Being part of the solution is everyone’s responsibility

01-09-2012

It’s a new year—a time to pass along best wishes and look ahead to make our plans and resolutions. And good planning for the future requires sincere reflection on the year just ended.

Frankly, it was a difficult year for American higher education on several fronts. Issues such as allegations of sexual abuse of children and hazing on several campuses—deplorable acts to begin with—are distractions from our primary jobs, including enlightenment and collaboration.

On this campus, there were concerns arising from racial incidents last fall that resulted in several meetings with student leaders to develop action-oriented next steps to create a more inclusive MSU. We also are continuing to address concerns about sexual assault through new policies, procedures, and education. Unfortunately, that is a continuing issue in every community, so we must be diligent in our awareness and prevention efforts.

It’s an appropriate time to talk about integrity and respect, which are important supports for our core values of quality, connectivity, and inclusivity. Both must be reflected in our daily actions and in how we define our individual and collective responsibilities as part of our MSU community. It means speaking up if you see someone being taunted. It means stepping up to do the right thing on behalf of other members of Team MSU, as you should expect they would do for you. It means reaching out to engage with your neighbors and treating them with respect.

You might suppose that technology would have brought us closer together, with our digital networks and communication devices. But those are only tools, and without a genuine sense of respect and care for one another, I fear that the effect is quite the opposite—that relationships with one another and with the community as a whole become merely virtual.

I think all of us want to be part of a community in the truest sense of the word. Integrity, respect, and a strong sense of personal responsibility should motivate us to make wherever we are a better place. These values are part of the bedrock on which a great university must be built. And if there is anything I want our students take with them when they leave this community, it’s the drive to be part of the solution, wherever they live and whatever the problem might be.

At an entirely different level, many of us will be making efforts in the coming months to reflect on this institution in the context of the directions we might take in the next 10 years or so in the pursuit of becoming an even more exceptional university. Many of our academic and administrative leaders already have joined me in a series of sessions focused not just on improving what we do every day but on pursuing the game-changing ideas that will embed us even more deeply among the world’s top 100 universities.

But this isn’t simply with the goal of being more competitive or successful—though we make no apologies for striving always to be exceptional. This is about taking on the big problems that beset society globally with fresh, cross-disciplinary approaches. It’s being part of the solution, whatever the problem.

We will be opening the process in the coming months to engage even more members of the MSU community in both of these dialogues, and I welcome your participation.

And with this call to engagement, I wish you the very happiest of new years, a year in which I hope you will find personal success and fulfillment as a member of the MSU community and the Spartan Nation.

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