Thursday, January 02, 2003

Toward a Statement of What SCSU Respects 

To: All SCSU Faculty, Staff, and Administrators

As a new semester ushers in a springtime of hope, may the frigid climate that has in past years enveloped our campus soon be thawed by the attitudes of our faculty and staff. Understanding that individual responsibility is a requisite complement to the right to speak freely, I have this year resolved to match my criticisms with what I hope will be perceived as constructive suggestions. Toward that end, and following the eloquent lead of Sandra Osterholt of the Aviation Department, I offer a specific recommendation.

I believe that it is totally undesirable for our university to serve as a �melting pot� of people and their ideas. Diversity in its many forms should be celebrated. At the same time, if carrots, peas, cucumbers, and radishes remain frostily clustered on their respective edges of a chilly �salad bowl,� then no creative intermingling of flavors can take place. If we accept the metaphor that SCSU can be viewed as our �container,� what can serve as our �broth� that simultaneously blends us together, encourages us to interact freely with each other, and warms our spirits - regardless of our retained and celebrated vegetable group identities?

Other universities have tried and failed to concoct �Speech Codes� that might serve as their �broths.� Complex combinations of ingredients needed to draft such restrictive recipes have frequently clashed with fundamental values, too often leaving bad tastes in many mouths. Instead, I offer for your consideration as our �broth,� a new, expansive, and positively phrased �STATEMENT of WHAT SCSU RESPECTS.�
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WE . . . at St. Cloud State University who sign below . . . RESPECT:

1) absolute academic integrity among all who teach, learn, and serve at our university;

2) individuals who assume personal responsibility for their own words and actions, and who pledge not to reflect bias against any others because of their age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, physical ability, political persuasion, or income level;

3) scholarship that continues to emphasize the fact that �within-group� variances are more significant than �between-group� differences of means that may be misused to stereotype groups;

4) free, spirited, and intellectually reasoned debate and expressions of opinion on all issues;

5) an open-mindedness to understanding and appreciating new ideas and perspectives;

6) collaborative research and service initiatives undertaken between colleagues of different disciplines and colleges;

7) excellence of effort and achievement by all in their endeavors to acquire knowledge, develop skills, and elevate wisdom in the course of striving to serve others; and

8) opportunities for all students to savor an extensive smorgasbord of disciplines, courses, ideas, and perspectives that are offered by widely diverse faculty members whose shared primary mission is to challenge and serve their students.
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The above eight points represent only a rough draft of a statement that is in no way meant to replace our current �Code of Conduct� or �Priority Strategic Goals.� Rather, as a statement of the �broth� of our university, it is intended to serve as an external as well as internal affirmation of that which we respect.

What if scores of SCSU staff and faculty members volunteered to meet in small groups to improve this draft? What if a portion of our upcoming Faculty Forum Day - Wednesday, April 2 - could be devoted to refining and condensing the best ideas of all of us? What if by mid-April, all who work at St. Cloud State University had a chance to sign a new STATEMENT OF WHAT WE RESPECT? What if a �normal� 98.6% of faculty, staff, and administrators voluntarily signed such a STATEMENT OF WHAT WE RESPECT? What if by early May we could communicate our signing of such a unique STATEMENT OF WHAT WE RESPECT to all students, their parents, high school counselors throughout the state, MnSCU�s Board of Trustees, SCSU alumni, corporate and individual donors to our Foundation, the news media, and all state legislators?

What if? Why not? Who will? Happy New Year!