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Monday, November 1, 2010

President Wagner said what?

The title of President Jim Wagner's October 28 address in Atlanta was Why We Need Universities More than Ever: A Forum for Difficult Dialogues. Actually, the event, which featured a dialogue between Wagner and Ron Sauder, vice president for communications and marketing (above, right), couldn't have been more civil.

Sauder deftly set Wagner up to discuss a variety of subjects, including the responsibility of a university, why Emory is aggressively acquiring the papers of well-known authors and, as the title said, why Emory should be a forum for difficult dialogues.

Keep reading for highlights from the conversation, like what Wagner said ...

About whether Emory will add an engineering school. Wagner, an engineer by training, prefaced his answer by nothing that Emory’s ninth president, Isaac Hopkins 1859C 1883H was the first president of Georgia Tech: “We started one engineering school and we’re very proud of it. We don’t have any intentions of starting another one.”

About the responsibilities of a university: “The opportunity to bring people together and challenge them as a community is something that will always be the responsibility of a university.”

About difficult dialogues, part 1: “Free speech is insufficient for communication. Free speech is that guarantee that I can say whatever I want to say, so long as it doesn’t put anyone in harm’s way. But the communications we’re talking about is less about a guarantee that I can say what I want to say and more about a guarantee that what I say will be heard. And my obligation to say it in a way that it will be heard, which means that I have to leave out obscenities. It requires the listener to be part of the contract as well, and to imagine that listening is more than waiting for their turn to talk and to entertain the possibility that what the speaker is saying could be meaningful."

About difficult dialogues, part 2: "If we can model difficult dialogues, civil discourse, to our students, our hope is that is part of the Emory Bubble they take with them when they land."

About difficult dialogues, part 3: "Whatever those things are that you’re not supposed to talk about in polite company … Emory has to provide the polite company with which to talk about those things."

About diversity of thought in research: “It is not possible to claim with integrity that you have studied any issue thoroughly unless you have explored it from as many perspectives as possible.”

About the Emory's recent acquisitions of literary collections such as Salman Rushdie and Alice Walker: “We need to be capturing the intellectual assets of some of the great thinkers of our time in places where people can debate what they mean, and it will be in those places where we can have those difficult dialogues.”

-- Eric Rangus, director of communications, EAA

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