Dear Hiram Community:
I have been planning for a while to welcome you to the spring semester and share my excitement about our community’s work that lies ahead, and I will do that soon, but I feel the need to use this opportunity to address yesterday’s events in Washington, D.C.
Hiram has a long tradition of engagement with the U.S. Presidency, dating back to James A. Garfield, president of both Hiram and the U.S., and continuing in the present with the Garfield Center for the Study of the Presidency. That same heritage, from Garfield’s prescient concern for universal human rights to our upcoming Black Lives Matter mural, emphasizes mutual respect firmly rooted in social and political reality. Yesterday’s violent attack on the constitutional process of certifying the presidential election, which depended on a counterfactual narrative about both the election results and Congress’s role in the election, was an affront to the institution of the presidency, to the diverse group of people who uphold our democratic institutions, and to factual reality—all of which are important strands of Hiram College’s values and history.
I had a good conversation with Faculty Chair, Willard Greenwood, the day before yesterday about the need to get beyond the political ramifications of current events in order to address the fundamental moral issues raised by those events. This conversation gained new importance after yesterday, and I hope the discussion of such ideas will find a place in our many educational contexts, including classes, student affairs activities, athletics, and those late-night residence hall conversations that I still recall vividly from my own education at a small college. Often there is a tension in the academy between the scientist’s focus on factual analysis and the humanist’s focus on interpretation and the moral life, but the current attacks on both facts (including scientific facts about the pandemic) and human choices (as expressed, for example, in democratic elections) should be a call—let’s say an urgent challenge—for all disciplines to address the need for our students to understand both how to think critically about the world of facts and how to think about moral issues in a nuanced way. This is not a question of political position, but the more important question of how to understand this complicated world and how to live together in it.
Yesterday’s events add to a long list of deeply troubling events over the past year, and I want to be sure you are aware of the resources we have to help you through these times. Professional counseling services for students are available through the College’s counseling center. Dr. Kevin Feisthamel, executive director of counseling, health, and disability services is available at 330.569.5418 or FeisthamelKP@hiram.edu. Ministerial counseling services are available via Rev. Chris McCreight, the College’s chaplain, at 330.569.6094 or at MccreightCJ@hiram.edu. An Employee Assistance Program is available to faculty and staff. Human Resources (330.569.5109) can provide details about how to access the program.
Best wishes for a healthy, safe, and fulfilling 2021. I look forward to working with you all.