This fall we had a milestone event on campus: our first-ever TedxAustinCollege conference. As many of you know, the TED organization has pioneered a way to bring big ideas to a broad audience. We are glad to partner with them, to see that the big ideas percolating on our campus are shared with the world.
TEDxAustinCollege was a collaboration between students, faculty, staff, and alumni—each of whom believe in the life-changing power of creativity and critical reflection. As a college that changes lives, Austin College has a clear goal to develop students who are ready and able to add value to our ever-changing world.
Nominate speakers for next year and see the 2016 presentations by Austin College faculty at www.austincollege.edu/tedx.
I want to share with you part of a speech I gave on campus in November. I made these remarks in response to questions about what the presidential election means for our campus and our extended Kangaroo family. The words also seem to me to be a perfect introduction to the articles you will read in this issue.
Austin College is not a political institution. We are not Democrat or Republican; we are not pro-choice or pro-life; we don’t take a stand on free trade, or congressional term limits, or trickledown economics. In fact, we openly invite into our community members with differing views and perspectives on each of these issues. We debate them. We teach and learn the tools for thinking critically about them. We foster reasoned debate and collegial disagreement.
Austin College is not a religious institution. While we draw great strength from our relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA), we are not sectarian. We do not preach or teach a particular religious world view, and we do not insist on adherence to any specific religious doctrine or practice. Again, we openly invite into our community members with differing religious commitments or with none at all. Within our walls we make room for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, atheists, agnostics, and more.
We are open wide. But we are not infinitely open.
We are an institution built on values. And here we do take stands. Here we do stand firm on community standards. Here we do say what we believe. Our values grow from our mission. Dedicating ourselves to liberal arts education means that we must create a climate of openness not only to ideas but to persons. We must make certain that everyone who participates in the life of the College feels at its center. Respect for each other and care for the inherent dignity of all persons are not negotiable at Austin College.
No matter the political shifts of the nation, we will continue to value our diverse community. We will continue to welcome those who want to participate in the spirit of respectful inquiry, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, economic circumstance, or country of birth. All are welcome. Not because we believe this is politically correct or religiously mandated, but because we cannot fulfill our mission without that inherent promise.
I wish each of you much joy and peace in this season of light as we begin a new year.
Austin College President