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The following message was sent to faculty by Provost June Schlueter March 17, during spring break.

Dear Colleagues,

In this time of high anxiety over war, over health care, over economic pressures more severe than many of us have previously known, I’d like to offer a comment or two.

Two weeks ago, two students from the Students for Social Justice came to my office to seek assistance in getting faculty support for the walk-out and teach-in they plan for the day after war is declared. I told them of my philosophy about canceling classes, which for 10 years (and longer) I have seen as the prerogative of the individual faculty member, whether the reason be a snowstorm, a professional meeting, or a political cause. Individual faculty, I said to the students, would decide whether to countenance a student walk-out and whether to participate in a teach-in. Whatever their individual postures, and whatever their positions on the war, the day would be one of education.

The students did report one thing, though, that gave me pause. Untenured faculty, they averred, were afraid to participate, for they felt it could hurt their chances for tenure. It reminded me of what a senior faculty member told me recently about how junior faculty in his department felt about snow days: better to risk your life getting to the College than to risk retribution for canceling your class. In response, I asked Department Heads to be sure their faculty knew that as far as the Provost and they were concerned, there is no plus on one’s report card for teaching when it snows and no minus for not.

Should there be a war with Iraq, there will be strong feelings, pro and con, in this country, across the world, and here on Lafayette’s campus. Many will feel the need to express themselves publicly; others will not. Either way, and in the range of formal and informal opportunities to speak about issues that impassion us, it is important that we remember that we are members of the academic community, a community that, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the principle of free and open discourse. Issues of war, health care, and the economy, all seemingly unmanageable nationally, will indeed constrain what we are able to do. Yet it is incumbent upon us to deal with those issues, and others, without losing sight of who we are.

June Schlueter
March 17, 2003

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