The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, November 14, 1986, Image 2

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Page2AThe Battalion/Friday, November 14, 1986 Opinion Partisan forum puts A&M’s integrity in question Sc The recent de cision of the MSC Political Forum to sponsor a “Repub lican Perspective” John D. Robertson Guest Columnist panel is not only poor judgment on the part of the staff and officers of Political Forum, it is symptomatic of a much deeper and more serious malaise of in tegrity that at times threatens this and other campuses across our nation. It emerges from a lack of discipline in our pursuit of higher values that must sup port a university if it is to remain loyal to its central mission of preparing students for ef fective, tolerant citizenship. No one who has had any formal asso ciation with Political Forum would doubt its unwavering commitment to free speech and the objective pursuit of education through public discussion. Yet, anyone who has advised those stu dents responsible for public speaking programs at this or other universities knows that it is not always easy to see how a public forum sponsored by a uni versity will damage that institution’s in tegrity and reputation. This is often more difficult when there is the clear promise of an opportunity to have that university gain local, regional and per haps even national media coverage f rom the event they sponsor. When it comes to public officials in high places of power, the pressure, ex plicit or otherwise, is always there to as sociate the university with those in a po sition of public power so as to win some political favor or monetary advantage down the pike. To rationalize this by saying that we as a university have no al ternative but to accommodate poli ticians is to also suggest to our critics that our university has no independent conscience nor values separate from those who temporarily serve at the pub lic’s pleasure. Whether this was the motivation be hind the MSC’s willingness or inability to decline an opportunity to feature a partisan Republican rally on the day be fore an election of such magnitude will never be known. It really does not mat ter, because what is important here is that the MSC staff and students once again ignored the warnings of those of us who have tried to remind them of the meaning behind the phrase: What is perceived to be real is real in its conse quences. The consequences of this per ceived partisan rally are that the intel lectual integrity of the faculty and the professional integrity of all who were formerly associated with this University have been seriously impugned, not to mention exposing us to charges that we have misused state funds for a partisan political event. Our actions as a univer sity should never suggest that we are willing to compromise our legitimacy as a voice of balanced reflection and broadened enlightenment simply to avoid offending narrow political fac tions. The decision of Political Forum sug gests that here as in other universities there is a deep undercurrent of cyn icism regarding the role of a major insti tution of higher learning. Rather than being an example of public virtue, many universities find it easier to simply go ' along to get along. They avoid raising is sues that may have immediate costs for the universtiy and thereby rape their own institutional conscience — a far greater long-term cost to overcome. We see it all the time, as when an ath letic program turns its head or complies with a decision to mortgage an athlete’s education for the purpose of providing exciting entertainment for the alma mater; or when a professor is unwilling to spend the extra time with his or her , class because the next article or book is running behind schedule; or when fac ulty and administration pressure those in the university community who have qualms with work that remains classified and unavailable for public scrutiny to remain silent about their conscientious concern; or when a faculty member is denied tenure because the content of his or her syllabus offends a faction outside the academic community. While these examples may be abstractions to iftany at Fexas A&M, let those of us in a posi tion of responsibility at this University not forget the values that are implied in our decision to pay almost any price to obtain a winning football coach while we tell our students that this or that new se rial or book has to be justified before the University library can purcliase it; or when our University’s name and reputa tion become associated with a legal bat tle to prevent the sexual integration of our band; or when we fail to insist that A&M be strong enough to overcome an Photo by GrtfL tune alhui U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, Vice President George Bush, Gov.-elect Bill Clements and U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm visited Its u l’ cc A&M Nov. 3. Their visit was sponsored by MSC Political Forum. com itatec outdated and embarrassing tradition of encouraging its faculty to allow graduat ing seniors to avoid final examinations. It is probable that most people asso ciated with this University will forget quickly the evening of Nov. 3 as they go about their normal routines of teaching, research, administration and policy making. If we want our University to be thought of in the public’s mind as a “nonpartisan” institution of higher learning that strives to rise above tlife po litical passions of the moment, then we should hope that the public forgets the evening as well. But what should not be forgotten by anyone who values the role of a university in its ideal sense is that each time we relent when tempted by the seductive influence of an incumbent politician seeking an improper and im balanced public forum for his partisan viewpoints, we run a much greater risk — a risk with consequences that extend far beyond the ivory tower and strike the core of pluralist democracy. We risk befalling the consequences of a society that cannot say no to what is inconsastent with its values and heritage; of whai be falls a society that cannot hold the cen ter against peripheral pressures of those who need the University as a means of sanctioning their factional perspective. \Al ex pr We risk, in short, losing our inif#- and honor as a university committe e * ( the tolerant and universal pursii» a P knowledge and ideas. We risk: quishing out defense of theceremw gr.,,, innocence which, as Yeats reminds: of S< the condition to whic h a sodetvan: t|nni institutions are condemned when! best lack all conviction, while the* are full of passionate intensity." wiih an ai John /). Robertson is an associate; fessor of political science and (or, j faculty adviser to MSC Political rum. Student Conference on Mot Affairs and Wiley Lecture Series. Mail Call Who pays for AIDS? EDITOR: I cannot fathom the agony experienced by victims of AIDS and their families. The death of a person who has contracted the disease is all the more tragic, I think, because in almost every case it was so easily preventable. My sympathy ends there, however, because when people play with fire, it’s difficult to feel sorry for those who get burned. Perhaps $1 billion appropriated to AIDS reserch will, in time, prove beneficial to the general population. But, whether or not AIDS spreads widely through heterosexual relationships, it now seems terribly unfair that those who practice sexual restraint before marriage and fidelity during marriage should in any way pay for the treatment of those who continue to take unnecessary risks. Paul Koch Interpretation ignored EDITOR: I have faith in the existence of a collection of concerned individuals who do a mental wince every time they hear Jimmy Swaggart preach on television and sigh with resignation after reading the slightly smug admonitions of spiritual roadhogs that periodically get printed in Mail Call. The attitude I’m referring to is one of religious arrogance that periodically labels anyone who refuses to jump through the legalistic hoops of fundamentalism as a “secular humanist.” Here are some classics: If you were to die tomorrow, would you go to heaven? Do you accept the Bible as the complete word of God? Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus? The list is long and tiresome. And don’t bother bringing a blue book to this test, a Scantron and No. 2 pencil will be provided. The issue, conveniently ignored by religious literalists, is interpretation. One gains nothing, for example, by simply agreeing that Jesus is the son of God if one does not have the courage nor the intellectual honesty to acknowledge the inherent difficulty in reconciling the contradictory notion that Jesus was somehow fully human and yet completely divine. What does it mean to be “completely divine?” To what extent do we have this capacity? These are the questions of interest. They raise new questions. They are relevant to all people. And they cut past the simple certainties of fundamentalism that promise salvation at the expense of trivialized faith and the promotion of intolerance, hypersensitivity and polarization among different belief systems. This matter of interpretation works to shroud, in a haze of ambiguity, the moral high ground that the fundamentalist had previously found easy to defend. The line that distinguishes “them” from “us” is blurred, making righteousness difficult to come by. Interpretation cannot be avoided nor should it be nelected, for it is a requisite of enlightened thought and mutual understanding. Glenn Streiff Letters to the editor should not exceed 300 words in length. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for style and length, but will make every effort to maintain the author’s intent. Each letter must be signed and must include the classification, address and telephone number of the writer. Automotive illiteracy results from a liberal arts education Help! For about a month now, de pending on my m o o cl a n d whether I have the stomach for it, I have set out to buy a car. I paid my first visit to a deal ership before the summer, was lied to by the salesman about financing It’s my . .” The Richard Cohen and decided to take the summer off. Now', with my old car failing and the new tax law staring me in the face (sales tax will no longer be deductible), I have no choice but to proceed. I am ill-pre pared for this task. I blame my plight on my schooling. I am the product of a liberal arts educa tion, one of those people who smiled condescendingly when the school bozos were marched off to auto shop. I, on the other hand, was marched off to algebra, which I have not used once in my life. As best I can recall, it is the science of determining how long it would take two boys to mow one lawn if it took one of them half an hour. The correct answer, then as now, is “who cares?” Cars befuddle me. I know next to nothing about them and absolutely nothing about buying them. Only twice have I bought a new car, the last time nearly 15 years ago — and I still have it. In that time, I have spent maybe $345,876 on repairs, leaving the shop each time not sure what was repaired and certain I was ripped off. The men I scorned in high school now talk down to me and do so in a language I do not un derstand. I pretend I do, because car talk, like football talk, is one way we men, doglike, sniff one another. But I’m afraid 1 always fail the scent test. I think they smell a subway rider. ager was a proper German who ex plained that the car would have to be given all sorts of diagnostic tests before it could be determined what ailed it. “Verecan I reach you?” “Me?” I asked. “Why me? wife’s car. You can reach her at service manager looked at me scorn fully: What sort of man was this? In fact, was this a man at all? “If it vas me,” he said, T vould not allow my vife to make this decision.” What could I say? That my wife knew as much about cars as I did? That he could lie to her as easily as to me? That at least she was not supposed to know anything about cars and therefore was pardoned in advance (like Richard Nixon) if she goofed? No way. “Of cour se,” I said. “By all means. Call me.” I paid, I think, $98,000. When I say I blame my inadequacies on my education, I mean my entire edu cation. I was a Cub Scout, Boy ScOut and even an Explorer Scout, learning many things that are absolutely worthless. I can make knots that I have never once been called on to make. I know that moss grows on the north side of trees, but not once have I been lost in the woods. I can kill a bear with a sharp stick, gut it and with the yukky stuff in side make a small house with one bed room, fireplace and conversation pit. What good is that? Where, I ask you, is the merit badge for buying a car? Where’s the one for knowing that interest on the loaniii gotiable? While we’re at it, howaM merit badge for checking into a k(| • the one thaf teaches you to ask foil lowest rate? Why not a merit badjtl handling headwaiters and another;! ordering wine? My head is cluttered with isoscelefl angles, with the valences of eleiJf but I never learned how tobuyali$| or hire a contractor. Scores of menl| looked at my leaky roof, all of I armed with appropriately thick pei(l| each one with a different tale to|| none of them true. Soon, the tod ’ woodsmen of Virginia will knockotffl door, selling firewood, and 1 willj ture out to their truck, touching, 11 ' ing and, I’m sure, fooling no one. I best I can do is figure out that ifi? ^ one toothless woodsman 15 minulfl unload a cord of wood, it takestw® long for two of them. That’s W--? they usually fight with each other. On Saturday, once again, 1 willD’H buy a car — still a virgin at theorg)! 1 take notes, pretend I have done hundred times before, strike acp 11 I pose, make a pass at bargaining and ' doubtedly, get taken. I am thepredf ; ble product of a shoddy education' success at school, a failure at life.® many customers does it take for as® salesman to sell a car he’s been dyiJt unload at a price he never t hough-Ip get? The answer is one. Here I cow® Copyright 1986, Washington Post Writers The Battalion (USPS 045 360) Member of Texas Press Association Southwest Journalism Conference The Battalion Editorial Board The First new car I bought was a 1968 Volkswagen. It was a wonderful thing, but one day it failed me. By then, it was my wife’s car but, knowing my sex role, I took it in for repairs. The service man- Cathie Anderson, Editor Kirsten Dietz, Managing Editor Loren Steffy, Opinion Page Editor Frank Smith, City Editor Sue Krenek, News Editor Ken Sury, Sports Editor Editorial Policy The Baualion is a non-profit, self-supporting newspil* operated as a community service to Texas A&M and Br# | College Station. Opinions expressed in 'The Battalion are those of thf<^ ; torial board or the author, and do not necessarily repitfCt the opinions of Texas A&M administrators, faculty or ^ I Board of Regents. The Battalion also serves as a laboratory newspi(xr ,r students in reporting, editing and photography cla!^ t' within the Department of Journalism. The Battalion is published Monday through FndivC ing Texas A&M regular semesters, except for holidaw^ examination periods. Mail subscriptions arc $17.44 pet semester, $34.6! (*' school year and $36.44 per full year. Advertising raiof 1 nished on request. .. 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