A 40th anniversary banner hangs above a passerby at the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College on Monday. The director of the center, Professor Andrew Gulliford, is under fire for an article he wrote in a peer-review journal in which he referred to American indian students by name without their permission./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
well-known Fort Lewis College professor voiced a detailed public apology Tuesday for publishing an article in a peer review journal in which he used anecdotes and written comments from some of his American Indian students without their permission, including sharing culturally sensitive information.
"(I) made mistakes for which I am deeply sorry," read Andrew Gulliford, director of the Center of Southwest Studies, from a prepared statement. "I sincerely apologize for the variety of errors which I made in writing the article."
For several minutes, Gulliford stood before a crowded room on the college campus and repeatedly said he was sorry for publishing the article that many American Indian students, faculty and community members regard as racially offensive, full of stereotypes, inaccurately representative and possibly a civil rights violation.
Reading from a 1`BD-page printed apology, which Gulliford e-mailed to students and faculty a day before, the professor admitted his mistakes and misjudgments and begged for forgiveness.
But Craig Benally, a former student of Gulliford's who was the only student mentioned in the article to publicly come forward Tuesday, rejected the plea.
College considering article’s legal, ethical
Fort Lewis College administrators are considering
if an article published by one of the college’s professors has
any legal and ethical ramifications because of its content.
Andrew Gulliford, director of Center of Southwest Studies, wrote an
article for a peer review journal in which he used actual first names of
former and current American Indian students.
So far, the administration is still processing all of the available
information, said Dave Eppich, assistant to the president of external affairs,
and has not decided on any action.
Eppich said college President Brad Bartel is attempting to reach every
student mentioned in the article to speak to him or her about the situation.
At this point, he said college administrators do not have enough information
and have not moved far enough along in the process to make any recommendation
or take action.
“There is no rush to action, because everyone deserves due process,” Eppich
said. He added that the college wants to be sensitive to and understand
diverse cultures while simultaneously allowing free speech.
“Fort Lewis does not engage in censorship,” he said.
Members of the college’s American Indian community are exploring the
possibility that their civil rights were violated because of the article’s
inclusion of indigenous information. They are also vetting the
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which protects student
privacy and education records. Because Gulliford did not obtain permission
from the 11 students he mentioned in his article, he may have violated
stipulations included in FERPA, according to FLC senior Bill Mendoza.
To date, the only conclusion the college has reached is that Gulliford’s
article did not meet the federal definition of research and is not governed
by the federal regulations of human subject research. Sarah Roberts-Cady,
chair of the college’s Institutional Review Board, said she and other
board members agreed that Gulliford’s article did not fall under
The board is charged with reviewing and approving proposed research
at Fort Lewis College that involves humans. The intent is to ensure
that the research is done ethically. Though Gulliford’s article
named students, Roberts-Cady said he was not under obligation to get
approval from the Institutional Review Board for two specific reasons:
the article did not contain a methodical collection of data and his observations
did not contribute to the general knowledge of a particular field of
The college’s Intercultural Committee, a consortium of FLC staff, has
passed a resolution responding to Gulliford’s article. This committee
is responsible for minority and cultural issues at the college.
In its resolution, the nine-member committee unanimously agreed that
if the college finds Gulliford violated civil rights of students and
tribal intellectual property, or if he violated standards to protect
human subjects in research, Bartel should consider disciplinary action
– Amy Maestas
"I cannot in good conscience accept the apology," Benally told more than 100 people, while Gulliford sat in the audience.
Benally explained that his erstwhile professor's words were nowhere near compensatory for the damage he did to trust between students and faculty and among Native and non-native communities.
In recent weeks, Gulliford's article caused an uproar in the local American Indian community. The article, "The Kokopelli Conundrum: Lessons Learned From Teaching Native American Students," appears in the June/October 2004 issue of
American Studies International
. The peer review journal was a publication of George Washington University.
The article discusses various experiences Gulliford has had while teaching American Indian students at Fort Lewis College, where 18 percent of the student body represents a multitude of American Indian tribes. He includes information from in-class discussions, as well as comments students wrote on their final exams. Though he only uses the students' first names - and usually their real names, not pseudonyms - he often exposes which tribes they belong to and describes family information. In doing so, he shares certain ceremonial and cultural rituals.
Carey Vicenti, a member of the Jicarilla Apache tribe and assistant professor of sociology at Fort Lewis, explained prior to the Tuesday meeting that most tribes regard ceremonial and spiritual information as belonging to the entire tribe, not just an individual. Since it isn't up to an individual tribal member to determine if that information should be widely known, Gulliford's repetition of it could breach the tribes' civil rights and intellectual property.
"(Gulliford) arrogantly appropriated that information and possibly could expose Fort Lewis College to lawsuits," Vicenti explained.
According to Fort Lewis senior Bill Mendoza, Gulliford's publication of aspects of a named tribe's story of creation severely violates any level of ethics.
"That story for this tribe can only be told at a specific time of the year. It is disrespectful to tell it at other times, because if could affect creation," said Mendoza in an interview prior to the meeting.
A member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, Mendoza said equally troubling to him and his peers are the numerous generalizations Gulliford makes about the personality traits, habits and demeanor of American Indian students. They believe Gulliford is perpetuating damaging stereotypes that have no place in the context of history.
Gulliford wrote that his American Indian students were "quiet, well-groomed, with sometimes irrepressible laughter." He also writes that these students are "impeccably polite and never interrupt." To Mendoza, such comments are subtly racist. It particularly bothers Vicenti, who says he has American Indian students who are anything but.
Vicenti denounced Gulliford's actions as "arrogant" yet avoidable. The larger picture, he claims, is that the college has a history of tolerating "racist" actions by its faculty or staff. As examples, Vicenti points to a lack of action at the college on issues of hiring American Indian faculty, fulfilling repatriation acts, and vandalism of a statue in front of the Native American Center.
Also, for at least a decade American Indian students have reported to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that they feel unfairly treated in a variety of ways, including lack of available housing and bungled health care. The state commission continues to have an ongoing interest in the perpetually stated issues.
"If the administration of Fort Lewis College expressed a zero-tolerance policy of racism, I don't think Gulliford would have had the guts to do this," Vicenti charges. "FLC has an atmosphere that is very permissive of racist behavior."
Dave Eppich, assistant to the president of external affairs, vigorously denies that charge.
"FLC does not tolerate racism. There is not an atmosphere of permissiveness," Eppich said.
In his apology letter, Gulliford
explains the background of how the article became published. He stated that he was asked by the editor of the journal to submit a "personal perspective on public history in the Southwest." He chose the subject of tribal preservation because he teaches a course on it and because of his professed commitment to preserving sacred sites.
He added that his article was intended for an audience "who may never have met any Native Americans."
Gulliford did not return phone calls seeking comment. In his apology letter, he explained that he showed one draft of the article to an American Indian student, who suggested some changes. Gulliford made those changes, he said, but he concedes that he should have sought additional feedback.
The response to Gulliford's article has been strong enough that students at FLC have organized the Student Alliance for Appropriate Representation. The group held its first meeting Tuesday night and allowed Gulliford to read his apology. Mendoza followed the apology with a detailed examination of the article, pointing out specific statements and identifying the concerns the group and others in the American Indian community have with them.
Though the group does not intend to tackle issues related only to American Indians, the Gulliford article is currently its focus. Benally urged students to respond loudly and forcibly.
"Fort Lewis is not a boarding school anymore," Benally said when addressing the crowd. "We will not be punished for speaking out To let this go is unconscionable."
Benally's father, Clyde Benally, also spoke at the Tuesday night meeting. A Fort Lewis alumnus, he said that Gulliford violated the "sacred relationship" between student and teacher. Such a violation, he asserted, means Gulliford shouldn't be allowed to continue in his position at the college.
Mendoza believes that this issue is a wake-up call for the college administration. Because of possible rights violations and ethical lapses, he said he is concerned about the college's reputation.
"We are confiding in our community. What it means for a nation as a whole is not up to me. We see this as a threat to the institution, and we are the products of it, and Durango is the holder of this institution."
More importantly, Vicenti added, is the relationship between the school and the American Indian community.
"This event, and particularly how the college responds to it, will test the cohesion between (the two)," Vicenti said. "If they don't respond appropriately, students could be highly alienated from the college and the faculty."