Last week, our Summer Institute for Global Business Management program came to an end. The month-long program brought about 50 international students to our Fairfield campus. After weeks of education in the classroom and on field trips, students prepared final presentations on what they learned. They also received certificates for completing the program.
Professors Deirdre Yeater, Jennifer Mattei, Jo-Marie Kasinak and undergraduate research assistant, Brianna Chiaraluce, set up a booth at Mystic Aquarium’s Women in Science Day last week. The event featured female scientists, researchers and animal care professionals. The SHU group talked to hundreds of the aquarium’s visitors, including children, about their work at the University. Jennifer talked about Project Limulus, her work with horseshoe crabs.
I have exciting news for our international students majoring in digital marketing. They can now receive STEM designation due to the analytics, web design and web development topics taught in the program. The STEM designation means upon graduation, international students can work in their field of study in the United States longer than if they received their degree in a non-STEM field.
I am pleased and impressed that a self-study put together by Carrie Wojenski, executive director of global affairs, and a team of Sacred Heart faculty on the University’s internationalization plans was used as a case study in the American Council of Education’s Institute for Leading Internationalization. Dozens of faculty members from a variety of universities were in attendance. We are proud of the work completed by the Office of Global Affairs and are honored to be recognized as a leader. Great work!
Sacred Heart will be purchasing the Wearsafe App for members of the freshmen class and will offer it for purchase to upperclassmen. Wearsafe is a wearable device that serves as a panic button for the wearer. Once the button is pushed a text message goes out to a group of contacts the wearer has chosen. About 80 students assisted with beta testing of the app last spring and were impressed with its capabilities. This is just another measure SHU is taking to ensure the safety of our students.
Last week I wrote that few topics divide us as much as politics and religion—and my point has certainly been proven by the number of emails I have received and the great many posts through SHU’s social media accounts in the wake of the announcement that Donald J. Trump would speak on our campus last Saturday. While the correspondence and the media commentary has come down on all sides of the topic (most recently, the Hartford Courant published an opinion piece by SHU Professor Gary Rose), I want to take a few minutes to elaborate on my comments of last week, answer some questions that have been asked and set the record straight.
Much of the correspondence we received quoted the University’s mission—in particular the section that reads “Sacred Heart University welcomes men and women of all religious traditions and beliefs who share its concerns for truth, scholarship, the dignity of the human person, freedom and the betterment of human society.” I would like to draw your attention to another section of our mission: “Sacred Heart University challenges its students to think critically, analyze carefully, evaluate with a sense of justice and proportion and convey conclusions in an intelligible and articulate fashion ... as a community of teachers and scholars, Sacred Heart University exists for the pursuit of truth. It joins with other colleges and universities in the task of expanding human knowledge and deepening human understanding.”
In reality, both these passages support our position that we are obligated to open our doors to speakers on a wide range of topics with opinions and positions that cover the spectrum. Frankly, I cannot remember a time when we said no to a request—possibly if the logistics were not manageable for some reason. This is not the first time that we raised the ire of our friends, neighbors, faculty, alumni and others who disagree with a speaker’s views. We would not be doing our job if this was not the case. We would not be serving our students.
A statement from the ACLU entitled “Hate Speech on Campus” reads in part: “Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech—not less—is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted. Besides, when hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance.”
We are called Pioneers for a reason. From our beginnings as the first lay-led Catholic University, we have been a maverick of sorts; we don’t always do things as they have been done in the past. It is not our role to shield people from thoughts and opinions they find offensive, but rather to bring all sides into the light of day. I suggest that those who disagree with our speakers express their dissent with the issues rather than with the choice of location of the public square.
Finally, there seems to be a misconception that the University received a significant windfall through renting space to the Trump campaign. Nothing can be further from the truth. In reality, we just sought to cover the University’s expenses. Since Mr. Trump’s visit, we have reached out to the Democratic, Green and Libertarian party campaigns to make it clear to all what our longstanding practice has been and to let them know that our facilities are available to them in the same way they were open to the Trump campaign.
It is heartening to know that most college-aged students welcome the opportunity to expose themselves to varying viewpoints. In fact, the results of a recent Gallup study determined that 78 percent of college students said they believe colleges should strive to create an open learning environment that exposes students to all types of speech and viewpoints—even those that are biased or offensive toward certain groups of people.
Last year, in the wake of some disturbing incidents on some college campuses—hate-filled songs sung on buses, inappropriately themed parties, hazing—we had a dialogue here on campus about tolerance. As I said then, it is our role to help our students understand right from wrong, and the consequences, intended or otherwise, that accompany every action. We must bring forth biases and intolerant acts and examine them under a microscope. That’s not the same as refusing access or limiting the Constitutional freedoms of those who hold those biases.
Enjoy the weekend!