There is need for thought and reflection on what might be termed – for lack of anything better at this point – “Opinions, Scientific Statements, Advocacy and University Positions at ADDU”.
Due to the controversial nature of some of the topics that we are addressing currently or may have to address soon, including issues pertinent to mining, reproductive health, divorce, energy sources, gays, lesbians and the like, it is important, I think, that we promote a “university culture” that is keenly aware of the levels at which individuals or groups speak or at which the University Speaks. I suggest that when the University speaks through “university statements” or “university positions” this be done with strict respect to standards we must agree on.
People may have opinions. But some opinions are informed, others not. Some opinions treasured, some regularly ignored. Some, the result of habitually disciplined minds, others the result of regularly lazy minds. The university should cultivate informed opinion, normally valued by the community.
We should set standards on the basis of which we can establish what are “scientific statements” and what are not. We engage in different disciplines, described as “scientific” based on differing methodologies. One cannot apply the methodology of physics to theology, and one cannot apply the methodology of philosophy to the behavioral sciences. But if a statement is scientific, it must be made on the basis of appropriate scientific methodology.
“Advocacy,” I believe, is a set of statements (often accompanied by action) aimed at promoting, asserting or propagating “a position” effectively versus a status-quo of policy or of social structures. Advocacy is non-reflected, or it is reflected. Advocacy that is non-reflected is like getting on a bandwagon. That is not useless, since the non-reflective advocate adds to the numbers of warm bodies advocating a position. But this is not appropriate for the university. The advocacy that emanates from a university should be based on informed opinions and scientific statements, but also conscious of the necessarily-limited grasp of truth in an advocated “ideological” position, yet decided to take this position, since ‘as far as s/he can see’ this is the necessary position at this given time, and not taking the position means other less-acceptable positions may become the case. Because advocacy is real, it does not mean it is opaque. But because advocacy is based on a limited-grasp of truth, it does not mean it is useless.
“ADDU University statements” are statements made in the name of the ADDU and are what we define them to be. Ideally, they should be culled from informed opinions, scientific statements, and reflected advocacy that have the assent of a substantial number of the community. At ADNU this was half+1 of all the various units of the school. ADDU shall have to define its norm. They should represent a relative high degree of certainty and moral force made in a “present time” in the arena of many competing position. The ADDU university statements should be “light against darkness” and “moral guide posts against wrong.” For them to be regularly effective, their quality should be promoted and protected by strict conditions.
Setting this framework for ADDU would allow us freedom to discuss and evaluate positions on various levels, and to state tentative and probing positions helpful for intellectual conversations and deliberation, even while they have NOT reached the level of a “University Statement.”
In confronting people who challenge us, we should always be able to point out where we are in our quest for truth and advocacy of its imperatives.
It is on this framework that I would like the University to deliberate. Contributions to this discussion from the ADDU community would be appreciated.