Deeply concerned

I am deeply concerned about two recent columns in The Northern Star. While supporting freedom of expression, I also advocate a responsible press and campus environment that is conducive to learning for all students.

As the diversity of this campus continues to increase, it becomes even more imperative that members of the community demonstrate a respect for human dignity. Referring to an entire ethnic group by a name other than its true name is inappropriate, demeaning and inexcusable. I suspect that almost everyone had an opinion about the Rodney King case and subsequent verdicts. However, many people on this campus as well as around the country are continuing to work to ensure an atmosphere of harmony. As a campus we can be proud that we had no campus disturbances following the verdicts this year and last year in spite of the fact that frustrations were quite evident and could have exploded at any time. In this context, I cannot condone a column which devalues a person by comparing him to an ailing part of one’s body. Furthermore, the veiled threat of violence which followed the comparison is appalling.

NIU has an enviable opportunity to serve as a model for other institutions and even the nation. As a major center of education and learning, we have the educational and human resources to appropriately address human relations problems. I implore all of us to make civility the cornerstone of our relationships. Our community standards require us to be responsible in our work and interactions even while we encourage debate about major social and political issues. We need to allow reasoned discourse to prevail. Our campus deserves no less, especially as we intensify our efforts to increase diversity and promote affirmative action.

Again, I support freedom of expression, but I disapprove of the tone and substance of the two columns, and I want to take this opportunity to illustrate the fact that the right to criticize someone else’s expression is also protected.


NIU President