An exciting and provocative debate has emerged among students about the wording on the Trinity diploma. The date is preceded by the wording "The Year of Our Lord..." Non-believers and non-Christians would like that wording removed. The student government and Trinity Diversity Connection co-sponsored a forum to discuss this issue last week.
There is no easy answer. The issue does offer a choice, however. In the academic setting, the process is more important than the outcome and our University has handled this issue with great diplomacy, if you will. The forum, moderated by Dr. Jarrod Atchison, debate coach, featured three-minute presentations from various faculty members representing a variety of disciplines: Religion, Philosophy, Communication, History, and Political Science. Students then posed questions and an open exchange of ideas followed. It was an outstanding event. The faculty never took a stand, but merely illuminated the issue. (Their views could obviously be inferred...)
Those wishing to see the language retain cited the historic and cultural ties to the Presbyterian church. one student noted that the Trinity seal, featuring a Bible etching, is on the diploma as well. Should this also be removed? Others cite the inherent nature of the modern calendar as rooted in Christianity. Probably the most common argument is that this would begin a shift toward political correctness and an erosion of what we are. What goes next - prayers at commencement? Vespers? The Rev?
On the other side, students participants discussed the internationalization of the campus and its marketing efforts at promoting a diverse and welcoming campus environment. Then, say some, students come here to only learn that the diploma has overtly and unnecessary Christian lingo on a document that is very personal.
There is no middle ground. The wording stays or goes. Logistically it would be a nightmare to allow for customized diplomas (Choose A or B). It would be a mistake to compromise on this issue. The University needs to make a decision and live with it. Trinity should take a stand. Watering this down to appease both sides is like a tie in an athletic contest.
ASR will be voting on this issue next week. That resolution will then be forwarded to the Commencement Committee, which is reviewing the issue in full just days later. That meeting will feature invited student speakers for and against the change. Presumably the committee will then consider all of this input and make a recommendation to the President and Trustees. This has been an extremely civil and thorough process - again, we should be proud.
It has appeared to me that the students pushing for a change have more at stake than those who wish to retain the current language. It would mean more to the students who object to the wording to have the language removed than it would mean to the students who want it to stay the same. For the former it is personal and about acceptance and inclusion. For the others it is primarily philosophical. Most wouldn't feel that the change would lessen the diploma. Most didn't know the language was even there in the first place. In a year, no one would miss the current phrasing. Shouldn't we respect the wishes of those who feel hurt by this? Removing the language, ironically, would seem the Christian thing to do.
What do you think? Weigh in on the poll at right.