SEARCY, Ark. (KARK) — In an early Sept. Facebook post, a Harding professor appeared to “victim blame” Eliza Fletcher, the Memphis jogger who was kidnapped and murdered this month. Since then, he has deleted the post and posted an apology, saying he has learned from the incident.
Ellis Sloan is an Assistant Professor of Business at Harding, according to the university’s website. According to a screenshot sent to KARK, a Sept. 3 Facebook post was related to Fletcher.
“So, a woman goes jogging by herself at 4am in Memphis (but it could have been anywhere) and she is abducted. Shocker!! I am so, so sorry something bad happened to her, but she put herself in harm’s way for being anywhere at 4am by herself. Maybe her husband should have been more forceful. People everywhere, please remember this incident as you make decisions in the future. We all pray this ends well,” the post read.
The post has been accused of “victim blaming” by some in the community.
“It’s kind of like she was blamed for being a woman,” said Shantella Davis, who lives in White Co.
For transparency purposes, Davis is a candidate for Arkansas’ legislature.
“As far as being reprimanded, that’s going to be definitely on Harding,” Davis said. “Definitely, an investigation should take place.”
Harding University provided a statement through a spokesperson.
“We find the event that happened in Memphis deeply tragic and express our condolences to family and friends of Eliza Fletcher.
Individual comments or private social media posts from anyone in the University community do not represent the institution.”
For Sloan’s part, he took down the post and apologized on Facebook. According to a screenshot, he offered prayers for Fletcher’s family and suggested his wording was wrong.
Sloan declined an on-camera interview, but he sent a lengthy statement.
“On September 3rd I, like you, heard the report about the abduction of Eliza Fletcher. Another tragic event in what seems to be a surge in violence. As I processed the news, different dimensions of my life came into play. I am a son, a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle and a mentor. These roles affect how we think and feel. In addition, we are all products of the times in which we were raised. I am 64 years old. My father instilled in me spirit of caretaker and protector. My instinct was to say, “we all need to be careful.” Sadly, saying that today can be interpreted as toxic masculinity and victim blaming. I understand how that can happen, and I take full responsibility for the words I chose. But, there is no doubt that context is important. So, I want to provide context. No excuses, but context.
1- I wrote and expressed myself poorly, and I did so only as a private individual.
2- A few of my friends brought their concerns to my attention. I explained to them where I was coming from. In fact, several people who are my age shared with me that they had reacted exactly as I had. Once I was educated by my friends, I agreed that my original words did not convey my care and concern. That is so sad to me because I was coming from a place of care and concern, but my words did not express that. I apologized. I did this publicly on social media. I think it is important to take responsibility and to apologize, so I did so publicly, more than once. I edited my original post to remove harsh words. I explained and apologized. What more can a person do other than to take responsibility, to learn and to apologize?
3- 2.5 weeks after this happened, someone on Instagram, who uses an anonymous “handle”, decided to post my original words on Instagram. They deliberately excluded my explanation and my apologies. They took it a step further and published the email of my supervisor at work. They encouraged people to contact my supervisor. Why? Because they disagreed with my original post? Because they had no room in their hearts to accept my apologies and to forgive?
To accuse me of giving Mrs. Fletcher no quarter or grace, while simultaneously giving me no quarter or grace?
4- Here is the bottom line. I wanted to express care and concern. I failed to do that. I am sincerely sorry that my words gave people an opportunity to make interpretations that are corrosive and that were so far from what I meant to say. I understand how my words looked to some people. Once my friends shared those thoughts with me, I provided context and apologies. I wrote those words. I am responsible for those words. I changed those words. I provided context. I apologized. I have learned from it. Now, I am asking all of those who have been so ugly to me and who have refused to accept my responsibility and my apologies to show me the grace they want me to show Eliza Fletcher. Eliza, may you rest in peace. The world lost a precious soul on September 3rd. Parents lost a daughter. Brothers and sisters lost a sibling. A husband lost a wife. Two young children lost a mother. Friends lost a lovely companion. Students lost a talented and caring teacher. I hope this is not lost in our conversation.”