September 6, 2007
President Nancy J. Vickers
Bryn Mawr College
Office of the PresidentSent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (610-526-7450)
Dear President Vickers:
FIRE greatly appreciated your thoughtful response to our inquiry about the Social Justice Pilot Program at Bryn Mawr. We were gratified to read of Bryn Mawr’s courageous and historic commitment to individual rights, and we are pleased to learn that this proud tradition continues today. At a time when far too many of our nation’s universities seem to disregard or misconstrue the right of individual conscience, Bryn Mawr’s adherence to principle is refreshing and much welcomed.
As expressed in our prior letter, our concern was that the Social Justice Pilot Program would encroach upon the freedom of conscience of Bryn Mawr students by requiring participation in a program that seeks to dictate to participants a “correct” conception of “social justice.” However, as long as the Social Justice Pilot Program as we currently understand it remains a purely voluntary endeavor for students, we see nothing objectionable about its continued operation.
True open-mindedness is always antithetical to dogma and therefore cannot effectively be imposed by fiat. The students involved in the Social Justice Pilot Program would be well-served by remembering that as aggressive as those who fight for free speech and free minds may be, the value at the heart of the First Amendment is ultimately humility. Judge Learned Hand eloquently articulated this essential truth when he described the true spirit of liberty as “the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”
Please let us know what other help FIRE may provide. We are saddened to learn that your tenure at Bryn Mawr will soon draw to a close, given your clear-sighted understanding of the beautiful and essential value of the individual conscience. We trust your successor will share your commitments.
Ralph Kuncl, Provost
Karen Tidmarsh, Undergraduate Dean
Christopher MacDonald-Dennis, Assistant Dean and Director of Intercultural Affairs
Professor Mary Osirim, Faculty Diversity Liaison
Professor Linda-Susan Beard
Professor Jody Cohen
Professor Alison Cook-Sather, Teaching and Learning Initiative
Florence Goff, Associate CIO and Equal Opportunity Officer
Dave Merrell, Editor-in-Chief, The Bi-College News