Justice's tainted search for justice
I just read a scary letter... by now, I'm sure the message from Izzy Justice '90 to Eileen Keeley, Vice President for College Relations, has been spread around campus and while I agree with Mr. Justice on the subject of the by-law, he is going about creating change in a dangerous and subversive manner. Last week, in his Davidsonian article "Mr, Justice Fails to Act Justly," Andrew Evans '12 was critical both of Mr. Justice's tactics and his message. While I agree with Andrew's assessment of Mr. Justice's attack on Davidson, I disagree with his assessment of an outdated by-law that requires the President of Davidson College to be an active member of the Presbyterian Church.
First, regarding the threatening letter sent by Mr. Justice to Ms. Keeley... there is something very inappropriate about an alumnus of the college threatening a college employee with legal action and a public smear campaign. Part of what makes the Davidson community "distinctly Davidson," is the mature way that we conduct ourselves when we disagree. Mr. Justice knows this, having first attempted to contact the Office of College Relations and then three Presidents of Davidson College. However, when Mr. Justice threatens action "in the court of law, in the court of the Davidson Community, and in the court of public opinion," Mr. Justice crosses the line between respectful protest and inappropriate threats. Above all else, the students, faculty, and staff of Davidson College acknowledge that they are a part of a community larger than themselves, bonded together by a common honor code of trust and mutual respect. Mr. Justice fails that creed in his letter and it tarnishes Davidson's national reputation as being an elite liberal arts college with a community of respect and integrity.
Second, Mr. Justice should revise his expectations based on the mitigating circumstances of the past eighteen months during which President Ross resigned, President Kuykendall was acting on an interim basis, and President Quillen is still learning the system. Davidson has gone through a transition in leadership where more pressing matters took priority over changes to the archaic by-laws. What does Mr. Justice expect - the change to happen overnight? To me, the letter from Chairman of the Board Mackey McDonald shows progress. That it was sent in the first year of President Quillen's tenure is a sign of how seriously the Board takes the issue. Ultimately, there is no place in our community for actions that threaten the prestige and reputation of the institution that bonds us all together; Mr. Justice's stance is degrading to the college, the alumni, and students who depend on Davidson's reputation as they enter an increasingly competitive job market.
That said, while I believe that Mr. Justice's tactics take away from the importance of his issue, the overall goal of Mr. Justice's mission is sound. While the traditional association with the Presbyterian Church continues to define the college, it is time to drop the discriminatory requirements from the college constitution. As members of the college community, we uphold the Presbyterian values that the College instills in us, but in an increasingly secular society, the requirements are less and less necessary. Simply put, members of the Davidson community DO live up to the Presbyterian standards but are using the label with decreasing frequency.
It is my hope as the Board of Trustees begins its process of considering the College's relationship with the Presbyterian Church in the coming months that The Davidsonian can be a place that not only provides a medium for members of the community to engage with each other in high level debate but also showcases the "Davidson Way" to the outside world. In the process of this internal self-examination, Davidson can provide a model for the outside world to see how people who disagree can come together, engage in reasoned debate, and arrive at a thoughtful compromise. Wouldn't it be nice if some of our nation's leaders noticed?
Scott Matthews '13 is a Political Science major from Greenwich, CT. Contact him at email@example.com.
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