It is a risky move for an educational institution to take a political stand. When taking into account students, faculty, staff, and administrators, not to mention donors capable of giving or withholding several thousand dollars, if not millions of dollars, it makes sense that many colleges do not explicitly label themselves as "liberal" or "conservative." This past week, though, Augsburg College became the second Minnesota institution to openly oppose a freedom-limiting constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Augsburg College, a private Minneapolis liberal arts college associated with the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), took a bold stand. It joins the ranks of six Minnesota synods of the ELCA in opposing the marriage amendment.
But Augsburg College and Capella University, an online institution, are the only two schools in Minnesota to voice their views on the marriage amendment. Undoubtedly the dozens of other Minnesota schools have students in attendance who are allies in or a part of the LGBT community, and those schools' silence on the issue is deafening.
Colleges and universities teach foreign languages, binomial theorems, Italian, heroic couplets, and numerous other skills and specialties. Students learn that America occupies a unique role in world history for its advances in social justice and civil rights, but lately America has been lagging in catching up to other countries' views on marriage equality.
It stands to financial reason that schools would not express their allegiance to voting "no" on the marriage amendment, but on matters of the heart, which are the concern of schools that educate students in the art of thinking deeply and critically, this is absurd.
Religious institutions have not remained silent on their views toward the marriage amendment, but it seems odd that the institutions where students learn to question, to debate, and to seek knowledge and understanding are surprisingly quiet.
America has had a long history of civil disobedience, beginning, perhaps most notably, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We have gathered in groups to seek new opportunities to a better life, and we have done it individually, too. In July 1846 Henry Thoreau spent a night in a jail in Concord, Mass., for refusing to pay a poll tax because of his opposition toward slavery and the Mexican-American War.
If you reach into your pocket for some change, you will notice that every coin bears the motto "E pluribus unum," meaning "out of many, one." Adopted in 1776 for the Seal of the United States, it serves as a reminder of our strength in numbers.
Schools educate students about wars, about freedom, and about people like Thoreau, but now schools must become bastions of support for not only society as a whole but their own students, staff, and faculty. By remaining silent, colleges and universities speak volumes on what they stand for. Augsburg College and Capella University have forged a trail. Now other institutions should follow their lead.
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