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Members of the Wofford community respond to the circulating petition against Samhat


Feb. 1, 2017 − Since its foundation in 1854, Wofford College has committed itself as an institution to a healthy intellectual environment for the free exchange of ideas.  What follows from this commitment is the defense and protection of students from coercive forces that prevent their free expression.  It is the job of college administrators to ensure this atmosphere stays healthy and vibrant. In this regard, President Samhat this week has fulfilled that obligation and defended those principles.  As current students, alumni, faculty and other members of the Wofford family, we are troubled by the response and actions of a vocal minority of students to these statements.

Make no mistake, there is absolutely no evidence of President Samhat taking any measure to deter students, faculty or anyone else from stating their opinion about President Trump’s executive orders.  In this way, all charges of President Samhat “stifling” free speech or threatening the “academic freedom” [sic] of professors circulating on a certain petition is a work of fiction, invented out of whole cloth.  If anything, President Samhat welcomed discussion and debate on these issues in his statement.  Though we can disagree on college policies and positions, an atmosphere in which we attribute unsubstantiated ulterior motives toward those with whom we disagree is not conducive to a free exchange of ideas as well as morally reprehensible.  At Wofford College we say we are a family, and a family does not assume the source of its disagreement is that other members are evil or out to get other members.

Wofford College is a school of less than 2,000 faculty, administrators and students. It is not difficult to arrange a meeting with the president or administrative officials.  In this age of social media, it is near impossible for any single institution to censor speech, and such allegations should never be taken lightly. Assertions that such things are happening require evidence that the petition was scarce to provide.  It is easier to rally against something for bad reasons than it is to challenge people to reflect upon what they support for good reasons. Given these factors, we are troubled by the intentions of this somewhat anonymous petition, with unsubstantiated charges directed at the administration.  If this were about free speech or disagreement over policy, those concerned could have just as easily signed their name on an op-ed for the campus newspaper, scheduled a meeting with President Samhat or arranged a protest.  Instead, a semi-anonymous online petition was drafted in which anyone could jump on an angry bandwagon to demonize an individual they didn’t like- President Samhat.  He deserves better given his good intentions and successful efforts to make Wofford an improved academic institution.

For this reason, we support the statement of the college this week.  We oppose and condemn anonymous and vile smear methods that serve to belittle the character and public standing of members of the Wofford Community.  We support Wofford College’s efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive academic environment. We affirm enthusiastic support for Nayef Samhat as the President of Wofford College, and have little doubt this minor incident will be forgotten soon as he continues his long tenure at Wofford College.

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    Danny SheltonFeb 3, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I wholeheartedly support Dr. Samhat!

    Danny Shelton