Defense of Civic Society is Not Partisanship

It is moral clarity.

College educators take being fair and open-minded seriously. Those who work for non-profits and for the public sector are told repeatedly that we must be non-partisan when representing our institutions. Friends who work at public universities feel this rule most acutely. There are strong ethical reasons behind this rule, and they are thus written into the tax code.

You as the educator are there to provide facts, information, provocations, and your own interpretations and analysis to foster free thinking students who challenge you at every turn. But please do not let any person (let alone yourself) imply that pressuring lawmakers to uphold civic society and follow the law and the Constitution is partisan. It is not partisan. Extremists continue to deceive and intimidate people into thinking that it is. If we in turn self-censor, consciously or not, we become unwittingly complicit in slowly but surely diminishing civic society.

Like journalists, we educators in polite society have appeased extremists for too long and such appeasement has had and will have grave consequences. At a “Choose Democracy” training to prepare for a possible coup, the facilitators emphasized that we should all utilize our own power, and our proximity to greater power. If you are tenured Professor, a Chair, a Dean, a college President, who signs this petition (full text below) and tells the faculty in your community that you have signed, or who writes your own public and actionable statement, those around you will be reassured that it’s thus alright for them to do the same. If you are a faculty member who signs, and then feels secure and also courageous enough to personally ask your colleagues, but also your Chair, Dean, Provost or President to sign as well, your small act of courage counters self-censorship and has the effect of building, not eroding, democracy. Many such voices may inspire other people in various public service and non-partisan fields: journalists, doctors, K-12 educators, cultural workers, to also speak out. Public opinion forces politicians to act: just look at at how beholden Republicans are to the Trump base for their votes.

This is not a moment for hand-wringing, strategy, or optics, but a time for moral clarity. If our elected leaders don’t act with clarity, then we must.

Anoka Faruqee is a an artist and educator in New Haven, CT.