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The More Things Change ...
I recently had the opportunity to head to Special Collections & Archives to research the history of religious studies and spiritual life at Knox, preparing for the article on the new director of spiritual life (see page 6). I love walking into special collections and being greeted by a Lincoln bust or bullhorn from the 1920s. And I love to search through old yearbooks or files, knowing that I may come across a small treasure: an amazing photo not seen for decades or an inspiring quote from a beloved professor. What I found this summer wasn't necessarily a treasure but, instead, a great reminder: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In an issue of The Knox Student from 1950, the editors were discussing the tension between religious and secular chapel services and described the student body as "religion-shy." That's a term that I hadn't seen used in describing our students from that era before. When we discuss earlier decades at Knox, we learn about regular chapel services, a department of religious studies, and a College chaplain. That doesn't seem to be religion-shy to me, or at
least not as religion-shy as some may describe contemporary college campuses. Today's students live in an era when, according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, church attendance is dropping nationally. And you're just as likely to find an Atheism Club on campuses as an Intervarsity Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
But no matter the era, college students wrestle with big issues-who am I, who do I want to be, where do I fit in the world? No matter the era, political and social upheavals provide the backdrop for these discussions. Perhaps being a bit religion shy at this time in their lives, as students explore these issues and are introduced to others who may live or worship differently than they do, is the norm. The key is that no matter how "shy" students may be to religion, they still need academic and co-curricular resources and support as they explore those issues. And that brings us back to where we started- the new director of spiritual life, whose role it will be to help students wrestle with these issues.
So thanks, Special Collections & Archives, for this helpful reminder. I knew there was a reason why I loved stopping by.
—Megan Scott '96
Preparing Students for Engaged Citizenship
It seems that every day a new campus is embroiled in a media storm, including controversies over campus speakers, demands for safe spaces, and trigger warnings, and I am asked regularly where Knox stands on these issues. While the underlying issues go to the core of what we do in academia, from my vantage point in Old Main, the media coverage exaggerates both the breadth and the depth of threats to freedom of speech on America's college campuses, including Knox.
Nationally, we see an increase in student activism, with interest in political and community engagement at the highest levels in 50 years, according to UCLA's annual CIRP Freshman Survey. Reading further into the survey, you learn that the percentage of first-year students who expect to participate in student protests is approximately 8.5 percent, a small proportion of students. With Knox's founders and those who inspired them engaged in antislavery protests and civil disobedience—a lineage of which we are proud—we are not surprised that Knox draws a higher share of activist students; according to the CIRP survey, 15 percent of Knox students say they are likely to protest. Yet this is still a small percentage of the student body.
It is certainly the case that many of our students are concerned about speech and use the term "microaggression" for instances in which they feel excluded or degraded. This is nothing new. As a 1972 college graduate, I remember the struggle to be included, as a woman, in everyday language. Today, with recognition of transgender identities, there is a push for even more inclusive language. We at Knox recognize that speech can violate our norms of civility and have always addressed this as a matter of community standards. The College's anti-discrimination policy affirms that vigorous discussion and debate are fundamental to the College and to higher learning and notes that the fact that speech is offensive is not, standing alone, sufficient basis to establish bias. Such speech typically must be persistent, pervasive, and not germane to classroom subject matter in order to violate our policy.
In compliance with this commitment, the College neither endorses nor disallows the use of trigger warnings on a syllabus, seeing this as an essential element of faculty autonomy. Some faculty members do alert students to the presence of violent images or derogatory language in texts, but they do this to promote learning. In our classrooms, there are students who have lived under authoritarian regimes, experienced violence in their communities, been the victims of childhood abuse, or have documented disabilities. That they are here at all is a vivid testament to their resilience and their hunger for an education. It seems to me entirely appropriate that such students not be taken by surprise in the classroom with material that has a deeper resonance for them than to many of us.
Behind the headlines, though, all Knox students are daily encountering concepts, facts, and narratives that challenge their perspectives. This has always been true, but it is more salient today than ever before. We live in a nation characterized by historically high levels of segregation by income, race, and ethnicity and increasingly polarized by political perspective. College campuses—and especially Knox—are one of the few places in America where those divides are bridged every day. Where else could you could live in a racially integrated suite, go to class with students from 50 other countries, share locker rooms with individuals whose sexual orientation is different from your own, or serve on an Honor Board with students who have been homeless during their childhood, as well as students who have flown to Knox on private jets?
Managing the tensions that inevitably arise in an environment so remarkably diverse is not easy. Nor is it easy to ensure that minority views are protected. But this has always been a central challenge of campus governance, and today, what happens on campuses is especially critical to our democracy. I am optimistic that Knox will continue to lead the way in preparing our students for lives of engaged citizenship.
—Teresa L. Amott
In Praise of Class Notes & 45s
I always look at the class notes right away. It says [in the Class of 1965 notes] let's have a get together in June 2016, which is not what I think I wrote. Correct date: June 2018!!
BTW, kudos to the mag for being so classy and beautiful. I love the way they use a quote from each page at the top of the class notes and then highlight it in the letter it came from. Who thought of that? Edie [Joe's wife] said school mags in general are going away, replaced by Facebook. Sad. And I notice the Knox Magazine is now twice a year—used to be quarterly, so maybe that's happening to them also. Sad.
I'm always stuck midway between embracing the new technology and mourning the passing of the old. Maybe that's why I love 45 records. They are an old, superseded technology within a larger old superseded technology. Even people who embrace vinyl don't do 45s any more.
—Joe Thompson '65
To Each Their Own
Since I love baseball and score most of the Rockies games I attend here in Colorado, I was especially interested in the article about Max Utsler. Very interesting career! One comment about the side bar about how to score a game: If there is a ground out fielded by the pitcher, I would score it G1-3, i.e., it is a groundout to the pitcher (position #1) who threw to the first baseman (position #3). The pitcher gets an assist on that play and the first baseman gets the put-out. Perhaps Max does it differently.
—Jackie Dobrovolny '71
recognized by Forbes magazine
for success of graduates and the support they give back to Knox
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