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November 18, 2016

Given the statements by President Wyatt, Dean Timmerman, and Dean Masood, and the fact that so many faculty leaders have already signed this letter, I do not understand why anyone would be afraid to append their name to it. Even to suggest that retaliation should be feared is an insult to the college leadership and the traditions of the college. It might even be seen as an attempt to intimidate those who disagree with the letter.

Retaliation generally only occurs when someone does something unpopular with the majority. I know that I suffered petty retaliations the two times I declined to sign petitions urging that two of our presidents be removed, but that helped me sort out acquaintances from friends. Daily interactions continued as before, and in some quarters I got more respect for having stood up to the crowd.

I think highly of Monmouth traditions. Two different presidents told local citizens complaining about me that we don’t do business that way. And the previous name for the Quad was Peoples Park. That nomenclature was earned during the Vietnam and Civil Rights era. It’s a shame that has been forgotten. A march from the Quad sounds so dull. And probably nobody remembers that Saul Alinsky spoke on the steps of Wallace Hall in the late Sixties. (Since some may not recognize the name, I add:

So this is nothing new for Monmouth College and the national protests are nothing new, either. That is one of many reasons we study history—it allows us to take a deep breath, remember that we’ve been through difficult times before, and then return to work with confidence that we’ll get through this, too. I remember phone calls from excited activists off campus warning me that President Reagan, then George W. Bush, were reopening the WWII POW camps to hold the liberals who were going to be rounded up. My replies were non-confrontational, but I declined to get excited.

I’m in what might be my last year of part-time teaching here, so it may be my last chance to pass on the wisdom from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC. Compared to the end of the universe, our problems are pretty small.

Our students expect to find calm analysis and reasoned arguments in all our fields of study. Work at that. And please do not retaliate in larger or smaller ways against those who disagree with you. Milton reminded us that one reason for tolerating dissent is that the dissenters might actually be right. It might be time to bring Milton’s Areopagitica (1644) back as a required reading for freshmen.

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