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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

The sky is falling! (According to the students)

A REBUTTAL TO PREVIOUS OP-EDS REGARDING WOFFORD’S NEW STRATEGIC VISION —

The release of Wofford College’s strategic vision in the past few weeks has served its purpose. Namely, it has made known the administration’s “wish list” for the college while simultaneously starting a dialogue among students, faculty and alumni about Wofford’s future. With that dialogue has come a plethora of accusations and criticisms, some legitimate and some less so.

Most notably, some students are wondering why words such as “diversity,” “sustainability” and “engagement,” were emphasized in the strategic vision while “honor,” “character” or “integrity” were not. One op-ed stated that “to add one thing is to lose or deemphasize another,” and that “in the pursuit of things such as diversity…sustainability… and engagement…these values [honor, character, and integrity], which have been the very bedrock of Wofford College for 160 years, are now being forgotten.”

In my opinion, the statement is incorrect for an abundance of reasons. For one, integrity, character and honor are things that Wofford has always striven to embody. Contrary to the claims of that op-ed, institutional policies, whether they are from a government, school or a private entity are not a zero-sum affair. On the financial side, students are not paying more tuition, nor are alumni asked to make more donations per year to maintain the same financial overhead. Wofford is not asking for more money to expand for the sake of expansion, nor is Wofford diverting resources from its best programs to accommodate its lesser programs. Rather, Wofford aims to improve its lesser institutions and make its weaknesses less weak; that’s the point of the strategic vision.

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Wofford could achieve all of its aims in the strategic vision and it wouldn’t affect campus policies involving honor, such as the honor code. Those are two separate fields, and to say one affects the other in terms of attention, emphasis or funding is to misunderstand how any institution at any level works.

Wofford has separate departments and pays a good many people to worry about specific operations within the university, including but not limited to alumni relations, the honor code, residence life and so on. As long as it’s someone’s job to ensure a function of the college runs at a high quality, there will be emphasis on those subjects, or at least alleviating emphasis on those subject is unlikely (as the person in charge would probably lose their job).

Just because the strategic vision doesn’t specifically say anything about character, honor and integrity does not mean that Wofford wants to abandon those principles; such a suggestion is non sequitur. It could just as easily be that Wofford didn’t mention these things because it’s content with its adherence to those principles, both as an institution and with the community. Better yet, it is possible that Wofford didn’t use those words because they were unrelated to the point of the document, namely in Wofford’s future growth.

If Wofford stands for honor, integrity and character in a quintessential way, but lacks emphasis in other important areas, a strategic vision that doesn’t improve those neglected areas cannot be called a strategic vision, as it would not be in any sense strategic or a vision (unless you consider tunnel vision an acceptable form of vision).I don’t understand what those who wish words like integrity, honor and character were in the vision want out of the vision. In what context would those words be relevant for a strategic vision? You cannot expect the strategic vision to address concerns of Wofford’s lack of character, honor and integrity, as the focus of the strategic vision is essentially upon things Wofford students and alumni can financially invest in.

New policies that would pertain to honor, character and integrity are not going to be issues related to the growth and financial future of the college. Those policies would be passed by already existing institutions at Wofford, such as the honor council, an abundance of community service organizations, and other organizations that could be categorized as character-building or integrity-building organizations.

Though I agree that Wofford’s strategic vision isn’t perfect, I think criticism needs to be within reason. Anyone can be a critic, but suggesting alternative ideas and visions is slightly more difficult. I don’t understand why some are fixated on the word choice or semantics of the strategic vision, but I think such fixation highlights a misunderstanding of the vision’s purpose.

The sky is not falling because Wofford wants to grow in diversity, sustainability, engagement and other areas that Wofford has struggled with traditionally. As a campus, let’s have a serious conversation on what Wofford needs to improve upon to be a quintessential learning institution in the 21st century, not chase semantic or rhetorical boogeymen.

 

— Joe James

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