Thursday, January 27, 2005

We're not bad. We're just drawn that way.

Our current student ce-web-rity, Nelson Pavlosky, one half of the digital-manifesto-wielding, free-culture-seeking, freedom-fighting duo who jousted with (and defeated) Diebold in last year's famous case, says that my organization ain't so bad. In fact, we're an "ally in a quest for a freer society." Heavy. I think it was sometime in the Clinton administration that we last got a little credit in a public student forum.

It may surprise Nelson and some other students that our ITS department is more than just benignly tolerant of freedom of expression. We are a living, breathing, group of humans with similar core values to the community we are a part of. As such, we are quite partial to all kinds of personal and academic freedoms, just like our faculty and students. We value your safety just as much as the Dean's Office. We also need to protect other organizational interests, as would the P.R. office, the H.R. department, and our legal counsel—not to mention the Board of Managers. Some of these interests are in tension at times, but we all do our best to balance them in appropriate ways, while leaving the smallest possible dent when sacrifices must be made.

As a small, residential place, we're fond of calling ourselves a community. I think one of the first steps in having a true community is to stop making different parts of it into "the other," and start forging a shared identity. Our shared cultural values includes traits like rigorous intellectual inquiry, respect for diverse opinions, and commitment to broadly-defined personal liberties.

While I appreciate the recognition Nelson gives my colleagues, I'd like to point out that it's not so much that ITS has stood up to external pressures. The reality is that the whole College has stood up together against those pressures, and the people I work with have played their part thoughtfully and with great care.

We are you. (I feel like breaking out into a chorus of "We are the people in your neighborhood.") There are times when we must address our differences of opinion, but I'd hope that one outcome of spending four (or more) years at an undergraduate institution like Swarthmore is to appreciate the sense of shared mission that typifies such places.

10 Comments:

Blogger Nelson said...

Thanks for the note! I updated the post on my website to link to yours: http://www.livejournal.com/users/skyfaller/34350.html

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