By: Andrew Parker
As I round out the final of the five columns I was asked to write for the Sojourn, I come to the article about bigotry. On page 19 of the 2011-2012 IWU Student Handbook is the Access, Equity, & Diversity Statement. It reads: “Indiana Wesleyan University endeavors to maintain a teaching and learning environment that supports sensitivity to diverse individuals and groups. Acts of racism, hazing, sexism, bigotry, harassment, and violence are not acceptable behaviors from either employees or students.”
“Bigot” is not a word that people tend to use in their everyday conversations.Think about it. When was the last time you used the term? What does it even mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”
As an institution of higher education, and even more so as one that upholds Christian values, it should not be surprising that IWU seeks to be a place free of bigotry. Higher education, and particularly a liberal arts education, is typically associated with being exposed to new ideas and concepts – the expanding of one’s mind. As Christians, we are called to love and pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), seek to live peaceably with all people (Rom. 12:18), and to withhold judgment (Matt. 7:1). These things are all antithetical to bigotry.
Does this mean that bigotry does not exist on our campus? Of course not. Anyone who makes such a claim is either naïve or untruthful. However, it is the type of environment we seek to cultivate. Part of cultivating such an environment is that we must continually engage in the evaluation of our campus culture, as well as the larger, popular culture, to determine if there are groups or individuals falling through the cracks, going unnoticed and, ultimately, unprotected from bigotry. A significant way we seek to ward off such narrow-minded and prejudiced behavior is by re-evaluating the Student Handbook each year to ensure that the community standards and policies put forth address the various groups on campus that could potentially be discriminated against.
As has been stated in nearly every article written in this series, this is further evidence of the fact that the Student Handbook is a “living” document. As living creatures change and adapt over time – sometimes out of preference, sometimes out of principle, and sometimes out of necessity – so does the Student Handbook. Failure to do so would ultimately result in a set of rules and policies that would be largely irrelevant and/or ineffective.
If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions regarding this policy or any others, please feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love to hear what you have to say. Whether we see eye to eye on things, I can promise you one thing … I will do my best not to be a bigot.