Michael Zimmerman wrote a fantastic article on the Huffington Post entitled, “The Evergreen State College Implosion: Are There Lessons To Be Learned?” He suggests that there were several problems that happened at this conflict-plagued campus, and I am not disagreeing with him at all. However, I am taking this week to suggest a few other lessons that we can learn from this utterly ridiculous situation. I suggested on Monday that we need to be willing to listen first and foremost.
Today, I would like to focus on the importance of speech after listening first. I write this blog publicly, and I am sharing my mind with you. You might agree, and you might not agree. At the very least though, you know how I feel about a particular issue.
On Monday, I pointed out how Prof. Bret Weinstein was denied the ability to speak at a faculty meeting because he was a racist as determined by the people who wanted to stop him from speaking and potentially dismantling their plan. Therefore, they called him a racist.
Not everyone on campus felt that this was appropriate treatment of Prof. Weinstein however according to Zimmerman’s report.
“Neither the president nor the interim provost interceded to make it clear that leveling such charges against a fellow faculty member was unacceptable within the college community. When Professor Weinstein spoke privately with both of those administrators about these incidents, they both acknowledged the inappropriateness of the behavior but each said that it was the responsibility of the other to do something about it. Neither administrator took any public action in response.”
Beyond this, there are other faculty members on campus who are willing to support him in private emails but would not speak publicly.
“Although Professor Weinstein had a fair number of colleagues supporting him behind the scenes, his was the main voice heard on campus.”
In Christianity, we talk a lot about that in your light shine. Some people might see this as a cliché, but the basic fact of the matter is that if you are professing to be a Christian, people ought to notice that. Christianity was not meant to be something that you are embarrassed to talk about or don’t want anyone to find out about.
I think that a similar approach applies to most thoughts that we have. Of course there are some things that probably ought not be said, but in a position of campus leadership, if you disagree with what is going on at the college you are in charge of, you have a responsibility to speak out and make your thoughts known.
If these two administrators felt that it was inappropriate to not allow Weinstein the opportunity to share his comments on the proposed plan put forward by the Equity Council, then they should have had the courage to speak out. That is what leadership is. Leaders need to take responsibility for what they have been charged with leading.
Even the other faculty members, although they were not in formal leadership positions, had the opportunity to come out and all the support Weinstein. Obviously there were consequences to Weinstein’s speech that we will talk about more on Friday, and some of the other faculty members might have been afraid of dealing with those.
However, this is something I am trying to implement in my own life, and I think it is important for all of us. We need to learn how to speak up in public and own what we believe. It is easy to agree or disagree with someone in our own minds and never let them know we even disagree with them. However, that is not going to make any type of positive change. We need to listen first and be willing to speak second.