September 14, 2010

Dear Students,

As we enter the new school year, I am again thankful for the energy and excitement created by new and returning students to the campus and I am grateful for the support of faculty, staff and alumni. This year promises to be full of new learning opportunities for each and every one of us, whether in the classroom, lab, clinic, service assignment, work place, sporting event, chapel or just hanging out. One learning opportunity will be to continue our conversation about the decision made last year to begin playing the national anthem at select sporting events on campus as well as other efforts to engage each other in dialogue about issues on which we may disagree.

The Goshen College Board of Directors affirmed the decision of the President’s Council to play the national anthem, while encouraging the exchange of ideas with one another in respectful ways that embody the teaching and learning commitments of Goshen College .  The Board initiated a “Listen & Learn Process” as part of its review of the decision in June 2011. The outcome of such a review may mean the decision stands, is modified or is reversed.

On May 21-22, 2010, following a series of on campus interviews, Dr. Larissa Fast of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (University of Notre Dame) and Dr. Bernie Mayer, Director of the Werner Institute for Negotiation (Creighton University), facilitated a discussion among a representative gathering of faculty, staff, alumni and administrators on this issue. The purpose of the gathering was to provide perspective for them in designing a proposal for approaching the year-long "Listen & Learn" conversation. In June, Dr. Fast presented their proposal to the Board of Directors.

In July, a representative group of the Board of Directors met with key administrators to refine the common assumptions of the Board and develop a more formal response to the Listen & Learn proposal. In broad outline, the Board recommended the following:

·        That the Listen & Learn process be situated in a larger conversation about the vision of Goshen College becoming an intercultural, international, interdisciplinary liberal arts college guided by its five core values.

·        That a representative working group, led by Dr. Fast and with the involvement of Dr. Mayer, be formed by the end of September and meet on a regular basis to give oversight and design leadership to the process and to serve as a depository for collecting and interpreting responses on behalf of the Board.

·        That an e-survey about the anthem decision and the overall vision of the college be developed this fall, in consultation with Drs. Fast and Mayer, that allows for maximum participation of the wider Goshen College community, including students, faculty, alumni and other key stakeholders.

·        That a series of regional events be conducted to “listen and learn” from external stakeholders at more in depth levels of engagement around the anthem decision as it fits into the overall vision of the college.  These events will coincide with regular calendared regional events throughout the year, with Board representation at each event

·        That on-campus opportunities for dialogue, in addition to those already provided to date, include a Core Values Institute Forum for all employees and students and visitors on March 28, 2011 dedicated to the theological, historical, cultural and visionary context of playing the anthem at a select number GC sporting events. Other listening & learning opportunities may be provided as determined by the working group.

I have asked Bill Born, Vice President of Student Life, to serve as primary staff person to this process. You are welcome to direct any questions you may have about this process to him or me and we will make every effort to respond as quickly as possible.

In the end, whether we agree or disagree about the decision to play the anthem, I trust that we will make every attempt to model true Christian charity in our differences, especially in our differences, which is the heart and soul of a truly Christ-centered liberal arts education.


Jim Brenneman, Goshen College President