” Deters. That we are simply partisan hacks attempting to remove a conservative voice from our campus. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
This is not about politics or “cancel culture.” This is about standing up against extremist hatred and rejecting bigotry in all forms. To create an inclusive, accepting and safe campus environment, we can not allow for racist rhetoric to be spewed from a position of authority.
By providing Deters with a distinguished title and elevating his voice, the University has provided Deters with tacit approval and signaled that protecting minority students is not a priority.
The University can not allow Deters’ rhetoric to be elevated any longer. I call on my fellow students to read up on Deters and his history, get educated and make your voices heard.