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Mr. Justice fails to act justly

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 16:04

Izzy Justice is, simply put, not acting justly.

When Board of Trustees Chairman Mackey McDonald sent the Davidson College community an e-mail outlining the Board’s ongoing discussion of the Presidential religious requirements, he was responding to a message sent to many people by Izzy Justice ’90.  Mr. Justice has raised questions about the justice and ethics of the Presidential religious requirement, and he, in his e-mail, outlined his intentions to raise awareness, nationally and internationally, of the requirement and to challenge its legality.

Mr. Justice’s intent is clear:  he intends to cause the school to change the requirement, which he views as unfairly discriminatory and an example of the “hypocrisy as well as the discrimination that still exists in both education and non-profit fund-raising institutions.”  “Religious discrimination of any kind is discrimination of every kind,” he writes, “and the community should not limit the opportunities of its members and others.

Mr. Justice is right to note that the religious requirement is discriminatory.  That is a moot point, though.  His greater point is that such discrimination is wrong and should be changed, and that it consequently requires a strong, intimidating effort to end it.

Mr. Justice simply does not understand what Davidson College is.  Davidson is a free, self-directing, intentional community, and such intentionality necessarily leads to discrimination.  Such discrimination is not bad; in fact, it creates the Davidson we know.

Take the Honor Code, for example.  The Honor Code represents the school’s intentional commitment to principles of honor and integrity.  The Honor Code’s nature as a community standard justifies why students are often suspended after they cheat—they have violated the community’s standards and should be removed from the community.

Is such a practice discriminatory?  Yes.  It says that certain actions have no part in the community, imposing certain ethical standards on individuals.  The school enforces a particular set of ethical standards to the exclusion of other standards.  That is discrimination.

The school discriminates in other ways, too.  Davidson has rather rigorous admissions requirements, which mean that about three-quarters of applicants do not receive the opportunity to enroll.  That is discrimination, but Mr. Justice would be hard-pressed to label that discrimination unjust.  That discrimination is a direct result of Davidson’s intentional commitment to high academic standards.  Further, the school admits far more males than females, simply because the school has committed itself to equal gender representation in the community.  That is discrimination, but it is not manifestly unjust.  These discriminatory practices are simply the institutional arrangements that reflect the school’s consciously chosen priorities.

The school also prioritizes its Reformed Christian heritage.  This commitment has certain institutional consequences:  a certain percentage of the Board has to be Christian, and the President has to be a Presbyterian (and PCUSA, at that) Christian.  These institutional arrangements exist because the school intentionally chooses to value and prioritize the Reformed Tradition, incorporating it into its identity.  These priorities necessarily exclude some people, including those with certain religious beliefs, from attaining certain positions in the community.

Davidson College is a private, free institution.  It has the freedom to define itself and set its own priorities.  Davidson has chosen to be an elite college that values its Reformed heritage.  These choices entail certain institutional arrangements.  These institutional arrangements discriminate but are not consequently unjust.  This discrimination is simply the result of Davidson’s intentional self-definition.

As an alumnus, Mr. Justice has every right to express his views and to articulate why Davidson’s institutional arrangements are wrong.  The school has nothing to fear from openly discussing the Presidential religious requirement, as  self-awareness and self-critique can be very healthy.

By appealing to his own notion of “justice” and then threatening legal action and negative publicity when the school does not fulfill it, Mr. Justice is trying to intimidate and coerce the school into changing its community priorities to conform to his own ideas.  Such intimidation does not reflect Davidson’s commitment to “thoughtful and open dialogue,” as Chairman McDonald wrote, nor does it respect Davidson’s freedom to choose its own identity and institutionally arrange itself accordingly.

Mr. Justice is trying to force his own vision for Davidson on the community; yet such coercion is the height of arrogance and tyranny. He is not living up to either the principles of Davidson College or, ironically, his own name.

Andrew Evans ’12 is a Political Science major from Due West, SC.  Contact him at anevans@davidson.edu.

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