I’m sure a familiar shudder ran through the bones of the student body upon receiving the most recent email from Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn: flash­backs to a pan­icked spring break, to choppy Zoom lec­tures from your bedroom at home, to iso­lation, over-snacking, and bad Wi-Fi. These are not the worst of evils, we are con­stantly reminded. We can still delib­erate, commune, laugh, and pursue Truth together — over our sep­arate screens? 

While the con­tinued activity of the college is an unde­niable blessing, even going online, many of my fellow stu­dents and I are skep­tical about the effec­tiveness of an online Hillsdale edu­cation. If years of the core cur­riculum and Arnn’s lec­tures have taught us any­thing, it’s to value that sacred pursuit of knowledge that we undertake together. Our Hillsdale edu­cation does not consist of the accu­mu­lation of facts or the securing of a degree. It is the com­munion of our able minds for the sake of some­thing greater. We know this intuitively. 

The college boasts of its few reg­u­la­tions on the student body; instead of agreeing to a list of rules, stu­dents sign the Honor Code. The school con­siders it the duty of each indi­vidual to uphold that Code. The short man­i­festo cul­mi­nates in the most essential point of Hillsdale’s phi­losophy: “Through edu­cation the student rises to self-gov­ernment.” I’m not here to tell you not to steal back­packs. I’m begging you to remember that your efforts here should result in civic and intel­lectual freedom, in the capacity to exercise your natural liberties. 

Through extensive study of the tra­dition, we’ve learned that the rule of law is nec­essary. But its abuse cannot be tol­erated, even for the sake of tem­porary societal harmony. The dic­tates of con­science may never be for­feited under com­pulsion. The health mandate that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Nov. 15 asks us to do just that: to deny the entire state of Michigan life, liberty, and the pursuit of hap­piness. By sub­mitting even tem­porarily to Michigan’s out­ra­geous new restric­tions, we hand the gov­ernment these lib­erties on a silver platter. 

Rep­e­tition legit­imizes, and our track record grows more con­cerning by the hour. We’ve com­pro­mised on our way of life already with face masks, mass iso­lation, contact tracing, and the can­cel­lation of school events. As we repeatedly comply with these state orders, we nor­malize this government’s powers to control even private pur­suits within the home, the church, and the com­munity. This most recent mandate forbids our very means of true edu­cation. Though this par­ticular order lasts only a few weeks, it is only the tip of the iceberg. We know from the past months that the state gov­ernment will do whatever it can to abdridge our right to assemble. The line has already been crossed. The time and the freedoms we lose now can never be reha­bil­i­tated if we don’t push back. 

We know the school must mount a con­vincing legal defense. Even so, the past months should have served that very purpose. We have already com­plied with endless gov­ern­mental restric­tions, but we should by no means comply with the revo­cation of our con­sti­tu­tional right to assemble. Our time to say no is now. If we don’t, we inval­idate the very edu­cation we claim to pursue. 

As Mark Van Doren says in his book “Liberal Edu­cation,” “The gravest danger to edu­cation now is its own readiness to risk its dignity in a rush to keep up with events, to serve mankind in a low way which will sac­rifice respect.”


Averi Bott is a senior studying English and Spanish.