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ISSUE 118 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/8/2005

A little less conversation...

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor


Friday, April 8, 2005

Intellectual diversity was the catchphrase on campus last year. Conversations surrounding the topic seemed to pop up everywhere. Journalists wandered the Hill, stuck tape recorders in front of students and asked them to go on the record with their opinions about the so-called “political discourse” on campus. We've had two well-attended forums on the issue, including last month’s debate over professors’ rights in the classroom. We've seen our student government take up the issue by forming a sub-committee to act as a “campus task force” in proceeding with this pesky topic.

But after this, what are we left with? We can hold as many forums and form as many sub-committees as we want, but at the end of the day, it doesn't mean much unless we put some action behind our words. No matter what our opinions may be on the issue of intellectual diversity or how we may feel about other diversity issues on campus (or the lack thereof), our debating and hemming and hawing isn't getting us anywhere. If we simply speak our minds but refuse to move ourselves to do anything about the grievances we rant against, aren’t we simply being apathetic?

If we really wanted to advance the discourse on intellectual diversity, we would already have accomplished something. By now, organizations such as Senate, the Dean's office or concerned student groups should have drafted a well-publicized policy on what steps students should take if they feel that their rights have been violated in the classroom. The school’s Community Life and Diversity department could have added intellectual diversity to their mission statement. Moreover, the college could have consulted other schools to see what they have done to address the issue.

In last spring's Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine, college officials bragged about how the brush-up between conservatives and liberals at last year’s Peace Prize Forum had given St. Olaf the opportunity to become one of the country’s leading institutions in demonstrating just how to address this issue. So, what has the school done with this opportunity so far? It's given it too much talk and not enough action.

It's easy to let an issue like this get bogged down in campus bureaucracy. We've seen it happen to other issues. There are some things that St. Olaf students complain about every year, and every year it seems like nothing is done to change them. Such is life when we devote too much time to complaining and not enough to acting. The spotlight has been turned away from intellectual diversity. The reporters have gone away and there aren't any more cameras or microphones that can be put in front of our administrators to make them sit up and take notice. But this doesn't mean that the issue is no longer worthy of action. To the contrary, the amount of students and concerned community members who showed up at last month's forum tells us that intellectual diversity remains an important issue on this campus. Now we just need someone who is willing to do something about it.





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