The University Record, June 11, 1996
Anne and I would like to thank all of the staff members who made the May 30 reception at Schembechler Hall such a memorable event. Although we didn't have the opportunity to shake hands and talk to everyone, your presence was appreciated.
We would like to extend a special thank you to hosts Jackie McClain and Paul Spradlin; members of the planning committee and greeters; the Business and Finance Diversity Choir; all who signed the memories book; and the many individuals who contrib uted to the festivitiesfrom creating the videos and thoughtful gifts to participating in the program.
I hope I successfully conveyed in my remarks how important all of you as staff members are to the life of the University. It has been a privilege to work with you as president; Anne and I look forward to our continued association with you as memb ers of the Michigan family.
Thanks again for a great day. Go Blue!
Reader finds hostility toward staff with traditional beliefs
As the University of Michigan attempts to build a community based on liberal learning and pluralistic living, many departments have broadened their educational programming to include cultural agendas that advocate conformity to University norms. Unfortunately, many of these agendas are hostile toward staff members who support traditional family values and Christian beliefs.
In regard to professional development, I have no objections against an employer or educational institution implementing training classes or seminars in an effort to expand workers' productivity, as long as the training is job skill-related and does not attempt to compromise or conform a person's belief system. However, when a U-M department recently mandated that all professional and administrative staff members must attend a two-day off-campus retreat that includes psychotherapy, values clarification and spirituality as an agenda for personal development, then the University has overstepped its authority as an employer. Fortunately, after some members of the department openly announced that they were not going to attend because of their religious convictions, the department's leadership canceled the program.
Secondly, in regard to the University's attempt to educate staff on the importance of good nutrition and exercise, I have discovered that more emphasis is placed on the gathering of information in regard to family relationships and personal traits of the individual member, rather than on their physical health or well being. Why would the University be so interested in family relationships unless they were intending to use this data in social research to impact future societal changes?
Thirdly, the University of Michigan has recently embarked on a mission to spiritualize the University community by offering various forms of religious expression in their programming when conducting conferences, seminars and forums. Unfortunately, much of this spirituality promotes neo-paganism, humanism and "New Age" thought. These forms of spirituality are advocated because they are not so judgmental, nor do they advance moral codes or absolute truths that might upset the harmonious paradigm of the University community. Recently, during the Michigan Women's Resource Forum, feminists had the opportunity to offer praises to Sophia, the feminine expression of God. During the recent Soaring to Excellence conference, a campus minister from a "reformed" Christian Church conducted an hour-long session on the fundamentals of humanism and the practices of "self-transcendentalism." Perhaps the University should erect its own cult temple or shrine to allow the community to worship the "gods" of their choice or those dictated by the University.
Lastly, I have no control on how the University chooses to celebrate or advance social issues. However, I do believe an individual or employee has the obligation to refuse to participate in employer-sponsored training programs if these programs purposely attempt to influence or undermine a person's attitudes, values and belief system in order for them to conform to the cultural norms of their work environment. A university or any other place of business will only achieve a harmonious work force when leadership realizes that some will only give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but to God what is God's. Nothing more.
Bruce A. Bender
Central Campus Area Maintenance