Lieutenant Joseph Cunje, despite 30 years of dedicated service to Oxy, was wrongfully and inhumanely terminated. We, members of CODE, call for a thorough and transparent investigation of the reasons for and mode of Joe’s dismissal. Accusations of inaccuracies in Prof. Boesche’s letter are unsupported in the Dean’s message. Further, in the face of a firing of a decades long loyal and dedicated member of the community, claims of confidentiality are insufficient. The Dean needs to substantiate his claims with concrete evidence, a trail of due process, and an explanation of why other alternative outcomes, if any, were not chosen.
Sadly, we fear that Joe’s situation is not an isolated incident. What Prof. Boesche refers to as “a poison in the atmosphere on this campus” has indeed been registered by students, faculty, and staff as a mounting culture of intimidation, retaliation, and surveillance targeting critics of the administration and members of the campus community who are interested in making Oxy a more just and equitable institution. As Prof. Boesche reminds us, this has not always been the case.
In order to restore and enhance a culture of trust and pride on campus and among our dedicated alumni, we demand that the administration prioritize student safety, diversity, and intellectual rigor rather than abusing protocols of confidentiality and misapplied “risk management” to protect its questionable decisions. All too often, these “risks” are women, people of color, the dis/abled, non-heterosexual and transgender members of our community. Conferring dignity to venerable employees like Joe is a crucial start but not enough. We call for structural changes, including the hiring of an ombudsperson, increased transparency and oversight among divisions of the college, and the establishment of a Vice-President and Office of Diversity and Equity. Please join us in bringing Occidental College’s mission of excellence, equity, community, and service into a better future.