Yes, and…

Lindsay Starck, Cass Dalglish, M. Elise Marubbio, Jenny L. Hanson & Doug Green, Augsburg Faculty

In recent weeks, Augsburg students have proven themselves to be bold, thoughtful and eloquent. Their listening sessions and letters to “The Echo” have exposed the way in which institutional racism undermines the emotional safety that is necessary for learning. As a community, we must respond with respect, humility, self-criticism and action.

Our concern is that at a time when we should be uniting in order to bring about crucial institutional change, we are choosing instead to focus on false divisions. Claims that “this is not the time for” or that “this is not a matter of” academic freedom are based on the faulty premise that one cannot support our students while also supporting academic freedom. Yet these two positions are not contradictory. The purpose of academic freedom is not to shield professors from responsibility for their words and actions, but rather to empower professors and students alike to create a space of mutual respect in order to explore difficult and potentially troubling ideas.

As our colleagues point out in today’s “Echo,” academic freedom also protects students. It defends their right to learn without fear or harm, and it defends their right to speak out against faculty and administration when the university is not living up to its mission.

At the beginning of the November faculty meeting, one professor introduced the “Yes, and” technique that is central to improv. We connect with one another by listening and expanding. Yes, I support our students. And I support academic freedom. Yes, I need to improve as a teacher by critically analyzing my own privilege. And I don’t want to be so afraid of making a mistake in the classroom that I choose not to examine difficult language or teach difficult texts.

As a university, we have a lot of work to do. Yes. And.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 30, 2018 issue.