President Glotzbach Offers Necessary Reminder in Responsible Citizenship
In Skidmore’s Strategic Action Agenda, which landed in students’ inboxes again this month, President Glotzbach “[called] upon members of the Skidmore community to rededicate ourselves to our common educational purpose - especially as it relates to the concept of informed, responsible, citizenship.” Few students are likely to have read the Plan, and those who did may have felt these words were generic or overplayed. But they highlight a serious problem.
Being opinionated doesn’t necessarily mean we are informed. We have a responsibility to be apprised of local, national, and global issues, which requires gaining an understanding of a topic through being exposed to reporting from various sources. Receiving CNN alerts on a smartphone is a place to start, but should not constitute the entirety of one’s global awareness.
Exposing ourselves to opposing opinions and sources can be uncomfortable and difficult; but without this interaction, our community risks falling into an echo chamber free from critical thinking, let alone grappling with critical issues. On this campus, the most prevalent example of this are political debates where progressive perspectives dominate discussion. There is real danger in absently following vocal community members, such as possible animosity towards moderate or conservative groups and a disrespect of their freedoms to express themselves.
As this year’s Strategic Plan stated, “upholding freedom of speech sometimes forces us to acknowledge the existence of views not only that are different from our own but that we find reprehensible.” Nonetheless, community members must create space for others to respectfully express their views. Many of us agree with this prospect but find it difficult to execute. Those who feel that listening to opposing views violates their freedoms should keep in mind that effecting change in this community, and larger communities outside of our campus, will likely require critical engagement with individuals who hold opposing views.
Lastly, responsible citizens of the community can use the avenues available to them to be a positive force for change. For Skidmore students who are citizens, that involves voting in local and national government elections. For those with time, that could mean volunteering in the community for causes that speak to you. Those with money to spare may consider making a donation to an organization that is making a difference.
Perhaps the easiest way to be engage with the community as a responsible citizen is simply to be compassionate toward others. When we care for one another, we make an effort to understand others’ thoughts and feelings regarding an issue -- the first step to appropriate action.