The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Considering civility: An open letter to President Rosenberg

Dear President Rosenberg,

Linda Hanson, President of Hamline University, wrote the following in a mass email explaining Hamline’s decision to remain neutral on the marriage amendment:

“Those who have urged public opposition by the Univer­sity have passionately and eloquently cited Hamline’s core values and history of inclusivity. The University’s position should not be viewed as supportive of the amendment or as a rejection of these values. Rather, the intent is to allow for civil discourse and civic engagement by all members of our community.”

I sincerely hope that Macalester never wakes up to a similar message from you in our inbox.

On its face this may seem to be a rather benign and dip­lomatic paragraph. It allows Hamline to “not support” the amendment and affirms its commitment to inclusivity. At the same time, “civil discourse” paints a picture of a neutral Hamline as a place where all ideas are welcome. It follows, then, that a biased, anti-amendment Hamline is a place where support for the amendment could not be freely expressed, and Hanson makes this point later in the statement.

Civility is nice. I don’t like shouting over people, and I (try to) avoid nasty language in arguments over beliefs. Free speech is more than nice; it’s essential to democracy. But there are more important things than not stepping on people’s toes.

Think about what this statement is saying. To me, and to many other students–like the 500 who have signed a petition urging an official Vote No stance—it says “we know rejecting the amendment aligns with our values and our history, but we don’t want to cause a fuss. We’ll sit this one out.”

We as an institution cannot sit this one out with a clear conscience—and the election is a month away. Let us keep in mind what this amendment actually is. It does not change the illegality of same-sex marriages in Minnesota, or the legal­ity of same-sex couple adoptions, or anything tangible at all. Beyond all the rhetoric, its passage would only do one thing: send a message that LGBT Minnesotans and their couples, their families, are lesser. That doesn’t sound very civil to me.

I could argue against the amendment for hours, it was literally part of my job this summer working for MPIRG. Any discussion with you on its passage’s negative effect on a welcoming college environment would likely be short and agreeable. And I know from your insightful op-eds that you have no problem taking personal stands. But on this issue, institutional action is needed if Macalester can be said to live up to its commitments and values.

This is not a personal thing—trust me, if we made politi­cal statements based on all of my beliefs we’d be in a lot of trouble with donors. This amendment is a unique case. In his petition to your office and the trustees, Michael Halpern cites Macalester’s stated “responsibility to provide a supportive and respectful environment for students, staff and faculty of all cultures and backgrounds.” If these are to be more than empty words, we cannot pretend that an amend­ment that singles out a single group for permanent lower sta­tus has two equal sides that we must walk a tightrope between. In fact, our values demand that we take a stand.

There is no true neutrality; neutrality is a vote for the status quo. To paraphrase local poet Guante, in the real world quiet disapproval is the same as quiet approval. Look around, President Rosenberg. Do you want to make Macalester’s statement on equality “things are fine the way they are?”

An official college stance would likely at least cause the appearance of a lack of discourse at Macalester. This is a trade-off I am willing to make. An unequivocal stand for equal treatment under the law would do much more to advance us as a community than standing aside for a completely detached debate. Individuals will always have the right to speak out in support of the amendment, no matter what Macalester says. But the right of LGBT students to be supported by Macales­ter far outweighs the right of those who seek to discriminate against them to institutional silence.

Keep in mind, President Rosenberg, that many people already view this campus as a politicized and debate-stifling entity for things as central to our identity as our ideal of global citizenship. One such person is Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars, whom you recently had a back-and-forth with in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I don’t care at all what he thinks of us, my point is this: a stance-free cam­pus is not attainable, or desirable. If that is the goal of this neutrality, we have already failed.

Back to the matter at hand—the marriage amendment. There is one question we need to ask: what will our chosen stance mean on November 7 when all is said and done? If the amendment fails, and we stood against, we will officially be part of the coalition that beat mean-spirited discrimination in a state known for being genuinely nice. If the amendment passes, and we stood against, we say to the world that the vote did not speak for us, that we consciously and deliberately reject its implied values.

And if we do nothing? If we do nothing, we drift in the winds of history. We say that our values disappear in the face of controversy and difficult decisions. That’s not my Macalester. I hope it isn’t your Macalester, either.


Jonathan McJunkin ’14

View Comments (7)
More to Discover

Comments (7)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • E

    Elizabeth CampbellSep 8, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    There are also so many video uploading web sites, and these also provide facility for sharing their video lessons, however I think YouTube is the most excellent.

  • S

    SkyZonecouponsJul 29, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Thanks for posting the brilliant post. The web link had been explained by you creating methods amazingly.