Editor’s Note

Irreconcilable Differences
Frank Shushok, Jr.

It seems that everywhere you look—on our campuses, statehouses, and social-media feeds—folks are talking at one another about their own beliefs, values, and perceptions of the world. These kinds of conversations seem to be exactly the type that could benefit from a little “abiding in dissonance” strategy, where listening takes the driver’s seat. It’s for this reason that the editorial team of About Campus was especially intrigued by John Inazu’s work and advocacy for embracing a perspective of “confident pluralism,” which he explored with me in a compelling interview. I suspect you’ll be motivated by John’s articulation of the three civic practices (tolerance, humility, and patience) for “staying in it” with others in spite of deep differences.

Yes, there are differences in many of our worldviews that are irreconcilable. They are not going away. So the question really does become, what are we going to do with our dissonance? The usual options include suppress, resent, regress, digress. Or, we could learn to trust them. In doing so, I wonder if we would find in our differences some of our best teachers, necessary champions that keep us from ideological calcification, making our world and ourselves more malleable and strong.

Featured Articles

Executive Editor Frank Shushok Jr., Talks with Professor John D. Inazu about His Book, Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference, and What It Means for the University

Frank Shushok, Jr., and John Inazu

In this engaging interview, John D. Inazu identifies confident pluralism as the way for us to thrive in connection even when divided by deep differences. Since our differences are not just going to go away, we need to learn to live with others with whom we do not agree. Inazu explains that tolerance, humility, and patience are the foundational principles to do this. They provide the tools to respect others as people without accepting their viewpoints, to accept that we may not be able to convince people of the correctness of our viewpoint, and to allow room for ourselves and others to make mistakes and still keep the conversation going.

The Student as Artist

John Hannah and Tesni Ellis

In a response to an article in the March 2018 issue of About Campus, John Hannah and Tesni Ellis challenge a rigid curricular approach to student affairs. They recognize the appeal and benefits of such an approach but are wary that any curriculum can become prescriptive, moving all students toward the same specific end. They ask us to imagine students as artists (or inventors or makers) creatively constructing their own experience and suggest there are eight lessons we can learn from this approach. These lessons include recognizing that there is often more than one solution to a problem, the process of learning can be as important as the product, and the experience of internal motivation and satisfaction facilitates student learning.

Understanding Campus Spaces to Improve Student Belonging

Michelle Samura

Michelle Samura reports on her Architecture of Belonging study, which examines the relationship between campus spaces and the development of students’ feelings of belonging. The study uses student-created photo journals supplemented with student interviews to discover where students spend their time and where they feel comfortable and uncomfortable. Samura shares her findings about three important spaces on her campus, the Diner, the walkway outside the Diner, and Marlow Hall. But most importantly, she guides us to think about how we can adapt existing spaces (and create new ones) to support students’ connectedness to our campuses. She encourages fellow educators to add a spatial approach to their efforts at supporting student engagement and belonging.

Bottom Line

Civic Aspirations and a New Path Forward for Free Speech on Campus

Joe Edens

About Campus Writers Retreat alumni Joe Edens discusses the challenges of free speech when such speech includes content that undermines the ideologies of higher education, such as diversity, tolerance, or intellectual rigor. Even in cases of controversial or provocative speech, he believes that the process of free speech should not be hindered and employs John D. Inazu’s concept of confident pluralism—that we can coexist despite profound difference—to imagine how we can engage deeply with those who hold vastly different perspectives. Though it can be difficult to practice tolerance, patience, and humility during a collision of perspectives, it is necessary to support free and civil discourse.

Views from Campus

These Walls Will Talk

Ricardo Montelongo

Many of us decorate our offices in ways that display our talents or interests, but About Campus Writers Retreat alumni Ricardo Montelongo suggests that there is more to what we hang on our walls than simple décor. He reminds us that a diploma wall provides environmental cues about who we are and what we value; it can also help students recognize their own ability to be successful in college. Plaques from professional organizations tell our students that most of us do not succeed alone. Even images that symbolize challenges or hardship can inspire perseverance when students understand that while our professional journey may be fulfilling, it has not been without its costs. Montelongo challenges us to motivate students through our own diploma walls.