WOOSTER, Ohio — Convocation is higher education’s way of setting the tone for a new academic year, and President Grant Cornwell took the opportunity to make sure that everyone on campus understood the importance of respect as a fundamental component of The College of Wooster’s core mission.
Speaking to faculty, staff, and students on Tuesday morning in McGaw Chapel, Cornwell drew on the thought of Angela Davis, Immanuel Kant, Martin Luther King, Audre Lorde, and Karl Popper as he stressed the importance of the essential relationship between respect and the College’s efforts to prepare students to become leaders of character and influence in an interdependent global community.
“We are a diverse learning community on purpose,” he said. “For many of you, this is the most diverse community in which you have ever lived or studied. We intentionally seek to welcome students, faculty, and staff who represent a broad diversity of identities — racial, ethnic, religious, gender, national, political, socioeconomic — because we believe that only by learning with and from people who see the world differently can we fulfill our mission with integrity.”
Cornwell based his thesis on the belief that respectful sharing of different points of view is vital, and that prejudice in any form has no place in a community of learners. “These forms of prejudice inflict harm, not just to members of our community, but to our very mission,” added Cornwell. “These forms of prejudice preclude, rather than foster, the seeking of knowledge and understanding. They close minds rather than open them.
“Thus, our entire enterprise of living and learning together, our very mission and reason for being is only possible if we treat our differences, and each other, with respect,” continued Cornwell. “This is the cardinal virtue of a liberal arts campus.”
Speaking in concert with that theme were seniors Molly McCartt, president of the Student Government Association, Deja Moss, president of the Black Student Association, and Thu Lan “Jola” Pham, president of the International Student Association, each of whom called for openness, civility, and inclusion. Provost Carolyn Newton and Chaplain Linda Morgan Clement added their voices to the chorus of support for a renewed commitment to respect in the way in which we treat one another.
In addition, Newton recognized five faculty members for their promotion to full professor — Shirley Huston-Findley, Kent Kille, Boubacar N’Diaye, Anne Nurse, and Thomas Prendergast — while eight others were cited for their promotion to associate professor with tenure: Angela Bos, Jennifer Bowen, Matthew Broda, Christa Craven, Joan Friedman, Joan Furey, Brian Karazsia, and Shannon King.
In closing, Cornwell reminded the gathering that “respect is absolutely essential to our common purpose here.” He then set forth four areas of emphasis for Wooster’s community of learners in the year ahead…
- To be gentle with one another, collaborating in the project of helping each other come to a deeper understanding of what we do not fully understand.
- To be courageous when courage is called for, calling out disrespect wherever and whenever you see it.
- To engage in dialogue, especially when dialogue is difficult or uncomfortable.
- And in all things to manifest respect for the dignity and humanity of your peers and partners in this noble project we call liberal education.
With that, the President declared the 144th year of liberal education at Wooster officially underway.
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