Letter to the Editors
I spend a lot of time listening to Wooster students talk about their experiences here. I do this in person, in small groups, in conversations around campus, and at events like the Safety Awareness Forum held on Tuesday. By listening I learn important things about what we are doing well as a college, how we are fulfilling our mission with integrity, but also about ways in which we fall short of our ideals.
One of the comments I hear all too frequently, sometimes offered playfully and sometimes as a criticism, is that the “The College of Wooster is a bubble.” What is meant, either as affectionate praise or as frustrated criticism, is that the campus is somehow isolated from the “real world.” I assure you it is not.
American society is rife with racism, homophobia, gender discrimination, and growing socio-economic inequalities that are producing resentment and hostility. While the college is a profound force for social change, replacing ignorance with understanding, and developing in our students the capacities to have a voice and take a stand, we exist in a larger social context that influences and constitutes our campus community. A quarter of our student population comes to us anew each fall, from all walks of life, and carrying with them the full range of beliefs and biases, values and attitudes, that one finds in society. What is more, our campus is situated in a community with all of the diversity of identity and opinion that marks American society at large. What this means is that we all — students, faculty, and staff — must expect to find the ills that haunt our society within and beside our campus community. The College of Wooster is not a bubble.
The College of Wooster is, however, an institution of higher learning and among the very best. Our mission is to prepare students to become leaders of character and influence in an interdependent global community, to ask important questions, research issues, solve problems, and communicate insight. In other words, we do not exist to stand apart from society and study its ills, but to engage that society and seek to produce positive social change. I commend the program to you described elsewhere in this issue, “Safe, Sober, and Smart: It’s Your Future.” Its themes are part of the solution.
When we sign The Wooster Ethic I believe we are agreeing not only to act with integrity ourselves but to be activists, seeking to promote the core values of the college throughout campus life. This means that we will be respectful and law-abiding ourselves even as we vigorously resist disrespect and disregard for the law by others.
I know as President that I need to use the authority invested in my office to advance Wooster’s mission, to protect the integrity of what is deep and good about this fine college, to be open to honest criticism about where we fall short, and to muster our resources to address those shortcomings. We have instances of hostility towards our students, faculty, and staff on Beall Avenue that create a climate of trepidation. We have instances of racial and homophobic slurs among members of our campus community. I am going to do all I can, given my position, to address these patterns of behavior that are inconsistent with our ideals. I hope you will do the same.