Paul Wellman, who was a journalist, popular author and screenwriter, once said, “If a teacher does not involve himself, his values, his commitments in the course of discussion, why should the students?” The essence of this quote resonates with me as the president of a college where we want full, fair and civil discussions to remain one of our fundamental core values. Full, fair and civil discussions should also not be the casualty of anyone’s decisions or of our disagreements with one another. That is why I want this to be the discussion of today’s blog.
When teaching or making presentations about leadership, I often talk about how important it is to be very comfortable with what you personally value. It is also important for leaders to know that values often conflict with each other.
So which values am I talking about and how did they conflict?
In this venue, I believe the best way to discuss this topic is to address the two opposite opinions concerning my decisions regarding the CNM Chronicle. To those who believe I should have shut down the paper, I want to say that college is an extraordinary place that provides an opportunity to learn, grow, explore and test boundaries. College is also a magical time in your life whether you’re 16 or 96, when you can explore and carry out unfettered discussions of ideas. Although there are limitations and consequences, colleges should provide boundaries that are as deep and wide as we can possibly make them. I value that college is an environment where students become smarter, better and more courageous through discussion, discord and debate.
To those who believe I should not challenge student employees’ judgment and decisions, I want them to know I have some competing values that are related to my obligations as president, among other concerns. That is why I stated that I believe the college can do a better job of helping the student employees who serve as editors and reporters by providing the resources, education and training that is warranted by the existence of a student newspaper at a college without a journalism program, including education about the legal and ethical risks associated with journalism.
The current student employees at the CNM Chronicle are passionate about putting out a great weekly student newspaper and they have done some good work. They should be able to write about whatever they want. But, I believe first and foremost, CNM should provide them with the best student work experience possible, which is what we strive to do for all our student employees.
I know this will not be my last lesson in leadership or my last tough decision, but I am proud and thankful to work at a college where I am able to change my decision, experience yet another “learning” moment, and move on, hopefully a little wiser.
I want people to know that we can have civil discussions about hot-button topics at CNM. I want to let everybody across the college know that we all need to feel free to discuss our viewpoints and know that we are in a safe environment to do so. Of course, there always needs to be a respectful level of civility when two people have opposing viewpoints. And sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree. But we work at a college, where a vibrant and open marketplace of ideas is at the heart of our educational mission.
Thank you for reading. And please post your thoughts on this blog. I’d love to see us have a discussion on the topic.