Reactions to Brian Rosenberg's seven-year review: Rosenberg tackles difficult issues, stands up for students

By Adrienne Christiansen

Brian Rosenberg has impressed me time and again with his willingness to take on difficult, important initiatives at Macalester. The IGC and the need-aware financial aid policy are two of the most visible examples of his courage and vision. Others include his efforts to prompt the faculty to develop a new, robust curriculum, his active support for the “into the city” curricular renewal, his commitment to sustainability initiatives on campus, and his prompting important conversations through his famous “Fox and Hedgehog” letter to the faculty. In none of these case was success easy; not all of the initiatives have been successful. But they reflect the priorities of a man who will act out of his convictions of what is best for Macalester and our students even when it is not popular.If I had to describe Brian Rosenberg in two words, they would be “class act.” For example, in April 2006, the local conservative columnist Katherine Kersten used one of her weekly columns to make fun of Macalester students as both ill-informed and insincere in their political activism. Brian Rosenberg wrote a gracious and thoughtful defense of Macalester’s student activists in spite of having been the target of anti-Semitic and unfair criticism at the hands of many activist students that very spring. He wrote, “A civil and thoughtful exchange of views on complex issues is precisely what we want on college campuses because it is precisely the intellectual environment in which students learn best. That members of the Macalester community engage in spirited debate on such topics is a sign that we are doing our job.” Exactly. It would have been very easy for Rosenberg to simply let Kersten’s column pass without comment, but he defended students at a time when they had been unfairly criticized, and by his actions, demonstrated what “civil and thoughtful exchange of views” actually looks like.

College presidents traditionally are not well known for their stirring speeches. But Brian Rosenberg is! Rather than speak in the grey, mushy goo that administrators everywhere use to hide responsibility or avoid being pinned down, Brian Rosenberg speaks his mind, clearly, eloquently, and with a touch of panache. I teach courses on rhetoric and argumentation, thus I relish the chance to hear him speak publicly.

Whatever criticisms I have had of him over the last seven years, they pale in light of those characteristics I most admire about Brian Rosenberg.

Adrienne Christiansen is director of the Jan Serie Center for Scholarship and Teaching and a Political Science professor. She can be reached at [email protected].