Do We Honor the Golden Rule?

7 Nov

In the past ten days or so, Athens students and faculty members have raised questions about the university’s progress on improving the climate on campus for underrepresented students.   The catalyst for their concerns was a set of confrontations that took place off campus between a former student who is African American and a group of white men not affiliated with the university.

The point made by those who have expressed dismay about the incidents is that no one, as a result of his or her race or ethnicity, should be subject to harassment regardless of the time, place, or circumstances.  While the individuals involved in these incidents were not formally connected to the institution, concerned students and faculty suggest that the university bears a responsibility for helping to ensure that these types of incidents do not take place within its purview.  They suggest that a stronger campus climate will make it less likely that racially or ethnically motivated incidents will take place inside or outside the institution.

While there is no doubt in my mind that Ohio University must be successful in its efforts to promote the understanding, civility, and inclusiveness that are at the heart of an effective learning and living environment, I wonder about the degree to which our work can influence the behavior of individuals not subject to our “writ.”  To that end, I’d like to pose a question that I hope will generate some discussion.

Are we confident that our actions, in the neighborhoods, businesses, and local communities that surround the university, fully embody the expectations that we seek to inculcate in others?

Granted, there should be no preconditions when it comes to moving freely through our daily lives without harassment, but if, as an institution, we seek to have an impact on communities other than our own, should we begin with a self-assessment?  How knowledgeable are we about the culture and the values of individuals who are not connected to the university?   Do we respect the property and the community standards of our neighbors?   Do we understand how the socio-economic circumstances that stubbornly persist in this region manifest themselves in daily lives of those around us?  When we cross from campus to community, do we practice the civility that we preach?

I’m curious to know what you think.

Pam Benoit

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15 Responses to “Do We Honor the Golden Rule?”

  1. Ed November 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    I feel that the university, through its actions and accommodations will not directly influence off-campus persons in their actions. What I feel the university can do is give students of diversity the acceptance inside the walls of our institution so as they form a confidence in who and what they are. Honestly, if the incident in question were to happen in my home town it would read much differently, which is a compliment to work already done. We have the confidence to speak up and speak out about such things, but this by no means is the end of such work. The university can keep hunting, looking, and innovating ways to produce equality inside our walls to increase the personal confidence of our students when acting outside our walls. As it stands right now all doors are open to all people, but some have to go further to get through those doors than others by vast distances. By closing this gap we express value in a person, and slowly the labels will melt away to reveal the real person.

  2. Chad November 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    I believe we should make a focus on education period. I am a non-traditional student, married with six sons. I am a minority in respect to minorities being culturally, racial, sexually and religiously different than the norm. The golden rule should apply to every living creature, but to focus on it more than focusing on how to have a higher passing rate in PSY 101 for example is frugal. I pay for an education, not a learning lesson on how to be more accepting in my collegiate environment.

    In my personal environment at home my children are safe but if we venture out they are not as safe. Same with societal issues affecting the social climate it is something we all should practice being love and compassion towards one another; however it needs to flow from an entire society, not just a collegiate environment. I really pay for the courses I need and want to take, not to be given a lecture on how to treat someone in the adult world.

    • Rod November 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      Paul,
      I am also a non traditional student with 6 children. I believe that social acceptance has to start somewhere why not with the population that understands the value of education, which follows the ability to understand diversity. Those who are still closed minded are the ones who complain about it being taught. You are just complaining that you know it already and do not want to pay to have this lesson retaught to you. That I can understand and respect I also am paying for my education through loans as complete my education. Others unfortunately do not get it they do not understand diversity because of ignorant fear even though they are getting a college education, for those we all can be a little more open minded to those who are ignorant and in need of diversity training and knowledge. My greatest desire is that you and all others some day can leave their homes and not fear the general public because of their diversity.As for me and my family we celebrate our own and everyone’s diversity daily.

  3. James November 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    I think that there is a misunderstanding that just because we are a university, that we are impervious to racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like; that somehow we are the perfect representatives of the golden rule. I think Dr. Benoit poses scathingly honest questions in this post. But I would argue that not only should we question our interactions with the outside community but also we should be looking for ways that racism, sexism, and homophobia are present in the actual university. I think there are several examples of racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior, which make this post incredibly relevant to the fact that “I really pay for the courses I need and want to take” as Chad wants to put it. Racism, sexism, and homophobia affect our educations in ways we can hardly begin to imagine.

    For example, I am a student in the philosophy department. While, I would never accuse any of the staff of misogyny or even poor treatment of females, I do think it’s a shame that only two of our eleven professors are women. There is also currently no requirement to study feminist philosophy or other minority philosophies such as African or Eastern philosophies. These shortcomings, however, are looked past and entrenched as the norm.

    Before we go talking about the rose-colored world we live in where racism, sexism, and homophobia are conspicuously absent from our university and how no students of ours would ever attack another out of racial hatred, we should take off the rose-colored glasses and see our condition as a university and students for what it really is – a continuing experiment and struggle for racial, gender, and sexual orientation unity.

    • Ed November 10, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

      When you discuss issues of discrimination you miss a rarely viewed issue, how we treat our non-traditional students. We do have issues of struggle for older undergraduate students, and this is what I feel Chad is experiencing. Why should he pay for services that would never benefit him because he isn’t in the conversation. Do we discuss issues of employment to education transition as an adjunct to high school to college education? Do we discuss moving backwards in life for older students and being immersed in a culture that is catered to a younger age classification? Do we discuss the financial burdens of adult bills and how they jive with the current financial aid system? The list goes on, but any salty reaction from an adult student should be expected in a conversation such as this, especially because as it stands now any education about racism is going to be geared towards a traditional aged student position. An example would be alcoholedu, designed to prevent underage binge drinking, being forced onto 25, 30, and 50 year old students. I may disagree with Chad on the idea of just coming to classes only, I do believe in a transformative learning community but I can understand his position, being in that spot when I came here at age 24 to realize this university had little understanding of adult student needs. I will leave off with one question, as non-traditional students how can we be asked to be more accepting when we ourselves are not accepted to even the level of other minorities?

  4. Joseph November 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    Unfortunately we live in area of the country that lacks some diversity. The Midwest as a whole has some work to do in the area of race relations. We all should practice the Golden rule but more importantly we should respect people of different race, religion, sex, or cultural differences. The University can only focus of educating it’s student body from within the University walls. People outside the University in this part of the country seem reluctant to deal with these sensitive issues that is why after twenty years of living in the Midwest I’ve seen little or no progress on the sensitive issue of race relations. My only hope is the younger generations Ohio University is now educating have not just open dialogue but meaningful discussion about how to improve Ohio and the Midwest race relations.

    It truly is said that here in 2010 we are still dealing with this ugly topic in America. After landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960’s we still have not shown the spiritual or emotional maturity to move forward.

  5. Brian Bridges November 9, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    I believe the university can influence off-campus behavior through its students, faculty and staff interacting with and serving as an example for the local community in promoting safe, nurturing and affirming environments. We definitely have room to grow in promoting acceptance – none of us are perfect – however, the efforts we’ve made over the last couple years have heightened the conversation and awareness.

    I agree that education, coupled with exposure to different perspectives, is an effective way to promote the golden rule. The Office for Diversity, Access and Equity is working to implement diversity training opportunities that encompass the totality of the student, faculty and staff experience on campus. We’re also working with the local community to reach beyond campus and positively impact the region. These efforts cannot be haphazard and inconsistent or they are sound and fury, signifying nothing. Therefore, collaborative campus efforts are being formed to shape and sustain long-term diversity education efforts. In addition, we’re always looking for volunteers to get involved in this good work!

  6. Rowena November 10, 2010 at 12:55 am #

    I am a graduate student who has relocated from a metropolitan northeast city. I attended a rural undergraduate college that was smaller and had a religious affiliation. I can say as both a minority in race and gender (I see I’m the first female reply to Provost Benoit’s post), diversity is crucial for a positive and impactful collegiate experience; one that makes learning and growing more effective and well-rounded.

    Although we are paying for an education, is education merely delivered within 4 enclosed walls, a chalkboard, and a lectern? College is viewed as the last threshold before one is released into the “real world”, as a university OU should be cognizant of how safe/welcoming/encouraging it is as both an educational institution and a social community to the underrepresented study body. Understanding this relationship helps to retain students of said population while simultaneously educating the ‘majority’ of the student body to nurture this symbiosis and the influx of more of the underrepresented population.

    Athens is most definitely a college town, affected by the boom of OU students and faculty from all over the US and world. Even though nothing can be done to directly influence the town mentality, if OU works from within to assure students they are safe and welcome, this attitude can permeate into the local community. If we start by respecting the town and showing deference for their space and history, I think many will find that the town will reciprocate.

  7. Evelyn November 10, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    I find the whole “Golden Rule” application interesting. Is it not true that academia has worked diligently to extricate itself from the teachings of the Holy Bible, discounting its validity and authority in post-modern America? To now expect individuals who have been doggedly indoctrinated to secular humanism to abide by the teachings of a purportedly archaic manuscript is the height of hypocrisy. Why would anyone be surprised by the fruit that has grown out of the seeds that have been planted and cultivated within academia and society at large? America has lost her moral and spiritual compass. The Golden Rule no longer has meaning to many of our citizens. One may expect more of such behavior and not less.

  8. Johnny November 10, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    I think a very important issue that was included in the “confrontations” but is not adressed above is the authority in the Athens community. My experience with the government and law enforcement in this town has left a bad taste in my mouth. Officers on OU campus are fueled by the need to “bust” students for underage drinking rather the need to protect. I have witnessed this first hand as a former RA and as unprotected victim of assault in Riverpark towers. It is wonder what else this authority overlooks. Moreover I have seen the government in Athens turn down the approval of a homeless shelter due to zoning laws. I see no valid argument for placing the well being of an individual over where we’ve place our brick, mortar, and asphalt. We as students and former students are limited in being active in the community by the pammpered bureaucrats and ineffective law enforcers who both metaphorically and literally tie our hands. We have allowed an injuctice society to promote itself by not speaking out, and yet we are confused by the results. What do I need to do to make this change?

  9. Colleen November 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    I feel that it is a mistake to leave the blame entirely at the door of the people in the town. First of all, there is every reason to suspect that some of those involved with the incident which prompted the post were in fact students at the university. Secondly, even if we were to pretend for a moment that all of the people were involved were not in any way affiliated with the university, that does not mean that we should tolerate racism. Racism, sexism, homophobia, all of these are terrible diseases upon our society, and we tend to ignore them, we tend to try and pretend that they are not there, but we all know that this is not the case.

    I ask, should we not investigate ourselves? I believe a self assessment is necessary, but not a self assessment on how we treat the ‘townies’ but rather we should assess if we have enough pro-tolerance education. What are we as a university doing wrong that our students think it is acceptable to harass someone based on gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion?
    We cannot attempt to claim that this is entirely a town problem. It would be entirely hypocritical to claim that we are doing every thing right, that students and other individuals affiliated with the university are not involved in incidents of racism, because it is simply not true.

  10. S. November 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    I just viewed a post by the Provost which said that Ohio University has no responsibility for issues in the Athens community.
    In a town with 17,000 students, how is a community made of US not important?
    The denial of responsibility starts immediately with the university cutting all ties with the young men. These were not just townsfolk participating in a scuffle. This was a continuous bullying of Black student by a group of white men, some of which are students. I wonder what Benoit’s definition of “affiliated” is. “Affiliated” usually means, to be joined in close association. Most of the young men involved are DIRECTLY affiliated to the university, as students.
    Throughout the entire piece, Benoit fails to state what occurred and what she is addressing. Her broadness highlights her lack of knowledge on the situation.
    The hands-off approach Provost Benoit is suggesting is evidence of an ailment OU has in its administration. With such apathy concerning minority issues, why would any student, like Nate Huggins, who plans to return as a student and still resides in Athens, want to join a community where a person in power will not admit that our presence in the heart of Athens hugely influences the “neighborhoods, businesses, and local communities that surround the university.”
    This general, uninformed response to racism and discrimination is wholly disappointing.

  11. Rod November 11, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    If you talk the talk and walk the walk it is a good thing. Those who talk about the right thing and are in power to do the right thing but fail to punish those who are in elite status do more damage than good. If someone has elevated status,athletes, actors, and dignitaries, does that mean they are above the laws of the country, state, or city? Why do these situations still have such a common place in our society. Because we tolerate the injustices to others as long as they do not effect us or our families directly. This is where we fail to keep the first part of the golden rule “treat others” how can we do this if we would be unwilling to take punishment for our own wrong deeds? So we let others get away with wrongs also. When we hold ourselves to this standard uniformly it will break down the barriers to the problems of acceptance and issues with diversity. This is only the first part of the golden rule the rest needs work also but we need to start at the beginning, this would be done ourselves by speaking out when we see the rule being broken , bent, or twisted.

  12. Becca November 12, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    I feel as if the University is trying to avoid taking responsibility for any racial tension on campus. Although one particular case does not involve “students affiliated with the University”, this does not erase the fact that discrimination still occurs on campus on a daily basis. The lack of support from the University on this issue is embarrassing. To say that, “The point made by those who have expressed dismay about the incidents is that no one, as a result of his or her race or ethnicity, should be subject to harassment regardless of the time, place, or circumstances”, means that this idea that no one should be subject to harassment is absurd and is not a priority for the University. The fact that the administration cannot even admit to having this ideal is troubling.

  13. Laura November 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    I would like to say that this blog, to me, is nothing short of appalling. Here is my take on the situation: Nate was enrolled at OU, and was taking the quarter off, if this makes him no longer affiliated with the University, I find that problematic. While visiting friends here in Athens he was the victim of numerous accounts of racial harassment, where he was called racial slurs, chased, and jumped by a group of guys on several occasions. I have every reason to believe that the guys that jumped Nate ARE in fact affiliated with the University. However, reading this blog post, it is hard to tell that this is the same situation that is being talked about since the issue of racial harassment in Athens doesn’t appear to be the issue in question .As “S.” previously stated, it is completely ridiculous to try and create some sort of separation between the community and the school. Of course we influence each other, and to a great extent.

    In all honesty, I do not know what Benoit is trying to say or claim in this post because no direct statements are made. However there should have been a clear stance taken against racial harassment within the University and in the Athens community. Looking back at a letter sent out to all student about the LGBT community, I wish this blog was more like that. It stated: “We reaffirm our commitment to members of the LGBT community at Ohio University and beyond. Harassment, intimidation and outright prejudice have no place in our society. We stand with our LGBT community members and others who experience these destructive acts.”This was a very important letter addressing issues that also,definitely, need to be addressed talked about. Yet why are there not similar claims about a zero-tolerance policy for racial harassment? We cannot just brush off racism as part of the, “culture and the values of individuals who are not connected to the university”. As a student here I am ashamed not only at our University’s unwillingness to state the simple fact that racism is wrong, but at the attempt to brush it off as not our problem. Racism is EVERYONE’S problem, and it is incredibly disturbing to me that we as a University, and community fail to make that statement.

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