Opinions

An Open Letter to the Holy Cross Community

Michele C. Murray, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

An Open Letter to the Holy Cross Community

Holy Cross should be a place where all members of our community feel they belong and have the skills and opportunities to dialogue with those who hold different perspectives. The Fenwick Review’s recent invited lecture and students’ expressions of dissent that it generated highlight the tension that sometimes arises when the College pursues its dual commitments to both freedom of expression and care for one another. 

Our drafted Freedom of Expression Philosophy states in part:

“We affirm the right and responsibility of each member of our College community to participate in the free exchange of diverse ideas and perspectives. We recognize that we will be challenged to expand our own perspectives in our mutual pursuit of truth. This challenge can only be fruitful in a context grounded in mutual respect and regard for human dignity which aim to enhance the common good. Therefore, we strive to exercise our freedoms to enhance the freedoms of others and we embrace the Ignatian presumption of good will in dialogue.”

Our drafted philosophy lifts up the best of what it means to live and work in an academic community and calls us to not shy away from difficult topics, controversial points of view, or dissent. It also grounds us in our Jesuit Catholic mission and challenges us to recognize and honor one another’s dignity, not just in spite of but also because of our differences. Our drafted philosophy presumes we will be in dialogue with one another when differences occur.

To be sure, Holy Cross is not alone in learning how to engage in productive dialogue across difference. Our nation and our world seem awash in extreme ideologies and alternative facts that serve only to drive division. Controversies, amplified by social media and partisan news sources, seem calculated to elicit strong reactions from those who stand in agreement and from those who do not. The end result is an ever-widening gulf between people who, in the words of Maya Angelou, are more alike than unalike. 

The question is: Where do we go from here? The difficult work ahead of us will be to find ways to bring together those who hold various, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives for productive dialogue. This effort has begun and will continue because we believe this is the best way to air multiple perspectives while ensuring that people feel heard and valued. Be on the lookout next semester for opportunities to dialogue, as there is enough work for all of us–students, faculty, and staff. Our success at building the type of community we say we want and that our mission compels us toward depends on each of us committing anew to the ideals we hold dear.

As a Jesuit and Catholic academic community, we are called upon to engage across difference with intention and respect. This means creating space for varying perspectives, carefully listening to what is shared, reflecting upon what we hear, considering the strength of evidence in support of the argument, and participating in conversation, dialogue, and constructive debate. At the most basic level, we should seek opportunities to listen to one another and recognize the humanity of those with whom we disagree. 

Michele C. Murray, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Categories: Opinions

4 replies »

  1. So you are going to sanction (punish) any individual or group whose actions deprive others of hearing a speaker–no matter what the speaker’s or protestor’s point of view, right? I’m not holding my breath.

    Like

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