On Pluralism: Voice and Ear

As we begin the last full month of the Spring semester, students, faculty, and administrators alike have our eyes on a strong finish to Middle Georgia State’s first academic year as a university.  I have often publicly stated that a university entails a plurality of ideas if it is true to its identity and name.

Webster’s dictionary defines pluralism as “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.” At Middle Georgia State, our common civilization is based on the university vision of transforming individuals and their communities through extraordinary higher learning.

That common civilization relies on each of us committing to our core values—stewardship, engagement, adaptability, and learning—in situations great and small. It is in our everyday choices that we truly practice the essence of pluralism: both listening and speaking.

Since I reported on the State of the University back in January, I am pleased to share that we have strengthened pluralism in a number of ways, including:

Diversity is just one aspect of pluralism. At least as important is building shared governance, so that every member of our community has both voice and ear.

That is why our diversity initiative has also included 18 campus conversations with classes and student groups, as well as a Campus Climate Survey of our faculty and staff. It is also why the search for our Provost and Chief Academic Officer includes a presentation and Q&A for all faculty and staff by each of the four finalists. Those presentations will take place this week and next in both Macon and Cochran, and I encourage faculty and staff to attend.

Yet, it is not only in areas of future promise where we seek to listen. As many of you know, over the past month, we have been addressing issues of water quality on the Cochran Campus. This afternoon, our Associate VP for Facilities is holding a town hall to address any student, faculty or staff questions regarding what we have done to address the issue and what lies ahead.

Speaking and listening to one another is at the very heart of education—it is both how we generate new ideas and address existing challenges. We cannot achieve our vision without honest speech and attentive listening.  The core principle of education is our encounter with new ideas, people and practices, and that in dialogue we are mutually enriched by that encounter. The longer we work and learn together, the more convinced I am that Middle Georgia State is up to these tasks.