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Hillsdale Col­lege’s Central Hall, April 2019. Carmel Kookogey | Col­legian

Edi­tor’s note: The fol­lowing is a statement from the leaders of Hillsdale College.

Amidst the events of recent weeks, a number of alumni and others have taken up formal and public means to insist that Hillsdale College issue state­ments con­cerning these events. The College is charged with neg­li­gence — or worse.

It is not the practice of the College to respond to peti­tions or other instru­ments meant to gain an object by pressure. The College operates by rea­soned delib­er­ation, study, and thought. The fol­lowing obser­va­tions, however, may be helpful and per­tinent.

The College is pressed to speak. It is told that saying what it always has said is insuf­fi­cient. Instead, it must decry racism and the mis­treatment of Black Amer­icans in par­ticular. This, however, is pre­cisely what the College has always said. 

The College is told that invoking the high example of the Civil War or Fred­erick Dou­glass is not per­mitted. Perhaps it is thought that nothing rel­evant can be learned about justice and equality from the words and actions of great men and women in history. Instead, the College is guilty of the gravest moral failure for not making dec­la­ra­tions about … justice and equality. 

The College is told that it garners no honor now for its abo­li­tionist past — or that it fails to live up to that past — but instead it must issue state­ments today. State­ments about what? It must issue state­ments about the brutal and deadly evil of hating other people and/or treating them dif­fer­ently because of the color of their skin. That is, it must issue state­ments about the very things that moved the abo­li­tionists whom the College has ever invoked. 

It is told that failure to issue state­ments is an erasure, a com­plicity, an aban­donment of prin­ciple. The silence of the College is deaf­ening. 

The College founding is a statement — as is each reit­er­ation and reminder of its meaning and necessity. The cur­riculum is a statement, espe­cially in its faithful pre­sen­tation of the College’s founding mission. Teaching is a statement, espe­cially as it takes up — with vigor — the evils we are alleged to ignore, evils like murder, bru­tality, injustice, destruction of person or property, and pas­sionate irra­tionality. Teaching these same things across all the land is a statement, or a thousand state­ments. Orga­nizing our prac­tical affairs so that we can maintain prin­ciples of equity and justice — though the cost is high and sym­pathy is short — is a statement. Dis­pensing unpar­al­leled financial help to stu­dents who cannot afford even a mod­erate tuition, is a statement. Helping private and public schools across the country lift their primary and sec­ondary stu­dents out of a sea of dis­ad­van­tages with excellent instruction, cur­ricula, and the civic prin­ciples of freedom and equality — without any rec­om­pense to the College — is a statement. Post­graduate pro­grams with the express aim of advancing the ideas of human dignity, justice, equality, and the citizen as the source of the government’s power, these are all state­ments. And all of these state­ments are acts, deeds that speak, under­taken and per­pet­uated now, every day, all the time. Every­thing the College does, though its work is not that of an activist or agi­tator, is for the moral and intel­lectual uplift of all. 

There may be some­thing deaf­ening in the culturecer­tainly there are those who cannot hear — but it is not from the silence of the College. 

There is a kind of virtue that is cheap. It con­sists of jumping on cost-free band­wagons of public feeling — perhaps even deeply jus­tified public feeling — and winning approval by espousing the right opinion. No one who wishes the College to issue state­ments is assumed to be a party to such behavior. But the fact that very real racial problems are now being cyn­i­cally exploited for profit, gain, and public favor by some orga­ni­za­tions and people is impos­sible to overlook. It is a scandal and a shame that com­pounds our ills and impedes their cor­rection. Hillsdale College, though far from perfect, will con­tinue to do the work of edu­cation in the great prin­ciples that are, second only to divine grace, the solution to the grave ills that beset our times.