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Scotlight: Dr. Ron Hustwit

Dr. Ron Hustwit, a professor who has spent the last 52 years in Wooster’s philosophy department, reflects on his time at the College.

Could you give us a quick introduction?

Hi, I’m Ron Hustwit. I’m in the philosophy department, and I’m an old man. 

How long have you been working at the College?

52 years.

Wow. Amazing. What’s kept you here for 52 years?

Well, a lot of things. I love the place. It doesn’t take long to be here before you know that this is what you wanna do. It’s the right kind of place for the kind of philosophy I wanted to do and the kind of liberal arts education that I wanted to be involved with.

I know it couldn’t have been all peaches and cream for 52 years. What has been an issue with working as a professor at Wooster? 

Life is no peaches and cream, right? There’s a lot of peaches and a lot of cream. I guess you’re asking me something like what are the downsides? … Well, I can talk about what the hardest part of the job is. What I like to do least is grading where you have to pay a lot of attention to sentences and what students say and to get them to write and think clearly — that’s hard. At the same time, it’s the center of the job, too.

You mentioned earlier that you wanted to teach a very particular type of philosophy. What kind of philosophy is that?

First of all, when people ask me what I do in philosophy: “What’s my specialty?” I like to say, “Well I’m in general practice,” which is a medical expression used by doctors who aren’t specialized. I do have specializations in the sense that I’m very interested in the philosophy of language. I would even say that the particular philosophy of Wittgenstein has been influential in my orientation in philosophy. I had a classics minor in both undergraduate and graduate school which means that I was looking directly at ancient philosophy: pre-Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. So, that’s been an important aspect to my relation to the liberal arts that I can use directly in relation to the liberal arts framework, whereas my work in Wittgenstein has more to do with analyzing the language that philosophers use to express their theories. That has a carryover skill — even though it’s very specialized in philosophy; it’s a carryover skill in that it teaches people to pay attention to the details in sentences and language.

You were a faculty member during the Galpin Takeover. Did you have any role to play in Galpin it?

I don’t know what role I  played in it, but Mark Goodwin was my I.S. student, and we were talking about it. Also, Mark invited me to some of the meetings that he was involved in. I knew the other people — Joe Kennedy. He was in some of my classes. Mark Pickett, I didn’t know as well as the others, but I’ve been in conversations with him particularly since he’s been on the Alumni Council Board — those kinds of things. I was in discussions, let’s say that. 

So, then we also had the Galpin Call-in which was earlier this year. Did you have any role to play with that?

Well, I talked to Robert Dinkins ’19. He’s a philosophy major. He did his Junior I.S. with  me, and we had conversations. We talked about the earlier Galpin Takeover, too. But I’ll take no responsibility. Anything that was said, they used with their own power.

What do you feel would be an acceptable role for a professor to play in student campus protests?

I certainly think it’s important for students to talk with faculty, particularly if they’re asked. I would have to be careful about talking to them when they’re not asked, but I would have to see what the situation would be. But yeah, I think it’s important for discussions to take place. And there may be a case where it’s important for faculty to be involved in a demonstration. I think that students may well not know what a faculty person’s role and limits are with respect to actually taking part in something. But I mean, that’s something that would have to be decided by the individual faculty member. But I think it’s important to have open avenues where you’re talking with a student, and you can talk to them openly without challenging and without holding back either. 

Do you have one thing that you want the Voice to know and the students to know?

Well, I have been involved in other kinds of things than simply the Galpin students. I was also involved way back in late ’60s, I guess it was, when there was protests at the football game about the implication of curriculum and also the university changes in policy. And I also, during the Vietnam War, was involved in those kinds of things and did participate in some ways in some of those. I guess looking back at it all, I wanna say that it’s been good. It’s part of what’s supposed to happen at a university. And I’m happy with it.

Interview by Jenelle Booker, a Contributing Writer for the Voice (Photo from PostAndCourier.com).

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