Real Issue Around Rescinded Offers at Harvard Is Responsibility, Not Freedom

To the Editor:

Freedom vs. responsibility.

Harvard and the students both have freedoms. These freedoms are at the core of what it means to be an American, and to live life in the United States. Yet it is not these freedoms that should be at the core of the discourse surrounding this incident (“Free Speech Loses Ground as Harvard Retracts Offers to Admitted Students,The Chronicle, June 13). The concept of freedom will be defended every time and distracts from what truly needs evaluation. We’ve hidden the true issues in the guise and shadows of a free-speech issue — casually overlooking the more important issues that relate to our profession.

Instead of having a conversation about Harvard and freedom, we should be have having conversations about responsibility — this may best serve us as we analyze just versus unjust. We should look less at who gets what freedom (both parties in this situation rightfully exercised their respective freedoms), and instead assess what the responsibilities of students and institutions of higher education are. The student’s responsibility is to learn, while the institution’s is to educate. We have moved away from in loco parentis in order to remove the authoritative relationship with the student and instill a partnership with them instead. The question is does this partnership actually exist?

As a future higher-education administrator, I would like to move my institution away from the spotlight of violating a “freedom” and return to the intention of the academy — to educate. Students will not arrive to college with a perfect attitude or view of the world, and an institution will not continue to roll over and be shamed into letting the public opinion dictate how they operate business. The hope is that we can create the atmosphere for academic partnership and shape the lives of people to have their opinions and learn to continue having the dialogue with others.

So the real question is: Did Harvard meet its core missions, goals, and responsibilities as an educational institution by rescinding offers rather than educating?

Jaime Garza
Substance Abuse Counselor
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Ala.

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