I’m writing in response to the article in the September issue called “Should Departments Weigh In on Politics?”, by Julie Bonette. Everyone Ms. Bonette interviewed, and everyone who works for the faculty and administration, would do well to heed the advice of the great historian Howard Zinn. In commenting on the claims people, especially in academia, make that they are or seek to be apolitical in their work — i.e. they refuse to take a political position — Zinn wisely tells us that being apolitical is logically impossible because if you refuse to take a political position, that itself is a political position; more specifically, it is a position that strongly supports the status quo. Not only is it logically impossible, it is lazy and sometimes cowardly for a person to claim not to take a political position.
Personally, I would love to see and hear members of the faculty and administration take political stands. That would challenge students to formulate and support their own views, whether they disagree or agree with the professor or administrator in question. Not only would that enrich discussion, thinking, and learning at the University, it would also ultimately contribute to efforts outside the University to solve the problems of the country and the world. If no one takes a stand, no progress is made.
At the same time, one must acknowledge that it would be wise to devise a system whereby the expression of political views can be done respectfully and responsibly by members of the University community so that these pronouncements do not degenerate into a chaos of declarations and so that courtesy is maintained and power imbalances between and among participants are not inappropriately exploited. All that considered, I would say to the faculty and administration about their political ideas, “Bring them on.”