The Knox sustainability task force, made up of students, faculty member Tim Kasser, and director of Facilities Services Scout Maust met with President Roger Taylor Wednesday morning, coming together for what some members and Taylor found to be a very productive meeting. The task force has begun seeing “sustainability” as something outside of just environmental sustainability and is looking into how we can learn to work together in a healthier, more respectful manner.
The main point the task force addressed was the recent question of what constitutes civil discourse. Taylor found it was difficult to address issues of sustainability on campus, if the issue of civil discourse had not been addressed.
Taylor said he did not suspend the task force because many of the members on it were part of the John Ashcroft protest. He said he did not know members of the task force had been part of the protest due to the hoods covering the protesters faces. Rather, following Ashcroft’s visit, Taylor was more concerned with the conduct of the student body following the talks, of the reports he heard of both young republicans and others being subject to harassment, and found that addressing the issue of discourse on campus to be of higher priority.
One of the more important parts of the task force was deciding to change the term from “civil discourse” to “mutually respectful discourse.” The term ‘civil,’ the task force found, was limited to having a calm disposition when you discuss issues. The task force thought it would be good to recognize that “mutually respectful discourse” could include “protest, not saying elitist and classist things about people that live in Galesburg… and that would imply being respectful of other species…it also would include being respectful of women and others who may be different from you,” said Taylor.
Taylor pointed out that a discussion could be heated or a protest. Mutual respect, Taylor noted, could mean, “You can holler but when you’re done you still respect each other.” Taylor hopes this idea will diffuse throughout the Knox community.
“If we can’t have free expression of ideas, even from republicans, we might as well shut the place down,” said Taylor. Still, he said the meeting Wednesday morning persuaded him to remain hopeful.
This is part of an overall change in understanding of what sustainability means for the task force. Senior Alex Enyart, a member of the task force, said the changing view is coming to see “sustainability as something that can connect the left and the right,” he said, pointing to the shared interest between fiscal conservatives and environmental conservatives to preserve resources. Senior Kelli Refer, another member of the task force, liked that issues at Knox such as sustainability, town and college relations, and women’s health and safety were being looked at in a “holistic way,” and found it beneficial that the Knox mission statement was looked at to how it could be more community rather than individual-oriented.