At his convocation speech welcoming new students to campus a week or so ago, Dartmouth Student Assembly President Noah Riner gave a speech about the need for students to develop character as well as knowledge during their time in college. He quoted Bono, Martin Luther King, Shakespeare, and Jesus as individuals who exemplified good character. Needless to say, he created a subsequent ruckus. And no, its not because he quoted Bono in the same speech as Jesus (although those of us who are Frank Sinatra fans still believe that Bono's duet with Sinatra on "I've Got You Under My Skin" is the first sign of the apocalypse).
For those who are interested, Dartlog, the website of the Dartmout Review, has rounded up links to the speech and much of the fall out here. Dartmouth student Joe Malchow has an especially insightful commentary here (and an update on subsequent commentary here). William F. Buckley has weighed in with a column on the brouhaha, as has Stefan Beck. My fellow Dartmouth Trustee Peter Robinson discusses the issue as well here. Tory Fodder has an interesting commentary on the role of college in developing character.
In my mind, the folks at FIRE get it just about right (as usual)--there is a big difference between criticism for expressing one's views and being punished, censored, or intimidated by college authorities:
So, he said Jesus' name. It didn't hurt the students to hear it. Nor did it hurt Riner to get a dose of criticism. Riner chose to share his views knowing that topics of religion and faith are often difficult to insert into the public realm without offending someone. More importantly, he chose to speak with the intent to generate dialogue and encourage his peers to think about their own ideas about one's character. In another article, he states, "I realize that I have a very specific perspective on the issue of character…[a]nd by adding my perspective, I hope that it'll give other people the opportunity to examine their own perspectives and to add those to the Dartmouth dialogue." In the same vein, students who disagreed shared their perspectives and added to the Dartmouth dialogue.
Is there more to say here? There is always more to say (which is my whole point). For now, all I'll say is: Welcome to college.