The University Record, January 30, 1996
Note to readers: The University Record welcomes letters from members of the University community.
Administration should not support
There have been recent attempts by the University administration to build a sense of community or shared values among students, facultyand staff at the University of Michigan. Last year, the Office of Student Affairs sponsored the "Common Threads" program in an attempt to develop community among staff members. In addition, the Ethics and Religion Office sponsored a symposium on the role of ethics, religion and values in an attempt to create dialogue among religious organizations. And even though the above examples of community among University members appear to be promising, there is one concern that I would like to see addressed in regards to the development of future community values at the University of Michigan. How can a university or educational institution hope to obtain a community relationship among individual members if the administration supports an educational agenda that primarily reflects the political and philosophical aspirations of certain special interest groups and professional organizations?
For instance, during the month of October, Residence Education is now in concurrence with the National Education Association by sponsoring "Gay and Lesbian History Month." The differences between the specially celebrated event and "Gay Pride Week" that it replaces are the more respectable title, longer programming duration and the increase in erotic material being posted in residence halls. The month of November brings together the residence hall library system with the American Library Association in a special celebration called "Banned Book Week." During the awareness week, the library justifies the availability of any literary material by calling attention to past books that were once considered inappropriate and worthy of discretion but are now considered respectable literature by today's standards. Unfortunately, this philosophy assumes that if our society is exposed to anything long enough, regardless of how abhorrent, gradual assimilation will someday make it acceptable to everyone. There is also the "safer sex" program being sponsored by University Health Services and the American College Health Association. This program provides the impetus for students to experiment with their sexuality as long as they use protective devices. And in addition, there is "AIDS Awareness Week" which is sponsored by various University departments to primarily commemorate those who have tragically died as a result of homosexual activities.
If the University of Michigan is truly committed to building a community that still allows personal freedom for individual members to develop intellectually, socially and spiritually, then it must provide representation for those with opposing educational viewpoints. A multicultural and diverse university should represent a free marketplace of ideas, values and beliefs, and not an institution that propagates the philosophy and politics of a select few. Hopefully, may the University of Michigan someday attempt to reduce sexually transmitted diseases by encouraging sexual abstinence before marriage (Abstinence Awareness Week, May 1-7), or inform University residents of the harmful effects of pornography (Pornography Awareness Week, Oct. 29-Nov. 5), or even commemorate the 34 million innocent lives lost to abortion since Roe v. Wade (Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, celebrated on Jan. 21), or at the very least, may the University administration become a noninterfering participant in a community where individual members can freely and collectively develop their own community values without educational programming.
Bruce A. Bender, Central Campus, Area maintenance coordinator, Housing Facilties Department