Knowledge and Truth

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As I watch the horror of war unfold in Ukraine, I am saddened by the violence and suffering being inflicted on the Ukrainian people. Like most of the world, I am also angered by this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and destruction of its infrastructure – reducing hospitals, schools and homes to rubble.

There is another response that we as a University are able to embrace. The saying “truth is the first casualty of war” gives us powerful legitimation for what we do as a university community in the creation of knowledge. Senator Hiram Johnson is credited with this saying, coined from his remarks in 1917. He was skeptical about the news coming from Europe during the First World War, prior to the US entry. In the century that since unfolded, we can readily see how misinformation in numerous forms and fabricated intentional lies have led to conflict, violence and misery for millions. In short, the absence of truth has been the root of great turmoil, suffering and death.

That is why universities, especially in the democratic West where we treasure equity, inclusion and freedom, are so critical now. The pace of information flow across the planet has reached exponential proportions in the last forty years. Much of that information flow is welcome. It allows us to connect with others across the globe and share experiences and ideas. A powerful example of this is how President Zelensky is using social media to speak to the world and boost morale in Ukraine. The downside to this information flow is the potential to allow distortions of the truth to shape what we know.

This is where our efforts as a University can matter powerfully and fruitfully. The creation and dissemination of knowledge at MGA is based on reason, evidence, argument and, yes, truth. We are about educating, not indoctrinating. We are about opening minds, not brainwashing them. We are about building communities, not wrecking them.

As we embrace knowledge, pursue the truth, and build better communities, we are able to engage authentically with others. Through this engagement – a core value we embrace at MGA - we know them better and are able to study, live and work peacefully together to create a better future.

For those interested in discussing the crisis in Ukraine with me, I invite you to join me on Tuesday, April 5, 10:00 am, at the Roberts Memorial Library on the Cochran Campus. The topic’s focus will be on how the historical events from World War I led to the current crisis in Ukraine.

Be Well,