Practicing "Culture Peace"

President Roth coined a new phrase during Wesleyan’s 190th Commencement last Sunday, calling for a truce in the American culture wars:

In his remarks, President Michael S. Roth addressed how universities can respond to the nation’s long-standing culture wars. He hopes that a Wesleyan education provides students with the tools to stand against prejudice and cruelty and to be mindful of self-righteousness and moral satisfaction, the release said.

“To be true to our academic and civic purposes, Wesleyan’s mission reminds us that we must become practical idealists, making peace where we can by promoting open inquiry and free expression,” Roth said.

“We must defend those who want to participate in this endeavor from threats of violence or marginalization while cultivating respect for intellectual diversity. By practicing culture peace, we will be more open to discovery, including the discovery that it’s time to change our minds and listen more carefully to others,” Roth said.
Wesleyan University graduates told to exercise ‘open inquiry and free expression’

The graduation ceremonies began in true Wesleyan fashion with a winding cardinal red procession from the top of Foss Hill and across Andrus Field to the beat of a Japanese Taiko drum ensemble that could be heard for miles in the quiet haze of a verdant Connecticut River Valley.

Senior Class Speaker, Kalli Jackson `22, perhaps best summed up the prevailing mood with this passage from her farewell remarks:

“Stepping out into a post-Wesleyan world means not quite knowing what to expect. But, the one thing I do know is that wherever we end up once we go, we will all be the person who shares their umbrella with a stranger,” she said in the statement.
“ …there will be a person, an office, a city that gets just a little better, right when no one’s looking,”.

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Roth has quietly contributed a voice of reason in this conversational cesspool of vitriol and malice.

His points on “safe enough” spaces, tolerance for opposing (conservative)views and subtle pushing back on politically correct absolutism (“you’re not here to be comfortable”), while at the same time rescuing the concept of “safe space” from the heap of culture war one-liners, should garner more support and attention than it has.

But that’s reasonableness, which has no place in our society today.

PS: Roth’s publicly open position here, which is decidedly more centrist than that of most other university presidents, is another data point that cuts against the ubiquitous and lazy description of Wesleyan (CC wizards included) as the most radical and far left campus in the universe. If that were true, his words in that speech would have touched off a riot.

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