Statement from President Mark D. Gearan
January 23, 2009
I was recently made aware of an opinion piece by a retired faculty member in which sentiments are expressed that are inconsistent with the core values of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I was particularly concerned that the retired faculty member’s title and HWS e-mail address were used, thus linking the Colleges’ name to these statements. When any member of the HWS community uses the name of the Colleges, he or she incurs a responsibility to civil and tolerant discourse. In my view, this column falls outside those bounds; I choose not to be more specific so as to avoid drawing further attention to the column. It is my responsibility as president to assert unequivocally that this individual does not speak for Hobart and William Smith and to this end, I have written the retired faculty member to convey my strong condemnation of the tone and language of the column and its invocation of offensive stereotypes.
I fully appreciate and support the constitutional right of private citizens to state their opinions. As an institution of higher learning, we must maintain an unwavering allegiance to freedom of speech, vital for unfettered academic inquiry. As scholars and as members of the HWS community, we must engage in respectful and civil discourse and take appropriate measures to indicate when we are not speaking for the Colleges.
As we begin this new semester, I take this moment to remind us anew that free speech, respect and civility are the standards to which we must adhere if we are to be the kind of inclusive community to which we all aspire.
I have reviewed this statement with the Board of Trustees and they have unanimously endorsed it.