A new semester is here and, like the last two, it will be different from others we have known. So, I want to take a moment to think about our work these next few months.
We are all getting very good at adjusting to this COVID world–HyFlex instruction, remote service and interaction, Zoom meetings, and holding things together, even while not having a map for this territory. I am proud of how we have risen to the challenges that have become part of our daily lives.
This semester begins, however, with our country on edge.
Pandemic fatigue has been washing over us for months and it can be overwhelming. And, as happens so often, a public health crisis is laying bare the social and economic disparities that have existed in our country for generations.
As we know too well, the fabric of society is not woven tightly, and a tug on loose threads is all that is needed to unravel the whole. Strains are coming from many corners, and the din is growing harsh, louder, and more dangerous.
In this time of diversivolent rhetoric, questionable loyalties, and sharply drawn battle lines, there is a temptation to rally our kin, raise our voices, and flood the world with vitriol that rivals that of the ones with whom we disagree.
But this will destroy us all, because when the anger and insults subside, and the violence falls away, how will we determine who was right and who was wrong?
At Ferrum College, we often do things differently than what happens in the public square. We try to model intelligent, contextualized, and socially principled conversation, the kind sorely lacking right now. We make the bold claim of encouraging critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills. We announce that we challenge students to strive for excellence and to be global citizens in a welcoming and supportive community. And, we undergird all of this with a moral vision that places the concerns of others before our own, Not Self, but Others.
To state it plainly: our work in the weeks ahead is to excel at what we do, and to become an even better version of ourselves. As Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked, “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.” Thus, those things we encourage in our students, we practice ourselves; what we wish for in society, we embody in our life together. We are fortunate to be in a position to add to the country’s store of goodness and clarity and generosity and truth.
Who we are as a community is itself a witness to a better way. That is a tall order, I realize, but I believe we are up to the task because it is what we do each and every day. I look forward to walking together this new year in ways that bring a little more understanding and peace to our nation.
David L. Johns, Ph.D.
Ferrum College President