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Response letter to anonymous professor’s op-ed on the polar vortex

<r Anonymous Colleague,


I feel badly for you. If there is anything colder than the polar vortex, it must be the perennial chill you feel in a climate where you are reluctant to stand behind your own words and own your own beliefs.


Perhaps you are untenured and you fear repercussions of stating an opinion that opposes an administrative decision. While I strongly believe that fear of reprisal is unfounded, I do acknowledge that my privilege as a tenured professor may cause you to be understandably skeptical of my assurance.  Perhaps you are worried that the tone of your argument may cause some to wonder if it is indeed the polar vortex that is the source of your considerable dissatisfaction, or if you have already concluded that the particular demands of teaching at a residential liberal arts college are not well suited to your own personal and professional goals.


My purpose in writing is not to address the specific and complex issue of whether classes should have been canceled because of the polar vortex. There are reasonable and good  folks—students, faculty, and staff– on each side of the divide. Nor do I wish to finesse the very real and difficult challenges of work-life balance that you raise.


What I would like to say is that it is hard to imagine how our students can learn to both articulate and bravely stand by their own positions if their professors are afraid to do the same.  Yes, our primary goal, as you rightly say, is to educate our students, but unlike you, I believe that includes supporting them and trying to model what it means to arrive at a set of beliefs and have the courage to articulate them without the shield of anonymity.


I wish we could talk together about this, but I don’t know who you are.


Deborah Appleman

Hollis L. Caswell Professor of Educational Studies

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