The Soul of the University – Still Thinking

by James C. Sherlock

The battle for the soul of the University of Virginia is on writes Jim Bacon, like me an alumnus. There is apparently only one fighter on the side of freedom of expression, reasoned debate and the maintenance of order as key foundations of academic freedom. That is the Board.

University President Ryan has shown himself to be conflicted about those foundations. He has found himself frozen in several sets of headlights trying to maintain any of the three, much less all of them.

The left has replaced reason in education with “social-emotional learning.” Let’s hear from the “Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)” (Did you doubt there would be such an organization?):

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

“SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”

Yes, you’re right. That really is stream-of-consciousness nonsense — leftist sophistry on steroids. Can you imagine how many committee meetings were required to close on that statement? How many feelings were bruised over every comma?

In President Ryan’s case, SEL apparently meant letting an undergrad who posted an obscene message on her Lawn room in your office to berate you, record it and post it on social media. And then, as President of the University, do nothing.

Credit where due: that is certainly a pure New Testament approach. It is also perhaps an opportunity to see “young people and adults to co-create thriving schools.”  Or not.

He got run over trying to empathize. But empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

A leader can feel sorrow for someone else’s misfortune as a result of his or her actions without sharing or excusing them.

Leadership would have been ejecting her from her Lawn room. And feeling sorry for her misfortune. A win-win.

Ryan’s still sitting on a promise he made to the Board to craft a statement of principles of freedom of expression. Appointed a committee.

Still thinking.