A recent piece in Inside Higher Ed on Calvin College by Susan Resneck Pierce was disappointing to me on numerous levels. It characterizes Calvin as an academic community indifferent to teaching traditional academic skills such as critical thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, Resneck Pierce selectively pulled one element without context from our Expanded Statement of Mission but failed to even reference the actual Calvin mission statement, which is to “equip students to think deeply, act justly and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.” This selective cherry-picking was not present as she described the mission statements of other institutions in her piece.
In addition, while it is certainly true that Calvin seeks to ensure that the values that guide our teaching and scholarship will be Christian, at Calvin we also contend that it is possible to be simultaneously grounded in a Christian worldview and capable of critical thinking. A recent example might serve to illustrate my point.
In a March 1, 2017, piece on Calvin on The Atlantic, Jane Zwart, a Calvin English professor, said, “When you hear a phrase like ‘the kingdom of God’ around here, the point is that the world belongs to God -- which is not the same thing as the world belonging to those of us who believe in God, to those of us who are Christians … the kingdom of God does not thrive on exclusion; it chokes on exclusion … It thrives when we remember that Jesus wanted to make every last one of us a sibling and that, in consequence, we need to treat every person as a sister or a brother.” Calvin is not perfect, but Zwart gives a passionate account of our aspirations.
Baylor historian Thomas S. Kidd believes that “Christian colleges and universities may be the best educational institutions today for fostering real political diversity.” In the midst of a season of tremendous uncertainty and considerable political polarization, this is more important than ever, and at Calvin we believe we possess an opportunity in our teaching, scholarship and service to model civic and public discourse that meets arrogance with humility, hatred with love, bluster with wisdom, falsehood with truth, injustice with justice, ignorance with learning.
That none of the depth and nuance of Calvin came out in the recent Inside Higher Ed piece is unfortunate, so we think it’s important to try to create a fuller picture of the college. You are also welcome to visit Calvin anytime to learn even more.
Hundreds of students and faculty members participated in teach-ins and attended talks at Princeton University Monday as part of a day of action to address political challenges currently facing the U.S. and the world. A number of panels were critical of policies of the Trump administration, but organizers said the event was open to those of all political persuasions and ideologies. They encouraged other campuses to follow their lead in taking time to engage in action-oriented discussions about the current political climate.
“The goal of the day is to reaffirm the responsibilities of a community devoted to scholarship, the use of knowledge for the common good, and the ideals of diversity, democracy and justice,” said Sébastien Philippe, a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering and president of Princeton Citizen Scientists.
Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, who delivered a talk on U.S. immigration policy and the proposed border wall, said that he wanted to participate because “illegal migration has been net zero or negative for nine years now. Border apprehensions are at their lowest point since 1971. Building a wall at this point makes no sense at all. It is simply a symbolic affront to our southern neighbors and a bone to the Republican base.”
John Cramer, university spokesperson, said via email that Princeton didn’t sponsor the day of action but “applauds the effort by students and faculty to study, discuss and learn about important national public policy issues and what those issues mean for the Princeton community and the principles of equality, diversity, freedom and justice.”
A National Labor Relations Board office rejected Columbia University’s objections to a recent graduate employee union election Monday, recommending that United Auto Workers be certified as the students' collective bargaining representative. Columbia has challenged its graduate employees’ right to form a union at all, but also lodged specific complaints with the NLRB about the December election. Those included that UAW employees were too close to one of the polling sites on election day. The local NLRB office decided, however, that the mere presence of union agents within the vicinity of an election, absent evidence of coercion or other objectionable conduct, does not warrant throwing out the results.
The local office also found uncompelling Columbia’s claim that the election was invalid since voters did not have to show identification, in part because the university only presented evidence that four ballots may have been affected. Votes supported unionization by a much bigger margin, with 1,602 in favor and 623 against. Columbia has until later this month to file exceptions to the decision. The Columbia graduate student union, which includes teaching and research assistants, on Twitter called the decision an affirmation of its “historic election.” Graduate students at private institutions have long faced legal challenges in seeking collective bargaining, but a major national NLRB decision last year in favor of Columbia graduate students who hoped to organize paved the way for such unions.
A former professor of epidemiology at Emory University was sentenced to six years and six months in federal prison and must pay a $15,000 fine for downloading at least 8,000 images of child pornography using the campus Wi-Fi, AJC.com reported. The professor, Kevin M. Sullivan, pleaded guilty to downloading the images in December, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney John Horn. “Sullivan downloaded thousands of files depicting the sexual abuse of children,” Horn said. “He attempted to cover his tracks by using his personal computer on the internet system at Emory to download the images.”
Officials were tipped off to Sullivan’s activities in 2014, when Swiss law enforcement officers seized a server hosting the illegal content. Emory’s information technology department helped determine that it was Sullivan who accessed the images from campus. He was arrested in 2015, after agents found child pornography on his personal laptop and external hard drive in his office. He will be on seven years supervised release after prison.
President Trump's budget proposal will seek to eliminate the Sea Grant Program, which supports coastal research at 33 universities, The Washington Post reported. Eliminating the program would be part of a 17 percent cut for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is a major supporter of environmental research.