Concordia University Alumni Want Board Member Removed Over Sexist Comments

Dom Pates / Flickr
Dom Pates / Flickr

Concordia University Alumni Want Board Member Removed Over Sexist Comments

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Alumni at Concordia University Chicago want the school’s board of regents to remove one member after they discovered sexist and racist comments attributed to him online.

According to screenshots from Facebook, regents member Eric Hiller made comments like all forms of feminism are “pure evil,” and “women have authority, because weak, lazy, cowardly men GIVE them authority. It is the fault of men this has happened.”

“You want to be rich?” Hiller wrote. “Collect every dollar for every boomer father and grandfather blathering to his daughter or granddaughter, ‘You can be anything you want to be!!!,’ rather than ‘God wants you to serve in these prescribed vocations.’”

Hiller also made comments on Facebook about minorities and affirmative action that offended students and alumni. He also used phrases like “soyboy,” which is an insult often used online by the far right.

The alumni and student group started an online petition calling for Hiller’s removal or resignation. Some 57% of Concordia students are female. One-third are Hispanic and 11% are African American. It was recently designated a “Hispanic Serving Institution” by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Eric Arno Hiller’s words incite hatred of generations, hatred of women, hatred of men, hatred of people who are “different,” and hatred of broken and hurting people who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus,” the petition stated.

Since Thursday afternoon, the petition had received nearly 2,400 signatures. River Forest-based Concordia is a Lutheran school

“We don’t think he’s fit for service,” said Arif Negiz, who graduated from Concordia in 2011 and was one of the graduates who discovered some of Hiller’s comments on Facebook. “He shouldn’t be making decisions that impact [more than] 5,000 students.”

Hiller did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Emails to board members went unanswered.

In the past two weeks, newly appointed CUC president Russell Dawn has sent two letters to the school community about the controversy surrounding Hiller’s comments without specifically mentioning his name.

“We cannot speak directly to the comments made by a particular member of the university’s board of regents, or to the surrounding controversy,” Dawn wrote. “We will, however, continue to celebrate the good work our Lord carries out every day among the men and women of Concordia University Chicago.”

A few days later, Dawn sent a second letter stating he had heard from community members who expressed that the original message was “insufficient because it did not address any specific aspects of the board member’s comments.”

Dawn said the president’s office is under the authority of the board so he does not have the power to address any member’s comments. He reiterated that Concordia-Chicago doesn’t uphold derogatory statements toward women or minorities and said he’s working with the board to reach a “just conclusion.”

But alumni like David Gillaspie said those statements ring hollow.

“If that really is what Concordia is, and that’s what President Dawn says Concordia is, then Eric Hiller has no place representing a Concordia like that,” Gillaspie said.

The CUC board of regents meeting are Sept. 20 and 21. Gillaspie said the group of alumni are working to get the board to discuss Hiller’s comments. It would take a two-thirds vote of the board to remove Hiller.

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.