Office of the Provost
Patriot Act Resolution
As many of you know, the Faculty's resolution on the Patriot Act has sparked controversy in the local paper. I anticipate the criticisms of our faculty will continue in the paper via letters to the editor, etc. Students will no doubt have questions and concerns as they read today's paper.
I am writing to encourage you to find the teachable moments in these questions and to use this controversy as an opportunity to model for our students the ideals espoused in our newly drafted statement of mission: "a zest for reasoned and civil discourse," and the exhibition of "ethical and civic values." The ability to speak one's mind, to weigh evidence, to change one's mind in the face of reasonable criticism, and to refuse to give in to unreasonable criticism--we have an opportunity to make these explicit in our actions and to share our struggles to achieve them with our students.
Besides the specific question about the Patriot Act and surrounding legislation, questions raised by the faculty's action and the subsequent publicity include: What does it mean for a faculty to pass this kind of resolution? How do we determine the truth about complicated political issues? When is it appropriate to draw a conclusion or to change one's mind? How do we make space in the classroom and in our community for divergent viewpoints? All of these would make for fine fodder for discussion in your classrooms and offices today.
Towards this end, I encourage you to review and to share with students the statement of institutional values developed by the PPG and others:
I also encourage you to let me or Lisa Perfetti know if there is interest in developing a teach-in around these issues so that our community has an opportunity to think hard and to learn from a variety of differing viewpoints.