MILWAUKEE — The Marquette student newspaper reported that the son of the President of Marquette University has dropped out because of racist and sexist remarks he made online.
The Marquette Wire story cites two anonymous students who came to them with proof of the posts Matt Lovell made online during his freshman year. Marquette President Mike Lovell released this statement.
"Our son made a serious mistake. Words cannot express Matt's regret or our entire family's sorrow for any pain these posts caused. We were not aware of the posts, we do not condone them and they do not reflect our family's values. Matt has taken full responsibility for his actions and his withdrawn from Marquette University. Our work is focused on healing and equity. We are deeply committed to this. We also love our son unconditionally and know this mistake does not reflect his character or define him. Matt suffers from anxiety and clinical depression and was seeking acceptance, which he, unfortunately, found in a toxic online community that contradicts our family's beliefs. We continue to support his growth and healing."
The Marquette Wire says Lovell posted memes on a social media account with roughly 24,000 followers. The memes had derogatory statements about prominent Black figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Barack Obama, along with comments making light of sexual assault.
Lovell responded to the Marquette Wire with this apology statement.
"I deeply regret having posted offensive, racist, and sexist images on social media. The images do not reflect who I am or the values my family lives by."
"I can accept an apology, but I just want to see what you're going to do differently,” Jacqueline Oraedu, Class of 2011 said. “When I read his response, the first thought was this is definitely an appropriate response.”
Oraedu says, as the only African American student in her nursing class, Lovell’s remarks were cause for concern.
“You don't feel comfortable in environments already,” Oraedu said. “You realize, it's just me. And you don't want to think that about the conversations you only imagine or you know, there are your classmates maybe having our actual conversations.”
Marquette’s incoming freshman class in 2019 was just four percent Black as compared to 68 percent white. She enjoyed her time at Marquette and looks back on it fondly and she doesn’t think this is representative of the University as a whole. But now she says, her concerns go deeper than just the social media posts.
"If you feel this comfortable posting something like this, what type of conversations, have you had at home?” Oraedu said. “Why would you think it's okay."
Travis Chambers, Class of 2018, says he has heard stories to the contrary.
"I have had numerous conversations with traditional students who tend to run into situations or circles or incidents that they feel are very reflective of the incident itself,” Chambers said.
Even with the conversations he’s had, Chambers feels good about how President Lovell handled the situation internally in his family.
Earlier this year, the University rescinded a scholarship for an incoming Women’s lacrosse player because of insensitive comments she made online about George Floyd. He thinks the repercussions Matt Lovell is facing are a sign that the head of the University will view all of these cases with the same magnifying glass.
"I will say that I was overly impressed with what the outcome was in terms of removing him and kind of sticking true to that if you see something, say something,” Chambers said.
The Marquette Wire says the two anonymous students came forward after seeing the scholarship being taken away from the incoming Women’s lacrosse player. In the current climate around social justice protests, protesters frequently have signs saying “white silence is violence” or something similar. These sentiments are to say the years of silence have made those people complicit in racist actions.
Now, both Chambers and Oraedu feel this is an example of why it’s so important to speak out about wrongdoing no matter who the person at fault is.
"I'm thinking, you have a powerful position, I'm not going to say anything,” Oraedu said. “But the people who did come forward, it's because the time is actually right to do it. There's an atmosphere.”
"I commend the two who spoke up,” Chambers said. “I hate that we're still in the space where people feel like they need to be anonymous out of fear of repercussion.”
President Lovell declined an interview request with TMJ4 News, but he, his wife, and his son were quoted on the Marquette Wire at much greater length than the statement provided to TMJ4 News. Visit their website for the full story.