Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the College’s annual Wilson Lecture—one of our most important intellectual events of the year—where Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States and Britain, and Anne Patterson ’71, former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, engaged in a dialogue about diplomacy, foreign relations, and their experiences in Pakistan. During the question and answer period, several questions came from students who identified themselves as new members of the Class of 2015. These women were at Wellesley for our annual Spring Open Campus, where we try to convince some 800 admitted students and their families that Wellesley is the place for them.
I always wonder at what moment an admitted student decides that Wellesley is the right fit. Is it as soon as she steps on campus? Is it in conversation with a student? An alum?
In fact, earlier that afternoon, our admitted students had an opportunity to connect with alumnae during a panel held in the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall. I was able to drop in briefly and I heard panelist Crystal Fleming ’04 sum up her feelings for her alma mater: “There are a lot of great colleges,” she said, “but there’s only one Wellesley.”
For the students and families who attended Spring Open Campus, I hope you’ll agree.
I wanted to be sure the Wellesley community saw yesterday’s flash mob in the Lulu– it’s a wonderful, exuberant expression of random joy! I love flash mobs, and I’m not sure why, except that they make me happy, and they seem to make everyone who stumbles upon them happy, too. Enjoy!
I am disappointed and wondering if I should be worried.
Democratic society is enhanced when people hammer out solutions to difficult issues through discourse and compromise. Democracy is tarnished when, instead, people hammer at their opponents instead of confronting their ideas. The latter is how I see the recent Freedom of Information Act requests directed at particular faculty at the University of Wisconsin. One political party in Wisconsin filed for all the emails of a prominent historian just two days after he questioned the actions of the party on his blog. Last week, the UW Chancellor wrote an eloquent and inspiring response to the request.
My disappointment stems from the fact that because our population is far more educated now than ever before, I had hoped that the tactic of assaulting the speaker—rather than the content of the speech—would not have as much traction today as it did in the past. Yet it is educated people who are perpetrating this assault on reasoned discourse.
The Freedom of Information Act is an important democratic tool. It is always disheartening to see it used to challenge academic freedom. Academic freedom is specifically intended to allow free and wide-ranging inquiry even into topics that upset powerful people in our society. It serves an important purpose in a good society; it is worrisome to have to wonder whether academic freedom is imperiled by partisan assaults. I hope that responsible citizens will recognize the societal value of free inquiry and speak up.
I also hope that not a single member of our faculty will be dissuaded, even in the slightest, from continuing to pursue their intellectual passion wherever it leads them.