From Engaged Social Activists to Disengaged Academicians?
Purported Generational Shifts among Teaching Faculties
at U.S. Mennonite Colleges
KEITH GRABER MILLER*
Abstract: Through examining recent faculty social activism at four U.S. Mennonite colleges, in comparison with faculty activism of the 1960s and 1970s, this paper identifies shifts in professors’ and administrators’ commitments to embodying their concerns for peace and justice in their lives as well as their pedagogy. Although the breadth of faculty social activism has increased slightly on these campuses, the depth and impact of such involvements likely have diminished. Drawing on a number of studies on activism and civic engagement, the paper places the findings at Mennonite institutions in the context of broader cultural shifts, developments in Mennonite churches, and faculty transformations since the 1960s. Research data includes analyses of motivations and barriers for faculty social activism; notable differences between faculty and administrator attitudes and practices; institutional support for faculty social activism; and transformations in faculty commitments and engagement in an increasingly complex world.
Christian Peacemaker Teams worker, organic gardener and social activist gadabout Rich Meyer elicited this essay during a guest lecture in my Religion and the Political Order class at Goshen College. Ever the provocateur, Meyer asserted that whereas a previous generation of faculty members at Mennonite colleges were both ideological brokers and change agents, today’s faculty have grown complacent, disengaged from peace and justice movements. Fresh from a re-reading of Leo Driedger and Donald Kraybill’s Mennonite Peacemaking: From Quietism to Activism, Meyer drew on the sociologists’ description of ideological brokers as esteemed leaders who try to reconcile the legacy of historical beliefs with changing conditions. Within the church, these ideological brokers are typically theologians, scholars and elders. Such leaders, negotiating between traditional convictions and new social realities, often follow change agents-professors in the classroom, progressive leaders and activists on the street who have already blazed new trails.
During the 1960s and 1970s, argued Meyer, faculty on Mennonite college campuses functioned as both ideological brokers for the church and their societies and as engaged change agents, participating in assorted civil rights and peace and justice movements and then returning to campus to reflect on those experiences. Such a commitment is essential, Meyer implied, for faithful living and teaching, and such a commitment and a praxis is absent from present faculty members who are resting on the laurels of-and on the institutional reputations provided by-their predecessors.
Meyer directed his critique primarily at Goshen College faculty, not at those at other U.S. Mennonite colleges and universities. In his purview, more than any other faculty, we at Goshen had become the slugs. When I began my research, though, I decided to include analyses of Bluffton College, Bethel College and Eastern Mennonite University as well as Goshen, to better understand the dynamics of whatever shifts had occurred and, perhaps (in the interests of full disclosure), to temper or to distribute more broadly whatever critical confirmations I might uncover.
Research for this study has included oral interviews with 29 present or retired faculty from the four schools, plus extensive written comments from another four faculty members; a major, multi-page Faculty Social Activism Survey circulated in fall of 2000; archival research at three of the four institutions; review of the colleges’ and university’s institutional histories; and perusal of student newspapers at the schools from the 1960s and 1970s as well as from the decade just past.
The study focuses on a relatively narrow definition of social activism, seeking to discover the extent of involvement present faculty and administrators have with public demonstrations or witness events on or off campus; letter writing campaigns to local, state or national officials; local, national or international organizations that advocate for peace or social justice; voting; advocacy within one’s congregation or denomination for underrepresented groups or social justice; Damascus Road or Christian Peacemaker Team events; Mennonite Central Committee or other similar assignments; and college-run international education programs or domestic off-campus programs with a strong peace or social justice component.
Because a preponderance of our faculties were composed of men rather than women in an earlier era, and because the social activism identified in the survey privilege men’s participation, fewer women than men appear in this study. Throughout these past 40 years, many women faculty have been working, particularly in the classroom but also beyond those confines, for transformation toward peace and justice. In the most recent decade, many women faculty were identified as faculty social activists, and contemporary women faculty evidence a more positive attitudinal score toward social activism than do men faculty at Mennonite colleges and universities.
I regret that the survey did not ask more specifically about transformative work on campus or in one’s discipline-for example, speaking for and with the marginalized at our schools; transforming our curricula to better reflect concerns for peace and justice; advocating for peace in the classroom; and speaking clearly in conference presentations and publications about one’s convictions. All of these would allow for transformative “academic work” to be included as faculty social activism and would fit within my intended definition. Even so, some of these involvements have been elicited through interview responses and data collected from open-ended survey questions.
When faculty members and administrators were asked on the Faculty Social Activism Survey how they would define social activism, the open-ended responses included comments such as: “working and advocating for social change”; “conscious and active attempts to influence or contribute to the social life and discourse of a given community”; and “working for attaining Sermon on the Mount objectives.”
Several interviewees or survey respondents noted problems with the term social activism. One respondent wrote, as a definition, “People’s way of complaining about issues and not really doing anything constructive toward changing them.” Another articulate respondent said that “social activism” is generally defined too narrowly, “usually in the politicized language of interest group lobbying, with the primary focus of change being the political structures of government.”
In his recent text Artists, Citizens, and Philosophers: Seeking the Peace of the City, Bethel College ethicist Duane Friesen illuminates broad forms of social engagement on personal and corporate levels. Friesen notes that involvement in school boards and on local election issues, active advocacy on a cause through Mennonite Central Committee, and advocacy of peace and justice issues in the classroom or in the overall curriculum are other forms of being social activists, even when using a narrower definition.
These are compelling critiques and responses. Social engagement and faithful discipleship clearly involve much more than public witness events. And while the survey works with a relatively narrow definition of social activism, it and the oral interviews did allow the collection of data about transformations in curricula, advocacy within congregations and denominations, membership in various organizations and service assignments. While examining these extended venues, however, we ought not forget the broader concerns expressed by these respondents and others-concerns about God’s fuller transformative action in the world. As engaged disciples, Christians are called to more than the forms of social activism described in this research.
FERMENT OF THE 1960S AND 1970S
The historian and educator Willis Rudy notes that, following World War II, political activism at colleges across the country declined dramatically. In the midst of the Cold War with Soviet Russia and witch hunts against alleged communists at home, most undergraduates were unwilling to take stands on controversial issues, preferring to “stay loose.” Students of the early 1950s frequently were described as “apathetic.” Senator Joseph McCarthy and other congressional “Red hunters” instituted what one critic called a “veritable reign of terror” on college campuses, cajoling university administrators to institute loyalty oaths for teachers and forcing faculty members from jobs for their political views. But that “silent generation” was only the “calm before one of the stormiest eras in the history of American higher education”-the 1960s.
Prompted by the civil rights movement and the protest against U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the 1960s became a decade of upheaval, and college campuses were the primary locus of such activity. The ferment built slowly with pickets of the House Un-American Activities Committee and protests against nuclear arms policy, with sit-in demonstrations against racial segregation and political organizations springing up on campuses. Several major marches on Washington, one in 1963 for civil rights and two in the fall of 1965 for peace in Vietnam, attracted tens of thousands of young people. While anti-war activists initially were a prophetic minority, as the military involvement in Vietnam dragged on, a majority of U.S. college and university students came to oppose the war. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the campus anti-war campaign “swelled in size and influence,” rival causes also began attracting student attention: feminism, environmentalism, consumer activism, aid to the poverty-stricken and help for minority groups. Students also began to turn their attention to their own campuses, demanding reform of multiple in loco parentis rules, denouncing poor teaching and complaining about “the impersonality of bureaucratic, soulless universities.”
Throughout the 1960s the fervor built, with faculty working alongside students on civil rights and Vietnam issues. Mennonite college campuses were hardly immune from the multiple forms of social activism sweeping across the country. Between 1957 and 1968, Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church leaders, including many members of Mennonite college faculties, spent an enormous amount of time addressing questions of how Mennonites should relate to the political order. In Mennonite Peacemaking Driedger and Kraybill analyzed this development of Mennonite non-conformist activists, who “transformed passive nonresistance into active nonresistance and quiet self-denial into voluntary suffering.” The 1960s were a time of rapid transformation for Mennonite churches, a shift from being “the Quiet in the Land”-a quietness more embodied by Mennonite Church than General Conference Mennonite Church members-to being more socially and politically engaged with their culture.
Elmer Neufeld, who had worked with the National Service Board for Religious Objectors in the mid-1950s and later served as a philosophy professor, dean and then president at Bluffton for more than 30 years, wrote a seminal piece for MQR in April of 1958, providing a theoretical bridge for the developing a Mennonite concept of “witness” to the state. Soon afterward Neufeld, who also served as executive secretary of MCC’s Peace Section in the early 1960s, and Goshen’s Guy F. Hershberger visited the deep South, making contacts with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
After a short stint as a missionary, J. R. Burkholder, soon to be on the faculty at Goshen College, worked part-time with the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Philadelphia, rubbing shoulders with many of the nation’s primary leaders in the peace movement. In 1959 he participated in a vigil at Fort Detrick, Maryland, protesting the preparation and production of germ warfare. Soon afterward he helped organize Philadelphia’s first Ban the Bomb march. By the late 1950s he was an activist several days a week, “marching and vigiling and courting arrest when few others were.” In 1960 he challenged the Mennonite Theological Study Group, at a conference in Chicago, with a paper making a case for radical nonviolent action grounded in Anabaptist theology.
At Eastern Mennonite College, beginning in the early 1960s, a young history professor named John A. Lapp, who later went to Goshen College as dean and then on to Mennonite Central Committee as executive secretary, regularly posted on EMC’s opinion board fiery missives regarding Vietnam, the patriotic tolling of the EMC bells on July 4, and “fat, rich, and self-righteous Mennonites” more concerned with respectability than with “Christian compassion and Mennonite nonconformity.” Lapp worked throughout his years as a teacher, administrator and churchman to transform Mennonite institutions and Mennonite peacemaking. Eastern Mennonite faculty members Albert Keim and Samuel Horst also frequently posted notes on the opinion board in the mid-1960s. In 1965 student Joseph L. Lapp, who became EMC’s president in 1987, tacked up a memo from the Students for a Democratic Society calling all students to “March on Washington . . . to End the War in Vietnam.”
At Bluffton, students Sara Templin and Baldemar Velasquez, in a 1968 opinion board posting, said several student groups over the years had attempted to instill an interest in active work for peace and social justice, but these were not particularly successful due to the relative complacency of the student body, faculty and administration. They said, “We feel it is the duty of faculty and the administration to activate the student body, which seems incapable of activating itself, in work promoting world peace and social justice.”
But the 1960s involved more than words on Mennonite college campuses. In 1960 Bluffton students conducted a survey of racial attitudes in Bluffton, and Goshen College hosted Martin Luther King, Jr. on campus. The King visit had a significant impact on several key Goshen College faculty, including Guy F. Hershberger and Atlee Beechy, who said King challenged him “to get more deeply involved in the civil rights struggle.” As early as 1961 Bethel College students marched in Washington to protest nuclear weapons and the arms buildup. That same year 14 Bluffton students, some of whom are now on the faculty there, demonstrated in front of the White House in favor of President Kennedy’s position of no atmospheric nuclear testing, and the college hired English professor Lawrence Templin, a Bethel graduate who had spent 18 months in federal prisons after refusing to register for the draft during World War II. Although he refers to himself as a “a reluctant activist,” Templin marched on Washington several times during his long tenure at Bluffton, and he has been a war tax refuser and active in several local peace projects.
In the following years Bluffton students, as Perry Bush reports in Dancing with the Kobzar, requested that the college “secure competent Negroes to serve on the faculty of our institution,” and fasted to raise funds and student consciousness about civil rights. Bluffton faculty, inspired by student leaders, voted in 1962 against allowing the new Bren-Dell Hall to be designated as a fallout shelter by local civil defense officials. Faculty members from several Mennonite schools spent time in the deep South during the “long hot summer” of 1964. Goshen’s Atlee Beechy joined hundreds of college and university students, professors and pastors from the North in learning about racism in Mississippi and registering African-Americans to vote. Bill Keeney also was in the South that summer with the church’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee. J. Lawrence Burkholder, though at Harvard rather than Goshen at the time, marched with King in Selma and spent several nights in jail. Bethel’s Dwight Platt, a biology professor who had spent time in jail after refusing to participate in the draft in 1947-48, was active on local civil rights questions in Newton, seeking rights for blacks to get haircuts in white barbershops and to swim in the city pools.
Meanwhile, faculty and students at EMC, which had always been the more conservative of the Mennonite campuses, also began engaging in social activism. In 1963 a carload of Eastern Mennonite faculty participated in the 1963 March on Washington, where John A. Lapp said “King was at his eloquent best.” Along with others, Lapp and EMC’s Harold Lehman, Harry Lefever and Grant Stoltzfus helped start the Rockingham Council on Human Relations to work at civil rights issues in the county. Later faculty and students participated in anti-war protests in Harrisonburg’s courthouse square. Historian Al Keim muses that, when he was a student at EMC in the late 1950s, “the hottest topic you could possibly land on was whether Christians should vote or not. And so just six or eight years later we were engaging in demonstrations.” Samuel Horst and Jacob Jacobszoon of EMC’s faculty joined a January 1967 silent vigil, march to the Capitol and discussion with congressmen organized by “Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam.” In the late 1960s EMC’s Peace Club spent every Saturday for weeks reading the names of all of the Vietnam casualties over a megaphone at the courthouse in Harrisonburg. Bethel’s Peace Club sponsored debates with the John Birch Society and coordinated a number of antiwar protests. Joined by some Hesston College students, the Peace Club organized an 18-mile hike along U.S. Highway 81 from Newton to Wichita as part of a “Vietnam Moratorium.”
Goshen’s C. Norman Kraus (along with others on Mennonite campuses, most notably John H. Yoder) contributed to the discussion and to civil rights activism by rediscovering a new Jesus, one who engaged in direct action. At a 1968 Intercollegiate Peace Conference, Kraus called for a theology of involvement, and he led the Goshen campus in its reflection on King’s 1968 assassination. The following year Kraus argued, in a presentation in Canada, that Jesus was a “noncooperator” and “demonstrator.” In 1969 several Goshen College students and one Bethel student, believing deeply that draft non-registration should be an acceptable peace position, presented their concerns to the Mennonite General Conference in Turner, Oregon. College administrators and faculty were, for the most part, supportive of the students’ position. Goshen faculty member Dan Leatherman, outspoken on several issues in the 1960s, personally drove student resister Sam Steiner to Canada.
At Bluffton, sociologist John Mecartney became the consummate activist. A Methodist minister and socialist, Mecartney “facilitated student involvement in racial unrest and civil rights agitation in Lima and also with the Democratic Socialists of America.” During 1967 to 1976 when he was at Bluffton, he inspired many students, some of whom are now on the faculty there. Among the students he inspired was Baldemar Velasquez, who went on to found the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and who is recognized as a major labor leader. Bethel’s James Juhnke ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970s, but not before winning the Democratic primary as a peace candidate calling for “rapid and complete” withdrawal from Vietnam. That same year, following the killing of four Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard, all four campuses paused to reflect on the tragedy.
Atlee Beechy and others, on trips to Vietnam with Mennonite Central Committee, brought back to their campuses firsthand knowledge of the war, prompting study days and student activism. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, faculty at several institutions made special-and very successful-recruitment efforts for African-American students.
In terms of curricular changes, several campuses developed revolutionary programs to adapt to a changing environment. As many faculty members have discovered, the greatest opportunities for activism are in the classroom itself, but one also can bring about changes in the schools’ structures. In 1967, for example, Bluffton developed an innovative Inter-Term, which was unique in that the entire campus studied one topic. The purpose of the Inter-Term was, as President Robert Kreider said, “to break down the real or fancied isolation of the college from the community.” That first January Inter-Term focused on “The City” and subsequent years focused on “The Poor” and “Revolution.”
In 1968, prompted by the recognition that more than half of the college’s faculty members had taught or worked abroad, and that about the same number spoke more than one language fluently, Goshen established its Study-Service Term, which continues to be a core, transformative program for Goshen faculty and students. Although similar efforts at Bluffton reached fruition only in the mid-1990s, Bluffton made some initial efforts at study abroad during the late 1960s when several faculty members led study groups to Colombia and elsewhere. In 1973 Atlee Beechy and J. R. Burkholder were instrumental in establishing the Peace Studies Program (now the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies program) on Goshen’s campus.
These accounts only scratch the surface of what might be considered social activism-of both external and internal, both local and global varieties-on Mennonite campuses during the 1960s and early 1970s. It is difficult and perhaps even undesirable to attempt to quantify this activism. But I will, with caveats. The Faculty Social Activism Survey completed as part of this research no doubt had self-selecting biases. While all present and retired faculty were encouraged to respond, it is far more likely that more activist faculty completed the survey. Nonetheless, a statistically significant percentage of active and retired faculty-41%, or 223 persons, out of the 549 administrators and faculty members at Bethel, Bluffton, Goshen and EMU-returned the survey.
Of the 172 respondents who were “not too young to participate” in social activism in the 1960s and 1970s, nearly half reported participating during that period in public demonstration or public witness events on or off campus, and more than half reported contributing to letter-writing campaigns. 25% percent said they had advocated within their denomination for underrepresented groups or social justice, and 38% said they had advocated in their congregations for the same. More than a third (37% to 40%) said they belonged to a local or national organization (other than the church) that advocated for peace or social justice. An impressive 29% said they had served with Mennonite Central Committee or with another similar agency, and a fifth had participated in a college-run international education or domestic off-campus program with a strong peace or social justice component.
Regarding levels of student activism and faculty participation at the individual schools, the perceptions of faculty members who taught during the 1960s and 1970s vary. Nor do the statistics gleaned from the survey fully confirm or disconfirm these impressions. A number of observers perceived Bethel and, perhaps secondarily, Goshen, as more activist campuses during those decades, with a number of their faculty members involved with civil rights, conscription and Vietnam issues. Several respondents or interviewees suggested that Bluffton and EMC were on a different tier of activism in those days. EMC had a more conservative constituency to relate with, and a more conservative past, than did some of the other schools. At Bluffton, John Mecartney alone may have been more activist than any other faculty member at Bethel, Goshen or EMC. But his intensely activist colleagues were few in number.
In truth, on all of the U.S. Mennonite college campuses, committed activist faculty-those who organized events, those who served on committees and transformed the church, those who wrote, spoke, advocated and demonstrated, those who went beyond sympathy and peripheral participation-were a small minority. However, marching with King in Selma or participating in the long, hot summer in Mississippi carries considerable historical weight, with an aura of having been at the center of cultural transformation. Moreover-and more important-the impact of our academic predecessors on students and Mennonite denominations was, in fact, extraordinary. Rich Meyer was right-at least a handful of these key faculty members were both change agents and ideological brokers. As they marched, rewrote their curricula, served with the NAACP and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, joined peace organizations, wrote letters, advocated within their churches and testified in Congress, they also reconstructed the Mennonite tradition’s theology.
Driedger and Kraybill write, “Born in rural communities, many of these change agents joined the fray in a creative moment in Mennonite history, as the church struggled with the converging forces of modernization.” While clearly not all of the change agents on Mennonite college campuses were Mennonites, “Mennonite brokers and change agents had to construct a new ideological bridge across the gulf between historical nonresistance and the new social conditions.” Faculty on Mennonite campuses were engaged both in changing the church and the world, retrofitting “historic nonresistance in a plausible fashion for the new social circumstances they faced in the twentieth century.” These faculty members also had the ear of the church and the institutional power they needed to bring about concrete changes. These were, as the Quakers are fond of saying, “weighty brethren” (and some sisters, too). Many served in some capacity on Mennonite Central Committee, conference or denominational boards-multiple boards, in several cases. It is not unduly romantic to suggest that they changed the Mennonite world and parts of their surrounding culture.
BEYOND CIVIL RIGHTS AND VIETNAM
Lest one think the world of Mennonite campus social activism ended in 1975, it should be noted that some of those who had, as Perry Bush often says, “a fourth-grade deferment for Vietnam,” also became activists in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. And many of the engaged faculty in the 1960s and early 1970s continued that activism on through to their retirements-and beyond. In broader historical scope, one could reasonably argue that, at some of the schools, cultural engagement of peace issues has been woven into campus life since their founding, and the late 1960s and 1970s were a kind of aberration, an impossible yardstick against which one can measure contemporary social activism.
In any event, in the later 1970s and early 1980s, J. R. Burkholder intensified his connections with Latin American radicals, meeting with Perez Esquivel and Dom Helder Camara and absorbing the liberation agenda. In May 1985 Burkholder was among a number of people arrested during a sit-in demonstration regarding aid to Nicaraguan Contras at Representative John Hiler’s South Bend office and spent a night in jail. At EMC, Ray Gingerich and Titus Bender regularly took students to the Arms Bazaar at the Sheraton Hotel in Washington. Bill Keeney, who in 1968 had been instrumental in establishing MCC’s Washington office, drafted a proposal to establish Mennonite Conciliation Service in the early 1980s, working with J. R. Burkholder and others in this effort. The vision for Mennonite Conciliation Service emerged at a workshop on conflict resolution at Bethel College, where Keeney and others contemplated a Mennonite program that would respond to social disasters in the way Mennonite Disaster Service responded to physical disasters. EMC developed its significant WSSY program, with students who spend a year in the nation’s capital often relating to MCC’s Washington office.
At Bethel in the late 1970s faculty and students organized and demonstrated against the presence in Kansas of a series of Titan II missile silos. On Easter weekend 1979 a group from Bethel camped out and had a worship service next to one of the missile sites, and in subsequent years they had letter-writing campaigns and debates with Representative Dan Glickman. James Juhnke engaged in public debates about military issues during the 1980s. At Bethel, Juhnke, Bill Keeney and Duane Friesen-an activist on many causes in the early 1970s and 1980s-were instrumental in the General Conference Mennonite Church’s policy decision to honor the request of church employees who did not want their income tax withheld because of war tax issues. Several key faculty on Mennonite campuses have themselves long been war tax refusers. In the later 1970s and 1980s Anna Juhnke of Bethel’s faculty worked actively with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Bethel’s Patty Shelly became a spokesperson for Palestinian issues, serving for several years in Newton, Kansas with Mennonite Central Committee and then returning to campus.
Richard Weaver, who earlier had been outspoken about Vietnam and who was an activist colleague of John Mecartney’s at Bluffton, was deeply involved with the Sanctuary movement of the 1980s. His daughter Sally Weaver Sommer, influenced by her radical student days on Bluffton’s campus, returned to Bluffton in 1981 to open a natural foods store. Throughout the 1980s Weaver Sommer-now a Bluffton administrator-continued her work on Central American issues, and she and her husband became involved with regional Witness for Peace leadership.
Along the way, Bethel developed its Global Peace and Justice Studies major. At Bluffton, inspired by student Jim Stutzman’s 1985 C. Henry Smith Oratorical Contest challenge, faculty started the Peace Studies Program. EMU began its master’s level Conflict Transformation Program, and then later its undergraduate Justice, Peace and Conflict Studies major. In 1985 Bluffton faculty member Libby Hostetler developed a vision for a “Peace Studies Center for the Promotion of Peace Education through Art and Literature for Children,” which came to fruition two years later. Led by a number of strong, young student activists, Bluffton’s Peace Club remained busy throughout the 1980s with internal campus education and external activism. Women’s activists hosted speakers and activities during annual “Women’s Week.” Students picketed in front of Bluffton’s post office to question the government’s new program of draft registration.
At all four schools, women faculty continued speaking out on behalf of women students and colleagues, making strides in faculty hires and addressing issues of sexual violence and sexism. At Bluffton and Goshen women faculty successfully implemented women’s studies programs. On Goshen’s campus, Ruth Krall, who directs the college’s Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Program, has functioned as an ardent spokesperson for peace and social justice and as adviser for Pax, and-together with articulate colleagues Anna Bowman, Dorothy Yoder Nyce and Judith Davis-has been an effective advocate for women students for the past several decades. Bowman and Krall also have worked with community women’s support groups or with victims of sexual violence beyond the campus community. Social work professor Goldie Ivory worked, both inside and beyond the classroom, for justice for women and people of color. Kathryn Aschliman, whose tenure in the Education Department at Goshen College spanned nearly the entire period addressed in this study, increasingly worked at peace issues in her college classrooms and in her directing of the Goshen College Laboratory Kindergarten. Aschliman spoke frequently to parents and church groups about “Violence Prevention through Play,” “Peace Education in the Home,” “Families and Children Seeking Peace in a Culture of Violence” and other related topics, and in 1993 she published Growing Toward Peace. Campus physician Willard Krabill began a Human Sexuality course on Goshen’s campus in the 1970s, and throughout his working years functioned as a major player in campus and denominational discussions about sexuality and sexual justice.
Much faculty and administrator activism over the last decade has been internally directed-revising curriculum by embedding cross-cultural studies programs, seeking to rid campuses of institutional and personal racism, eliminating sexism from texts and topics, and including more multicultural voices in chapels, convocations and the classroom. Zenebe Abebe became Vice President for Multicultural Education at Goshen College in 1992, and has advocated powerfully for Damascus Road training and an integration of anti-racism teaching in the GC curriculum. Throughout this period faculty at all four schools-particularly women faculty-integrated new peace-oriented courses across the disciplines in courses such as Poverty and the Church, History of Ethnic Conflict, Race and Ethnic Relations, Contemporary Women’s Issues, Health Care Ethics, Conservation, History of Global Poverty, Liberation Theologies, International Literature, Educating for Peace and Justice, or American Indian and African-American Literature. Faculty members spoke prophetically within their academic societies. In her work with the Gospel of John, for instance, Goshen’s Jo-Ann Brant has taken every opportunity, in the classroom and in conference papers, to speak against anti-Semitism.
The peace movement at each of the Mennonite colleges was energized somewhat for a brief period in the early 1990s when the Gulf War began, just as it had been during the Reagan presidency, which was marked by a massive military buildup. EMC held an Emergency Sabbath the Monday after bombing began in Iraq in 1991, and later held a candlelight vigil in Harrisonburg, marching and praying for peace. J. Denny Weaver and James Satterwhite of Bluffton’s faculty began participating in Christian Peacemaker Teams events, a move Weaver describes as “giving authenticity to the theology I was talking about.” Other faculty at Mennonite schools became involved with Habitat for Humanity and in local politics.
In recent years, retired faculty members at Goshen College also formed Seniors for Peace, an activist organization with chapters in other areas as well. At Goshen, the presence of the organization is frequently felt as the light blue-shirted seniors sponsor conferences and other events. And throughout the last couple of decades, a number of not-yet-faculty members from the schools were honing their activist understandings and commitments in Berkeley and Africa and Central America and elsewhere around the world, preparing for their roles as teachers.
CHANGING FORMS, ALTERING COMMITMENTS
It is true that the intensity and the nature of social activism-and the nature of U.S. college campuses and their students-have undergone several significant shifts since the civil rights movement and Vietnam. Joseph Axelrod, writing about the late 1970s and early 1980s, says the students who filled classrooms became increasingly passive, unwilling to take responsibility for their own education, as they had a half-generation earlier. Many critics say students became more materialistic and individualistic. Not everyone agrees with this assessment of what has been called the “me generation,” arguing instead that the forms of student engagement changed. But if students were turned more inward, more concerned for their own success and their own needs, they were simply following the lead of their elders in the church and elsewhere. In Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam compellingly argues that nearly all forms of civic engagement have been in decline since the 1960s-in politics, churches, labor unions, parent-teacher organizations and fraternal organizations. We still bowl, for instance, but we bowl not on organized leagues but alone. He argues that more than a third of the country’s civic infrastructure evaporated between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s, with fewer and fewer people each year taking part in the everyday deliberations that constitute grassroots democracy.
However, since the early 1990s various forms of social engagement and activism have been on the rise among college students. Already in 1990 The Chronicle of Higher Education, even before the Persian Gulf War, began talking about a resurgence in campus activism. The form of activism reported then had to do with choice of majors-environmental studies, international development and urban studies. Other community-service oriented disciplines also were experiencing a resurgence at that time-among them being education, psychology and sociology. While during the 1980s students were perceived as being too career-oriented and showed less concern about social issues, students of the early 1990s began choosing majors that allowed them to explore issues related to social awareness.
More recently observers have noted an explosion of student activism on college campuses. The mobilization of students, particularly in the absence of a sustained war (prior to the “War on Terrorism”) or a single, driving issue, was remarkable. In the spring of 1999 student agitators were the subject of articles in the Time, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, Business Week, the Boston Globe and the Nation. In a March 1999 New York Times article, Steven Greenhouse reported, “In the biggest surge in campus activism in nearly two decades, student protests have burst onto the scene with rallies, teach-ins and sit-ins protesting sweatshops and other labor issues.” In a 1999 Sojourners article, Holly J. Lebowitz says:
But this is not their parents’ Vietnam War protests, civil rights sit-ins, or mass demonstrations. Instead, it’s e-mail list serves, internships, volunteerism, and letter-writing. Instead of the cohesive, radical national movement of their parents, today’s student activists are straddling the line between global and local problems, trying to discover where their generation fits in the struggle for justice and peace. Many of them are coming to activism from the perspective of their religious faith-and others are not-but all have a sense of urgency that for the first time in decades, some say, is causing U.S. college students to mobilize, organize, and act together.
The activism has reached Mennonite college campuses just as it has reached hundreds of other schools across the country. Following the violence of September 11, 2001 students and faculty held candlelight vigils and placed advertisements in local newspapers, praying for peace and cautious responses by the U.S. government. They participated in “Take Back the Night” rallies that protested sexual violence against women, and they challenged administrative responses to such violence. Students talk about institutional accountability, calling faculty and administrators to live up to their institutional mission statements when they consider exclusive contracts with soda companies. They are active on issues of justice for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students. Students articulately argue that colleges should use fewer chemicals on their campus green spaces, asking that they instead consider indigenous grasses and plants. They protest the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Drawn by the charismatic Father Roy Bourgeois, who has spoken on some of the Mennonite campuses, droves of students from Bluffton, EMU and Goshen travel annually to Fort Benning, Georgia to seek to close the School of the Americas’ training ground for Latin American soldiers who have been responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in their countries. Spurred by several key activist faculty, students participate in vigils for prisoners condemned to death. Students and faculty continue to seek to implement the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the last five years, student newspapers at the Mennonite colleges and universities have carried banner headlines like “Crossing the Line of Violence”; “BC Students Protest War Toys”; “Whose School? Our School! Student Voice at GC”; “EMU Students Join Anti-War Rally in Washington”; “Bluffton College Group Protests U.S. Support of Israeli Policies”; “An Act of Love to Combat Hatred”; “Students Demonstrate for Justice”; “Inclusivity Is In at GC”; “Peace Club Protests World Debt”; and “EMU Students Rally Against Possible Attack on Iraq.”
Reasons for the increase in student activism are multiple. Australian Roland Bleiker has noted that popular dissent, such as street demonstrations and civil disobedience, has become transnational in nature and scope. “The presence of mass media can transform a local act of resistance almost immediately into an event of global significance,” as witnessed a decade ago in the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Tienanmen Square incident, or in the actions that forced Indonesia’s president Suharto to step down in 1998, or regular interventions by Greenpeace or Amnesty International. Students may be buoyed by the success, or at least attention, such movements have garnered. The Internet has greatly transformed activism, making mass mailings possible and allowing students-who have far superior access than the general public to the Web-to share information from campus to campus in a way never before possible.
Many observers have noted the role of the AFL-CIO in the rise of student activism, particularly on labor-related issues such as sweatshops. Beginning in 1996, the labor union has hosted Union Summer events across the country, internships which help students “develop skills useful for union organizing drives and other campaigns for workers rights and social justice.” These “Summeristas” often return to their campuses to mobilize efforts in their student bodies. More noble, perhaps, is the assertion by others that many students get involved with international issues after studying abroad, which “puts the human face on the issue” of, for instance, sweatshop labor.
FROM ENGAGED TO DISENGAGED’
But in the midst of rising student social activism, what about faculty engagement with these social issues? Have faculty at U.S. Mennonite colleges and universities become slugs? Data from the Faculty Social Activism Survey is complex, though it does reveal some shifts in attitude and practice. Once again, there likely is some self-selection bias, and some self-reporting bias in the study, as was true for faculty members reporting about their 1960s and 1970s involvements. But within the study, one should be able to legitimately compare responses.
Current teaching faculty at three of the four schools-Bethel, Goshen and EMU-perceived that current faculty and administrators at their institutions were less socially active than faculty and administrators were in an earlier generation. In response to the statement, “Faculty and administrators at my college/university are less socially active/socially engaged now than there were in the 1960s and 1970s,” nearly half of the respondents at each school said they did not know. But of those who expressed an opinion, more than double the number of faculty members at EMU (36% agreeing, 16% disagreeing) and Goshen (29% agreeing, 13% disagreeing) agreed that they are less socially active now than their predecessors were. At Bethel, three times the number of faculty agreed with the statement (42% agreeing, 12% disagreeing). At Bluffton, the response was more ambivalent (16% agreeing, 13% disagreeing, and 61% reporting that they did not know, perhaps because of the hiring of so many new faculty within the last six years).
And were the respondents right? According to aggregate data for faculty and administrators at all four schools, no. On seven of nine applicable indicators of social activism (excluding MCC or other similar assignments and Goshen’s SST or other similar programs), more of today’s faculty and administrators report that they are socially active than did their predecessors. The percentages are actually extraordinarily close. The same percentage, 43, from each time period reported participating in a public demonstration/public witness event on campus. In the only category where earlier faculty and administrators reported greater activity, 13% more of those from the 1960s and 1970s (50% as opposed to the current 37%) said they participated in a public demonstration/public witness event off campus. Only in two categories did contemporary faculty indicate a 10% or more increase from the 1960s and 1970s: letter-writing campaigns (from 53 to 63%); and advocacy within one’s congregation for underrepresented groups or social justice (from 38% to 49%). In all other categories, the increase was negligible.
In terms of individual schools, within the study Bethel College faculty were correct about a decline in social activism at their school. In contrast to the aggregate totals for the four schools, on six of nine indicators, a higher percentage of faculty at Bethel reported participation in social activism in the 1960s and 1970s than today. Bluffton was higher on three of nine categories in the 1960s and 1970s: public demonstrations both on and off campus and “other social activism.” At Goshen, a higher percentage of current faculty reported participation in all but one category (off-campus demonstrations). EMU’s current faculty was higher in all categories today than a generation ago.
Again, the figures are for some level of participation in the activism signifiers, so they indicate breadth of involvement rather than depth and intensity. Although a smaller percentage of faculty may have been involved in many of these social activism markers, in the 1960s and 1970s those involved had a higher profile and a more profound impact on their denominations, which were undergoing significant transformation.
The two categories omitted from the nine signifiers mentioned above were MCC-type assignments or leadership of international education programs or off-campus domestic programs with a strong peace and justice component. The former was omitted because the survey’s categories were different-faculty from the 1960s and 1970s period were asked about service assignments over a two-decade period, while current faculty were asked about service involvements over the past five years. Also, in the 1960s and 1970s not all of the Mennonite schools had regularized international education programs or off-campus courses. Figures on participating in cross-cultural education varied from school to school, but the aggregate percentages were close (23% now compared with 20% earlier). As mentioned earlier, in the aggregate, 29% of faculty and administrators of an earlier generation reported participating in an MCC or other similar assignment, while the figure for the past five years was 8%.
While one cannot make sweeping assumptions based on this data about faculty service involvements, a category which should have been included more clearly in the survey, it is worth noting that, across the country, faculty have shown a decrease in this area. Researchers at the Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA said in their 1998 triennial study that an increasing number of faculty believe their institution is committed to helping students learn how to bring about change and facilitate involvement in community service. However:
Despite the faculty’s growing awareness of their institution’s commitment to community service, such trends are not evident with respect to the faculty’s personal commitment to community service and social activism. Since 1989, a declining percentage of faculty are personally committed to such goals as influencing the political structure, influencing social values, and cleaning up the environment.
One might hope the Mennonite colleges would fare better on these faculty commitments. Perhaps that is so. Regarding the statement, “Service is more in tune with my notion of being a Christian than is social activism,” the Faculty Social Activism Survey figures were as follows: Bethel, 44% agreed, 19% disagreed; Bluffton, 29% agreed, 42% disagreed; EMU, 56% agreed, 28% disagreed; Goshen, 39% agreed, 33% disagreed. However, of the aggregate of retired faculty, 73% agreed with the statement, and only 4% disagreed. One can at least see a potential trend here.
In comparing the four Mennonite schools, percentages of current faculty engaged in social activism yield some surprising results. Current faculty at EMU and Goshen reported considerably higher involvement percentages (higher than Bethel and Bluffton) in local organizations advocating for peace and justice, and in advocating within their congregations and denominations for underrepresented groups or social justice.
Overall, Goshen and Bethel were the highest of the schools on three of the social activism signifiers. Bluffton faculty, while second in five categories, were not the highest on any of the measures. Most interesting, perhaps, is that EMU faculty scored higher than the other three schools on more than half (8 of the 14) of the signifiers of faculty social activism.
What makes such a figure notable is that 56% of EMU’s faculty, more than double that of any other school, disagreed with the statement, “Faculty and administrators at my institution are more socially active/socially engaged than are faculty and administrators at the other Mennonite schools.” Only 4% of EMU’s faculty thought that they were more socially active than the other schools. Apparently EMU faculty are still living with an undeserved social activist inferiority complex, unaware of their levels of engagement.
By the same token, when active and retired faculty members and administrators are included in the count, Goshenites still have a lingering and equally incorrect superiority complex about the extent of their social activism. 23% percent of the aggregate at Goshen believed the school had the most activism. At no other school did more than 7% of people in the comparable category agree that their own school had more activism than the others.
Moreover, double and triple the percentage of faculty at Goshen (39% agreeing, 19% disagreeing) and Bluffton (49% agreeing, 16% disagreeing) agreed rather than disagreed with the statement “Faculty and administrators at Mennonite colleges are less socially active/socially engaged than they should be.” At EMU, which already reported the greatest breadth of faculty social activism, 76% of the faculty agreed with the same statement, while only 4% disagreed.  About one fifth of faculty respondents were other-than-Mennonite.
At the time the survey was taken, EMU had just concluded a difficult six or eight months of faculty social activism. A number of faculty members who signed the “Welcoming Letter” regarding greater openness to gay and lesbian persons were being scrutinized by the Virginia Mennonite Conference. After a second public relations debacle for EMU in 2000, following student and faculty activism over the Harrisonburg City Council’s proposal to turn a public park into a golf course, administrators clamped down. EMU’s activism against the transformation of the public park was facilitated by three spring courses that made responses to the council’s proposal a class project. Following the town/gown and intra-institutional tensions, the President’s Cabinet on May 16, 2000 issued a “Policy Governing Use of University Resources and Facilities.” The statement says that as a charitable organization and one receiving federal grants, care must be taken and restrictions apply to EMU’s activities of a “lobbying” nature. The statement says, “Use of any EMU facilities for partisan political purposes, for comments about any candidate for public office or any positions taken by such candidates or for lobbying activities are strictly prohibited unless expressly approved by the President of the University.”
In light of the directive, not surprisingly, 58% of EMU’s faculty disagreed with the statement “My institution is supportive of faculty social activism,” while only 25% agreed. At the other three schools, from 48% to 94% agreed with the statement, and no more than 16% (at Goshen) disagreed.
Differences between administrators and faculty also were noted. Higher percentages of current teaching faculty than administrators reported participation in all but two of the social activism signifiers (administrators were higher only on Damascus Road participation and college-run international programs or domestic off-campus ones). What is most provocative about these figures is that during the 1960s and 1970s, administrators were more engaged than were teaching faculty on 10 of 10 specific social activism signifiers. In that earlier period, they were especially more active in letter-writing campaigns, local and national organizations which advocated for peace and justice, MCC or other similar assignments, and advocacy within their congregations and denominations for underrepresented groups or social justice.
Administrators are less activist than their predecessors and their present teaching faculties, which suggests a trend away from administrative social activism, a quelling or silencing of leadership voices. In interviews, several faculty confirmed this anecdotally, calling attention to administrators’ increasing concern for constituency and donor relationships.
A slightly higher percentage of teaching faculty (44%) over administrators (35%) hope to be more involved in social activism in the future. 23% of administrators agreed with the statement that faculty and administrators are more socially active/socially engaged at their schools, as compared with only 7% of the faculty aggregate. From an administrator’s perspective, it feels as if more faculty activism is happening. And while 58% of teaching faculty wish students on their campuses would be more socially active than they are now, only 31% of administrators have the same desire. A slightly higher percentage of administrators over faculty (23% to 17%) believe students are ill-informed about the issues for which they advocate.
Also striking were faculty vs. administrative responses to the statement “Too much social activism is unprofessional behavior for an academic.” 41% of administrators agreed with the statement, while only 16% of faculty agreed. 69% of faculty disagreed with the statement (including 22% who strongly disagreed), while only 16% of administrators disagreed.
Responses to seven key attitudinal questions were combined from the Lichert portion of the survey, where respondents had the option of agreeing or disagreeing with statements. The resulting “attitudinal score” allowed for comparison within the study itself. In general, nearly all categories-faculty and administrators, retired and active faculty, persons at each school-had positive attitudinal scores regarding social activism. Teaching faculty had a slightly higher attitudinal score than did administrators. Similarly, Mennonite faculty had a bit more positive attitudes about social activism than did Catholic, Methodist and other faculty. Active faculty had a considerably higher attitudinal score than did retired faculty. In terms of attitudes of teaching faculties in the four schools, the figures were similar, with Bluffton slightly edging out the other schools. Women faculty and administrators had a significantly more positive attitudinal score than did men. That is not surprising, given the percentage of current women faculty who were identified by their colleagues as campus activists on issues including sexual violence, justice for gay and lesbian persons, the death penalty and immigration policy.
In terms of faculty motivations, 87% of teaching faculty said their religious calling to care for “the least of these” was a motivator for social activism. Several decades after churchly discussions about “the Lordship of Christ” and The Politics of Jesus, 86% of the present administrators and faculty agreed with the statement “Jesus was a social activist,” which one can assume has some motivational impact on people who speak about discipleship and peacemaking. 64% identified “a passion for people and issues” as significant. Between 30% and 42% expressed a pedagogical conviction that faculty should see “socially active faculty,” the “desire to support students in their activism” and the recognition that “students need to be exposed to peace issues” as motivators for their social activism.
Teaching faculty heavily immersed in social activism remarked about its impact on their teaching. In response to a question about what impact her social activism has had on her teaching, Goshen’s Ruth Krall said simply, “It is my teaching.” Another faculty member said on the survey, “My social activism gives some integrity to my Christian witness and is a practical demonstration of my Christian faith.” Many respondents said it allows them to be supportive role models, and to connect with students. Several said their activism has made them more passionate teachers.
On the Faculty Social Activism Survey, ranking highest on barriers to social activism was the “lack of time.” More than 80% of faculty at each school indicated they had insufficient time for social activism, and between 19% and 36% identified family or friendship commitments as a barrier to their involvements. In a 1998-99 UCLA study which reported that most professors are satisfied professionally, 86% said they were anxious about time pressures, and 71% were stressed by household obligations. A variety of factors are related to this lack of time. One is the increasing professionalization of college faculties, with greater demands, and greater desires, for publishing and for participating in the academies of their disciplines.
Men also were doing much of the activism of the 1960s and early 1970s, partly because there were more men on faculties and partly because many of the activist movements of that era were still rather sexist. Given that scenario, and given that more faculty spouses were at home, men felt more freedom to pursue service and activist commitments during that era. Though there is still imbalance, today men and women faculty are striving to share household and parenting responsibilities more equitably. One cannot spend days or weeks in Hebron or Washington or Vietnam as easily as one could have in an earlier era. J. Denny Weaver, for instance, indicated that he did not begin his Christian Peacemaker Teams work until his children were in college and gave their blessing, enabling his more recent activism.
As an active father of two preschoolers and a 10-year-old, one of whom accompanies me to most professional meetings, I am among those who feel time pressures, as many interviewees and survey respondents indicated. However, I am also keenly aware that we make choices about how we spend our marginal time. When feeling conviction after Rich Meyer’s challenge in my Religion and the Political Order class, I could have chosen to spend a month of my summer and post-bedtime hours working in social activism; instead-and herein lies the kind of supreme irony that academics love-I chose to spend a month studying whether or not teaching faculty are socially active. At the same time, I would like to consider this study a form of second-level social activism, prompting faculty members to reflect on their engagement and their commitments.
Moreover, few faculty at the Mennonite colleges are extensively involved with churchwide or conference committee work or in denominational roles. Over the last decade or two, this lack of involvement has been particularly true for Mennonite Church faculty. Lee Snyder at Bluffton and Ervin Stutzman at Eastern Mennonite Seminary are notable exceptions. That connectedness is one of the key reasons earlier Mennonite college faculties could have such a dramatic impact on their founding denominations. As Mennonites have become increasingly educated, increasingly suburban and increasingly urbane, they are less inclined to look to their colleges for leadership. Nor is the church, in its contemporary egalitarianism and pluralism, willing to grant today’s faculty leaders the power their predecessors once had.
Nonetheless, our colleges and universities may need to consider giving released time or load FTE for administrators and faculty members to serve in churchwide service roles, or for service as denominational leaders and spokespersons, or for structured social activism of the kind that James Satterwhite does rather regularly.
Just over a quarter (26%) of teaching faculty identified “philosophical or theological differences with many activists” as another barrier to their being more socially active, and 21% said their “personal dislike for public witness/demonstration/activism” was a factor.
Significantly, nearly half (47%) of teaching faculty said “the complexity of moral issues” hampered their social activism. One survey respondent said, “The Vietnam War was something which the entire nation focused on as well as civil rights of our African-American brothers and sisters. Today, the issues are more varied and less clear to many; the discrimination and denial of justice is not as easily recognized. Issues are diffused by lack of media coverage and confusion of what is ‘the truth’ about a situation.” Allen Hertzke, longtime observer of Capitol Hill religious lobbies, speaks rather critically about contemporary religious advocates in Washington, during the 1960s. He writes:
It was a heady experience to be morally right, politically effective, and at the center of it all. The civil rights struggle thus stands at the hinge of a transformation that politicized mainline churches, especially their ministers and national leaders. . . . And though few issues enjoyed the moral clarity of the Civil Rights Act, church leaders acted often as if that were the case. There was, and is still, a tendency in the religious community to treat complex policy issues with a similar moral urgency and clarity. Whether the issue is labor law, environment, day care, immigration, military doctrine, or trade with Mexico, the church leaders are there, arguing that the “churches” stand for this or that.
The academic world has a rather complex view of reality, which makes poster-toting, public witness and clear condemnation of certain policies, practices and corporations a bit difficult for faculty members. Most placards are not large enough to write even a justice-oriented economist’s view of the International Monetary Fund. One faculty member I interviewed said, regarding one of his teaching colleagues:
The guy, you know, he both scares and astounds us. I mean, here’s a 65-year-old guy who still thinks sort of simple-like. He goes after these issues like a dog after a bone, and we stand back and we say, “Where is this guy coming from'” Because we know how complicated this is. But it’s a long time since I’ve behaved that way. Things are just-they require much more effort and time and patience and, I don’t know, things never seem simple enough to just lunge out at them.
A lifetime activist, David Cortright of Goshen’s faculty and the Fourth Freedom Forum said, “I think it’s normal that we would not go out and demonstrate. It has to be a fairly compelling issue to take us out of our jobs and away from our families. A lot of these issues require a lot of soul-searching, and even then we may have some ambiguities that never get cleared away.”
Several faculty members mentioned that in their discipline they had struggled with their peers and graduate school professors about whether one needed to remain neutral or could be committed. Neutrality, and an ability to see all sides of an issue, can quickly mitigate against activism, sucking out the energy required for passionate engagement and critique. But even with such tensions, as several interviewees said, not all contemporary issues are so complex: take the Million Mom March, they said, or the bombing of Iraq, the death penalty, AIDS, or homelessness. And, as another faculty member noted, academics should be able to use their skills to sort through complexity. It will keep them from demonizing other persons or perspectives, but it also ought not squelch all meaningful responses.
EMBRACING OUR CALLING
So, in the end, was Rich Meyer right? Have faculty on today’s Mennonite campuses become slugs in comparison with their predecessors? The answer is clearly, no-by any measure of social activism, faculty have not become disengaged. In terms of breadth of faculty engagement in social activism, more faculty are involved now than were involved in the earlier period. In terms of depth and intensity of engagement, or at least impact on the church in a changing world, it is likely that those earlier activists effected more change than today’s faculty have.
It is neither possible nor desirable to return to the fervor, focus, authority structures or social climate of the 1960s-all of which lent our predecessors’ activism well-deserved transformative power. But it is equally clear that faculty and administrators at Mennonite colleges could express greater passion, in living for Christ and living for others, than they are doing now. Some of this can happen in the classroom itself, but some needs to happen beyond that setting. Even, or perhaps especially, in a complex world, if teaching and administering is to have integrity and meaning, faculty members must embody their commitments to making peace and yearning for justice.
Engaged discipleship is, of course, broader than the parameters of the Faculty Social Activism Survey and the anecdotal information reported here. As one faculty respondent to the survey said:
In a culture that regards commitments as expendable, I think staying married to one person for life is a form of social activism; in a culture that consigns the elderly to geriatric nurseries, I think that caring for an elderly parent is a form of social activism; in a culture that tends to see children as impediments to (or objects of) self-fulfillment, I think being a loving parent is a form of social activism. So is organizing a neighborhood block party, raking leaves for an invalid neighbor, being a foster parent or offering temporary housing to an abused mother.
This definition is considerably broader than the one this study has been using, and much of what it proposes would be rather difficult to operationalize or measure. That does not make these transformative actions any less important, certainly. The forms of discipleship or embodied presence are many, and they may vary over the course of a lifetime.
For those who teach and administer in church-related institutions, our vocation demands a faithfulness to God, a faithfulness to our missions and a faithfulness to engage and critique our students, ourselves and the world within which we are so deeply embedded. Such faithfulness calls us, in the spirit of Christ, to serve the poor, listen to the oppressed and the marginalized, care for God’s creation, speak truth to church and political authorities, exercise whatever power has been bestowed on us on behalf of the powerless and actively welcome-and seek-the reign of God.
Atlee Beechy, friend and mentor of many faculty members at Mennonite colleges and elsewhere, and servant of the church through MCC and other agencies, writes in his posthumously published autobiography:
I believe the Church’s mission is to witness to and care for God’s world and to build the new community. At best, [our church colleges are] both servant[s] and constructive critic[s] of the Church. A basic objective of [our church colleges] is to help the Church discharge its reconciling ministry in the world. This involves defining the meaning of faith and mission, critiquing societal and world trends, and educating students in the skills and understandings needed to become effective ministers of reconciliation in whatever they do. This includes preparing students for their role in building peace- and justice-minded families, congregations, and communities.
Beechy’s charge is one today’s faculty and administrators at Mennonite schools ought to embrace.
[*]Keith Graber Miller is professor of Bible, Religion and Philosophy at Goshen College. This article began as the Spring 2001 C. Henry Smith Peace Lecture, delivered at Bluffton College, Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University. Special thanks go to the research assistants on this project, students Rebecca M. Rich and Steve Clemens. Ron Stutzman, who teaches a Methods of Social Research class at GC, also was extremely gracious with his time as a consultant on the survey portion of the research. Dean John Kampen of Bluffton, Dean Paul Keim of Goshen and Loren L. Johns of Bluffton (now dean at AMBS) offered helpful critiques. Rich Meyer, Al Meyer, J. Denny Weaver, Perry Bush, Ted Grimsrud, J. R. Burkholder and others have been inspiring influences along the way.
1. Leo Driedger and Donald B. Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking: From Quietism to Activism (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1994), 44.
Return to Text
. This two-decade time period, actually covers several generations of faculty members. For instance, on Goshen’s campus, those then near retirement, such as Guy F. Hershberger; a middle generation including people like Atlee Beechy and J. Lawrence Burkholder; and a younger generation of people like J. R. Burkholder.
Return to Text
. To limit this study I do not explicitly address social activism on Hesston College’s campus, though much of what is said here would be true of Hesston as well. On Hesston, see, e.g., James C. Juhnke, “Clashing Symbols in a Quiet Town: Hesston in the Vietnam Era,” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, 23 (Autumn 2000), 142-53.
Return to Text
. Response rates were Bethel, 27 out of 75 (36%); Bluffton, 48 out of 96 (50%); EMU 42 out of 145 (29%); and Goshen 104 out of 233 (45%). As I note later in the article, overall response of 223 persons out of 549 surveys makes for a 41% response rate, which allows for making substantive claims from the aggregate. With more than a 33% response rate from Bethel, Bluffton and Goshen, one also can comfortably draw conclusions from the data for these schools. Given that EMU’s response was slightly below one-third, one should be cautious about institution-specific data at that school.
Return to Text
. Clearly a higher percentage of Mennonite faculty vote than that of the general Mennonite population. Driedger and Kraybill, in Mennonite Peacemaking (192), report that about 65% of Mennonites in 1989 said they voted in all or most elections in recent years. I’m keenly aware that the “voting” measure is different from, and less important than, many of the others in the survey. As several of my survey respondents noted, voting can be rather ambiguous, since we often vote out of self-interest rather than in an attempt to change the world.
Return to Text
. In retrospect, the survey instrument was a bit anthropocentric, focusing perhaps too much on people and too little on environmental issues. It also should have allowed for greater analysis of other forms of service in which faculty are engaged. My overarching focus in this research was on peace-and-justice activism rather than more “conservative” activism, but Mennonite campuses have seen only minimal activist efforts on the latter sort of issues.
Return to Text
. In using the language of discipleship and calling, I am keenly aware that several respondents noted “no denominational or religious affiliation” on the Faculty Social Activism Survey.
Return to Text
. The particular quote here is from Gail Kennedy, ed., Education at Amherst (New York: Harper & Row, 1955), 290-92. Cited in Willis Rudy, The Campus and a Nation in Crisis: From the American Revolution to Vietnam (Madison: Associated U. Presses, 1996), 150. Rudy’s book zealously traces the history of campus activism during the American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam era. “The main finding of this volume,” he writes, “is that American students and faculty were indeed deeply involved in all five crises. . . .” (ix).
Return to Text
. Joseph Axelrod, “The Case of Stephen Abbot,” in The Vitality of Senior Faculty Members: Snow on the Roof-Fire in the Furnace, ed. Carole J. Bland and William H. Bergquist (Washington: George Washington U., 1997), 15. This marvelous case study, the only longitudinal case study of a single faculty member over a 40-year period, traces the life of the fictitious Stephen Abbot from his early days of teaching through his near-retirement.
Return to Text
. I am not dealing with faculty social activism prior to this period, though one could find a variety of examples from the 1940s and 1950s, from helping develop the Civilian Public Service Program to testifying in Congress to integrating peace into college curricula. One striking example might be Edna Ramseyer, who as a doctoral student in home economics participated in a coeducational Quaker work camp in 1939, then a year in France working with Spanish refugee children. When Ramseyer returned from Europe, she joined Bluffton’s faculty, then went to Goshen College to teach nutrition at Goshen’s short-lived CPS relief school. She raised the question of how women might be more involved in alternative service, capturing the attention of many campus women. On August 12, 1943, they gathered at GC’s administration building and proclaimed themselves “C. O. Girls,” drafting a constitution for a women’s conscientious objector society. Later Ramseyer told researcher Rachel Waltner Goossen that, in leading the C.O. Girl movement, she had always emphasized a motif of service, never “a new role for women.” “Nevertheless,” said Waltner Goossen, “by encouraging young women to participate more directly in Civilian Public Service, she implicitly raised questions of gender and power.”-e-mail from Rachel Waltner Goossen, April 12, 1994. See also Waltner Goossen, Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-1947 (Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Press, 1997). At least two other Goshen College women faculty members who embraced peace, and integrated peacemaking into their classrooms before the 1960s and throughout that period, were home economics professor Olive Wyse (1926-1976 at GC) and education professor and dean of women Mary Royer (1933-1980 at GC). Wyse and Royer crafted a “Philosophy of Christian Education at Goshen College” that was adopted by faculty in 1949. Royer said she felt it was “a foundational statement for peace teaching, peace living, and peace making.” Royer’s doctoral dissertation was a study of the implications of a voluntary service program for the improvement of teacher education. Undated typed note to the author from Kathryn Aschliman, Spring 2001.
Return to Text
. Driedger and Kraybill write in Mennonite Peacemaking (139): “Many of the activists were encouraged by educators in church colleges who sought to infuse biblical and Anabaptist convictions with new relevance for a new generation. The academicians, wary of arrest and worried about antagonizing administrators and constituencies, were nonetheless critical agents in the transformation of nonresistance. The long roster would surely include Elmer Neufeld and Robert Kreider (Bluffton College), Bill Keeney and Duane Friesen (Bethel College), Ray Gingerich and Titus Bender (Eastern Mennonite College), Frank Epp and Walter Klaassen (Conrad Grebel College), John R. Burkholder and Atlee Beechy (Goshen College), and John H. Yoder, as well as Willard Swartley (Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries).”
Return to Text
. See Driedger and Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking, 109-31; Perry Bush, Two Kingdoms, Two Loyalties: Mennonite Pacifism in Modern America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1998); and Keith Graber Miller, Wise as Serpents, Innocent as Doves: American Mennonites Engage Washington (Knoxville: U. of Tennessee Press, 1996).
Return to Text
. Driedger and Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking, 53. The three texts mentioned in the previous footnote do a relatively thorough job of analyzing various transformations and developments in the 1940s (CPS, congressional testimony), 1950s (Concern movement), and 1960s (church-state conferences, founding of the Washington office of MCC) among Mennonites.
Return to Text
. Beginning in 1940 many Mennonites gave congressional testimony on a range of issues, including conscription, capital punishment, nuclear weapons and other issues. Among these “testifiers” were many college faculty, including Goshen’s Harold S. Bender and Atlee Beechy, EMC and Goshen’s John A. Lapp, Bluffton and Bethel’s William Keeney, and Bluffton’s Robert Kreider. For a complete listing, see Keith Graber Miller, “Wise as Serpents, Innocent as Doves,” Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1994, Appendix D. The published version of the dissertation, which goes by the same name, does not include the appendix. Another source on pre-1960s social activism is James C. Juhnke, Creative Crusader: Edmund G. Kaufman and the Mennonite Community (North Newton, KS: Bethel College, 1994).
Return to Text
. Driedger and Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking, 110. Neufeld also served as executive secretary of MCC’s Peace Section from 1959 to 1962, and as MCC’s program director in the Republic of Congo for the following three years. Throughout his tenure at Bluffton, Neufeld traveled the world representing MCC.
Return to Text
. Information from J. R. Burkholder, “Pilgrimage of a Reluctant Pacifist,” unpublished paper first outlined for a chapel talk at EMC in 1978 and then updated as way of introducing himself to student groups at AMBS in the late 1980s. See also Burkholder’s “Penultimate Ponderings of a Pacifist Pilgrim,” an unpublished paper prepared for the Elizabethtown College conference “Anabaptists in Conversation: Mennonite and Brethren Interactions with Twentieth-Century Theologies.” Both available from the author.
Return to Text
. Historian Al Keim said that, while EMC was always the more conservative of the Mennonite colleges, when Myron Augsburger came as president in 1965 it was “like a breath of fresh air,” bringing “whole new possibilities and lots of ambition and so on and so the institution itself was open to change . . . and the result was it was almost as though the lid had been taken off and suddenly lots of things could bubble up.”-Interview with Al Keim, August 4, 2000. Keim also indicated that in the mid-1960s a host of new faculty came in-16 in one year-and these young, “freshly minted Ph.Ds” provided a great deal of stimulation to the campus.
Return to Text
. Keim addressed issues such as anti-ballistic missiles and Vietnam.”-See Opinion Board files, II-H-11a, 1965-66, Menno Simons Historical Library and Archives, Eastern Mennonite University.
Return to Text
. Among their specific suggestions for accomplishing this were: (1) having counseling available to point out alternatives to “the present barbarious and inhumane methods of obtaining peace,” in response to the many young men interested in conscientious objection; (2) accommodating faculty and staff who wish to refuse to pay taxes as a protest against “the sins of the military system”; and (3) allowing professors to bring out their personal beliefs on peace, and specifically on the Vietnam War. See Student Senate Opinion Board, I-F-?, 1966-1972, Bluffton College Archives.
Return to Text
. Witmarsum (December 1, 1961), 1. Students making the trip included James Roth, Judith Hilty, Laura Diller, Majri Hazen, Mary Smucker, Sandra Cook, James Powell, Jan Emmert, Dan MacLachlan, Phil Kingsley, Laura Lee Martin, Walter Sprunger, Ronald Conrad and Robert Suter.
Return to Text
. Long before coming to Goshen College as dean and then president, Vic Stoltzfus also had marched with King once. Myron Augsburger, who became president of EMC in 1965, said he regrets not engaging King or participating in any of King’s events. Partly through the influence of Guy F. Hershberger’s early views, he said he was “negative about King and his strategy. I had to go through a change on that, but I bought that line-that King is using nonviolence in a coercive way and that’s not Mennonite.” Interview with Myron Augsburger, August 4, 2000.
Return to Text
. Burkholder’s cellmate was William Sloane Coffin, Jr. One other interviewee said, regarding Lawrence’s march and arrest, that the event may have been “the next to the last thing Lawrence ever did of that sort.” Noting that marching with King “gives you an aura,” he said “by the time [Burkholder] got to Goshen he was pure Mennonite establishment.”
Return to Text
. Interview with James Juhnke, Jan. 16, 2001. Juhnke said that the day before our telephone interview 120 students and eight or 10 faculty had organized a two-mile march from campus to the Second Baptist Church in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. People were carrying signs saying, “Honor King. Count All the Votes” (in reference to the 2000 presidential election). Platt, now retired and in his 70s, was on the march. During his years at Bethel, he also was an activist on environmental issues.
Return to Text
. Interview with Al Keim, Aug. 4, 2000. Myron Augsburger remembered that after one of the Washington demonstrations in which Eastern Mennonite students had participated, the students “went back over and cleaned up the park and things with all the trash left from the demonstration. This was in the newspapers.” Interview with Myron Augsburger, Aug. 4, 2000. John A. Lapp said, in a July 13, 2001, e-mail: “My recollections are that we were pretty tame over-all in the 1960s.”
Return to Text
. See Driedger and Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking (148), who add: “Youthful Mennonites, outraged by the atrocities in Vietnam, were empowered by the new interpretation of Jesus. Meanwhile, back at Goshen College, Kraus soon found himself pleading with students to cancel their plans to march to the local draft board and pour blood on the draft files.”
Return to Text
. Phone conversation with Dan Leatherman, Feb. 19, 2001. Steiner was an atheist conscientious objector, and his grounds for requesting CO status were rejected by an Ohio court, even four years after the United States v. Seeger Supreme Court case which allowed for a “vast panoply of beliefs” to allow for legitimate conscientious objection. Leatherman taught political science at Goshen College from 1963 to 1969, and his “activism” included being part of the first family in the area to adopt a mixed-race child.
Return to Text
. A number of activist students from the 1960s and 1970s are now on the faculty at Bluffton, though their present level of activism varies. Among them are Sally Weaver Sommer, Phil and Judy Hilty Kingsley, Greg Luginbuhl, Gary and Lois Wetherill and George and Anita Lehman.
Return to Text
. Bill Keeney thinks that Bethel was the most socially active campus of any of the Mennonite schools-noting the national attention the school received because of its anti-war activities-with Goshen as a close second.-Interview with Bill Keeney, Aug. 1, 2000.
Return to Text
. James Juhnke says, regarding Bethel, that “at every period of wartime there have been faculty making statements on issues of various kinds. . . . The late 1960s and early 1970s are a kind of aberration. . . . I don’t think we’ve had any era like that before or since. I would not want to use the 1960s and 1970s as the baseline for understanding engagement with the world. As I look at it in Kansas, the engagement has been continuous.”-Interview with James Juhnke, Jan. 16, 2001. Upon reading an earlier draft of this paper, Bluffton’s Perry Bush said, regarding Juhnke’s observation, “That strikes me as valid for Bluffton as well (though we lacked the intensity of Bethel) and also, for what I know of Goshen’s history. The 1960s were just an abnormally intense, activist, passionate time, for American society in general and also (because of arguments about acculturation I’ve developed elsewhere) especially for Mennos and Menno academics.-E-mail from Perry Bush, Feb. 25, 2001.
Return to Text
. Some observers have referred to this sort of late 1970s and 1980s activism as “polite protest,” in contrast to that of a generation earlier. Often this is a form of activism that is “less confrontational and worked more through the political system,” said David Cortright of Goshen’s faculty and the Fourth Freedom Forum. Cortright also noted that many current activist organizations work through the Internet, in political campaigns and by monitoring television. With new technologies, social movements have become more connected horizontally than hierarchically or vertically, in terms of how they communicate and how they are governed.-Interview with David Cortright, Feb. 21, 2001.
Return to Text
. GC social work professor Jeanne Liechty said that, as a group, women’s studies faculties are social activists, greatly concerned about the well-being of women, which also enhances the well-being of the entire community.-Written comments, Jan. 30, 2001. Liechty said, “Social work as a profession and feminism as an ideology are both committed to working for peace and justice and social change. My personal concerns are spurred on by my professional values. Being personally active allows me to look my students in the eye when we talk about the importance of social work values and ethics and when we talk about the personal being political in Women’s Studies.”
Return to Text
. (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1993). Especially since about 1980 Aschliman has worked tirelessly at peace education issues on campus, in congregations and in larger church and academic settings. She was instrumental in integrating peace into GC’s teacher education program. A list of her peace activities from 1962, when she began teaching at Goshen College, until 1996, when she retired, would be many pages long. She continues to be involved in various peace initiatives at her church and elsewhere.
Return to Text
. See Ann Hostetler’s critique of purported efforts to infuse race, culture and difference throughout the curriculum. Hostetler, professor of English at Goshen College, included her critique in her “Response to Toni Morison’s Playing in the Dark,” prepared for a Spring 2001 course.-Available from the author.
Return to Text
. J. Denny Weaver Interview, July 31, 2000. On the Faculty Social Activism Survey, between 41% (EMU) and 81% (Bluffton) of teaching faculty respondents agreed with the statement, “Christian Peacemaker Teams provides an excellent example/model of social activism.” The more positive Bluffton figures likely reflect the profile of Weaver and Satterwhite on campus. Only a handful of faculty from all of the campuses combined have been CPT reservists in the last five years.
Return to Text
. Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000). Putnam argues that civic engagement increased rather steadily for the first two-thirds of the twentieth century but began a decline in the late 1960s and early 1970s that accelerated in the subsequent decades. While most of the decreases in civic engagement have involved face-to-face connections with other people, two areas which have shown slight increases are volunteerism and protest demonstrations. For a more hopeful analysis, see Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (New York: Harmony Books, 2000). The sociologist and psychologist argue that one in four adult Americans are “Cultural Creatives,” people who are reshaping the cultural landscape-e.g., environmentalists, social justice workers, spiritual seekers, and feminists.
Return to Text
. In measuring “trends in political and communal participation,” Putnam used twelve activities as signifiers: served as officer of some club or organization; worked for a political party; served on a committee for some local organization; attended a public meeting on town or school affairs; attended a political rally or speech; made a speech; wrote congressman or senator; signed a petition; was a member of some “better government” group; held or ran for political office; wrote a letter to the paper; wrote an article for a magazine or newspaper. He writes, “The fraction of the American public uninvolved in any of these civic activities rose by nearly one-third over these two decades. In 1973 most Americans engaged in at least one of these forms of civic involvement every year. By 1994 most did not engage in any” (44).
Return to Text
. Susan Dodge, “More College Students Choose Academic Majors That Meet Social and Environmental Concerns,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 5, 1990, 1-2. Dodge said, “Students who have volunteered at homeless shelters and recycling centers say the work opened their eyes to the magnitude of the social and environmental problems their generation faces. At the same time, more students say business has a negative connotation arising out of the greed and Wall-Street scandals of the 1980s. ‘There is a pervading anti-business sentiment among students, who are saying, The 80’s are over; enough is enough,’ says Victoria Nugent, a senior at Wesleyan University who is a peer counselor at the campus career-planning center.” However, Dodge also reported that “while their concern about society’s problems is growing, many students say they might not pursue those issues in the long term. Some expect to opt for better-paying jobs in the private sector after a few years at a non-profit agency.”
Return to Text
. The primary research for this article was completed about six months before September 11, 2001, when planes were directed into the World Trade Center Towers in New York and the Pentagon. On Mennonite college campuses, the response to the September 11 violence and the U.S. reaction was almost immediate, with students holding vigils and convocations within hours after the buildings were hit, and candlelight vigils at their local courthouses days after the initial event. An analysis of these responses, in comparison with the slow unfolding of anti-war sentiments during the 1960s, would be instructive.
Return to Text
. Holly J. Lebowitz, “A Resurgence of Campus Activism,” Sojourners (September-October 1999), 18. Lebowitz also speaks about faith being a force behind college activism. See also Stephen Hart, Cultural Dilemmas of Progressive Politics: Styles of Engagement among Grassroots Activists (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 2001).
Return to Text
. These and some other student protests have elicited the criticism of some faculty members who think students are ill-informed about the issues for which they advocate. Some refer to this as “mindless activism,” “banal protests” or “vacuous activism.” On another issue, a public protest regarding gay and lesbian issues at the United Methodist Conference in Cleveland in May 2000, the liberal Christian Century criticized the protesters for jointly orchestrating incidents of civil disobedience with the police so they could be arrested for impeding public access. “The protesters garnered publicity for their cause and everyone made it home for a late dinner,” the editorial said, calling the protest “an exercise in media-driven street theater.” “There’s a crucial element of civil disobedience as it was originally practiced that seems to be ignored or forgotten these days: the aim of civil rights demonstrators was not to break the law and thereby call attention to their cause, but to break an unjust law and there by call attention to the law’s unjustness.” See “Ecclesial Protest,” Christian Century, May 24-31, 2000, 589, as well as the critical letters from readers in the June 21-28, 2000 issue.
Return to Text
. On January 17, 2001 the SOA was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The School of the Americas Watch Web site says, “It’s a new name, but the same shame.” See www.soaw.org.
Return to Text
. Weathervane, Oct. 9, 1997, 1. This article was about a Washington protest against sweatshop labor. EMU students from Lisa Schirch and Ray Gingerich’s Peace and Justice in the American Context class participated in the event.
Return to Text
. Weathervane, Feb. 19, 1998, 1. On April 23, 1999 the Witmarsum included a “Focus on Justice Week” issue, with articles by students on world equality, international women’s issues and Kosovo, and campus pastor Randy Keeler wrote on a biblical understanding of justice while religion professor Rachel Reesor addressed homosexuality as a justice issue.
Return to Text
. Tara Zahra, “Sweating the Big Stuff.” Citing statistics from the Institute for International Education, Zahra says the number of students studying abroad has doubled in the past decade. In the 1998-99 year alone, the number of U.S. students studying abroad increased 11.4%. Zahra says that, although that is only 1% of the total college population, “the percentage of students studying abroad reaches up to one-third at the elite colleges and universities where the sweatshop movement originated.”
Return to Text
. One could justifiably argue that increases in letter-writing campaigns (from 53% to 63%) as well as local and national organizations (37% to 40% and 40% to 48%) are poor indicators. In Bowling Alone Robert Putnam says that while the number of nonprofit associations is up in the U.S. and Americans belong to as many organizations as they did in the 1960s, membership in mailing-list organizations means little, especially if the only commitment one makes is to write an occasional check (52-53). Letter-writing campaigns also are easier to facilitate today with Internet connections and the accessibility of photocopiers.
Return to Text
. Nearly half of the current faculty and administrators (49%) said in the future they “hope to be more involved in social activism” than they are now, and only 15% disagreed with that statement.
Return to Text
. Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA, “The American College Teacher” (1989), available at www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/press faculty.htm. See also Denise M. Wagner, “The Graying Professorate,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 5, 1999, available at www.chronicle.com/free/v46/i02.02a01801.htm. The specific declines in American college faculty commitments (in terms of being “essential” or “very important” goals) between 1989 and 1998 are: influencing the political structure, down 6% (from 20% to 14%); influencing social values, down 9% (from 47% to 38%); and helping clean up the environment, down 13% (from 44% to 31%).
Return to Text
. Figures for Mennonites in comparison with Catholics, Presbyterians and others were mixed. A 10% or more spread, with Mennonites more socially active than other-than-Mennonites, was noted for Damascus Road events (32% to 13%), advocating within one’s congregation (51% to 35%), advocating within one’s denomination (32% to 22%); MCC or other similar assignments (15% to 4%); and leading an SST-like program (24% to 4%). A 10% or more spread, with other-than Mennonites being more socially active than Mennonites, was noted only on letter-writing campaigns (72% to 59%).
Return to Text
. One needs to remember the likely self-selectivity of the respondents, though this should be true for all four schools. EMU’s data, with only a 29% response rate, perhaps should be used more carefully than that from the other schools.
Return to Text
. In Dancing with the Kobzar Perry Bush reports (251) that in extensive faculty surveys at Bluffton in the mid-1990s, 95% of the faculty reported that peacemaking was a high priority in their lives, and 87% said the peace, justice and service concerns of the college were influential in their decision to seek employment there. A considerably higher percentage of BC faculty stressed issues such as influencing their students’ social values, racial understanding and community service than did faculty members at other four-year Protestant colleges.
Return to Text
. Rich Meyer has noted the shift Mennonites have made in the last half-century. Mennonites have moved from discouraging any type of social activism in the era of nonresistance to tolerating social activism in the 1960s and 1970s to requiring it in the age of Damascus Road, the Mennonite organization which says one must be actively anti-racist, actively seeking to right racial injustices, or one is part of the problem.-Rich Meyer, Feb. 1, 2000.
Return to Text
. Several EMU faculty members indicated that administrative tensions with faculty activism have to do with local issues that have a greater impact on EMU in the community. Administrators, they said, are less concerned with activism that happens outside of Harrisonburg.
Return to Text
. “Policy Governing Use of University Resources and Facilities,” EMU, President’s Cabinet, May 16, 2000. Loren Johns, formerly a religion professor at Bluffton and now academic dean at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, mentioned in e-mail correspondence on Feb. 24, 2001 that he and Randy Keeler led Bluffton’s first cross-cultural trip to Jerusalem. He writes: “In the wake of that trip, the Bluffton College Peace Club, led in part by students radicalized by that trip, organized a demonstration against U.S. government policies on Israel-a demonstration that took place in front of the County Courthouse in Lima, Ohio. This demonstration was noticed by both the media and the local synagogue, which protested vigorously against Bluffton College’s naivete and latent anti-Semitism via several letters to the editor in the local newspaper. . . . I advocated for some modest and careful response, but [two Bluffton administrators] argued for no public response, due to their conviction that there was little hope for real progress and bridge-building through a war of words fought through the media. In time, a meeting was arranged between representatives from Bluffton (two students and two faculty members: Jim Satterwhite and me) and three representatives from the local Jewish community. Although not without difficulty, this approach did lead to some fruitful dialogue.” John said the story illustrates: “(1) the power of cross-cultural trips to radicalize and to elicit social activism, and (2) the increasing differences between administrators and faculty in our colleges regarding the appropriateness of social activism.”
Return to Text
. Because of the way the survey data were gathered, possibly some of the people from the earlier period who identified themselves as administrators had been involved in social activism before they became administrators. A similar reality is true for contemporary administrators as well.
Return to Text
. The “neutral” figures are interesting here, too, with 27% of administrators remaining neutral while only 15% of faculty did so. 55% of faculty disagreed with the statement, while only 32% of administrators did so.
Return to Text
. This was a statistically insignificant difference. The percentage of faculty listed in the top two tiers of the attitudinal score were: Bluffton, 75; Goshen, 74; EMU, 72 and Bethel, 67. Also, General Conference Mennonites scored 74% in the top two tiers as compared with only 65% for Mennonite Church Mennonites. Those figures are consistent with distinctions between GCs and MCs reported by Driedger and Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking, 219, on various activist dimensions.
Return to Text
. In Disruptive Religion: The Force of Faith in Social Movement Activism (New York: Routledge, 1996), 4, editor Christian Smith says, “Religion was front and center in the civil rights movement-perhaps the most politically and theoretically significant movement on the list. But besides that, very little religion appeared to be present in the anti-Vietnam movement, the student movement, the women’s movement, or the environment. If anything, religion appeared to be a conservative force, resisting these movements.”
Return to Text
. Although the Faculty Social Activism Survey statistics do not fully bear this out, my sense from the Bluffton College persons I interviewed was that they feel a greater obligation to expose their students to peace and justice issues than do faculty at the other campuses. Bluffton has a small percentage of students from Mennonite background, with more coming from conservative, rural areas of northwest Ohio. A number of the younger faculty I interviewed (e.g., Linda Nyce, Pam Nath, Perry Bush) identified this as a motivator for their activism.
Return to Text
. We divided the barriers up into philosophical/theological barriers-meaning philosophical or theological differences with many activists, or religious convictions against social activism-and practical barriers. Although these categories likely overlap, the results within the study are interesting. 93% of the overall respondents identified one or more practical barriers to social activism, and 27% indicated a philosophical/theological barrier. 33% of Goshen’s and Bethel’s teaching faculty respondents indicated one or more philosophical/theological barriers, while the figure for Bluffton was only 16% and the figure at EMU was 24%. Not surprisingly, Mennonite Church respondents identified philosophical and theological barriers in greater numbers as well: 33% identified one or more such barriers compared to 24% of General Conference Mennonites.
Return to Text
. I am conscious that, for instance, the annual demonstration against the School of the Americas frequently occurs on the same November weekend as the American Academy of Religion meetings. Thus far I’ve consistently chosen to attend the latter. My Bible, Religion, and Philosophy colleague Darrin Belousek has chosen to go to the School of the Americas demonstrations. In written comments, Feb. 16, 2001, he said, “For me the muddle comes . . . from trying to live up to the professional standards of excellence in one’s academic discipline, answering to the ‘publish or perish’ demands of an academic world that has lost its bearing.”
Return to Text
. Weaver said he probably wouldn’t have gone to Haiti when his children were small. When he first went to the Caribbean island with CPT in 1993, his daughters had said, “Dad, you go because we can take care of ourselves now, so you go.”-Interview with J. Denny Weaver, July 31, 2000.
Return to Text
. Regarding the “lack of time” issue, Jim and Anna Juhnke of Bethel have worked throughout their tenures at Bethel with reduced loads, partly so they could engage in activism. At Goshen, Darrin Belousek, an adjunct professor, teaches philosophy about half-time and then serves as director of a voluntary service unit in South Bend and is a significant anti-death penalty activist in northern Indiana. David Cortright, who teaches Nonviolent Social Change each year at Goshen, has essentially spent his entire adult life in social activism. Cortright began his anti-war activism when he was drafted in 1968, then was director of SANE from 1977 to 1987; worked with the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute beginning in 1989; and now is president of Fourth Freedom Forum, an organization founded by international businessman Howard S. Brembeck.-Interview with David Cortright, Feb. 2, 2001. The Fourth Freedom Forum’s mission statement is “to encourage discussion, development, and dissemination of ideas that will free humanity from the fear of war.” See the organization’s Web site at www.fourthfreedom.org.
Return to Text
. Bethel’s James Juhnke said, in an interview on Jan. 16, 2001, “The situation doesn’t allow any one person to exercise that kind of influence on the college or the church as a whole. In so many ways our colleges have been fragmented departmentally, and the 1960s contributed to that significantly. We’ve been more decentered.”
Return to Text
. Goshen College respondent. In terms of the breadth of issues, longtime activist David Cortright agreed. In an interview on Feb. 2, 2001, he said there are many valuable and important causes now, but they are very broad and very scattered. “The overall impact of activism,” he argued, “is not as dramatic.”
Return to Text
. Allen D. Hertzke, “An Assessment of the Mainline Churches Since 1945,” in The Role of Religion in the Making of Public Policy, eds. James E. Wood, Jr., and Derek Davis (Waco: J.W. Dawson Institute of Church-State Relations, 1991), 51.
Return to Text
. Linda Nyce spoke articulately about this in an interview on Aug. 1, 2000. After describing a conflict with a practicum graduate professor, she said, “I have come to firmly believe that I have to-in everything that I write and teach and do-have at least a knowledge of how it’s affecting the broader world or how it comes from or is situated in a context that is political.”
Return to Text
. Rich Meyer, upon reading an earlier draft of this paper, wrote from Jerusalem, where he was on a mission with Christian Peacemaker Teams, that in Palestine “the situation requires that everyone be an activist-including people who in ‘normal’ times would not.” He continues, in his February 25, 2001 e-mail: “I read [your draft] tonight after the closing worship of the Sabeel Palestinian Ecumenical Center for Liberation Theology biennial conference. . . . Reading your paper here I am struck by this difference between our contexts; here, it is a given that anyone not brain-dead needs to be an activist. The entire conference moved to Ramallah for one session-on the way there, we were held up at one check point for over an hour, one Palestinian journalist covering us had his press card confiscated, and some of our leadership was threatened with arrest. Same thing happened when we moved a session to Bethlehem this morning, only they were threatened with shooting, not arrest. . . . In this context, who would pensively fill out a survey on whether they are more or less politically active than last decade, and how they feel about it? Leading to the tentative conclusion that context (or our perceptions of our context) might be the biggest factor in our political activism'”
Return to Text
. EMU’s Al Keim said, in an interview on Aug. 4, 2000, that he used to try to “complexify” in the classroom-“to get these simple country boys to think complex. . . . The last while it’s been simplicity all the way. All I do is try to help these young people sort of get through the thicket of complexity that they seem to be hung up on-to see that there are a couple of things that one could do something about or believe.”
Return to Text
. This is, in part, an adaptation of Darrin Belousek’s definition of social activism. In written comments on Feb. 16, 2001, he said, “I think [responsible discipleship] involves three inter-related aspects, each of which has some relation to power and to Christ, all bound together by the principle of love of God and love of neighbor as the image of God: (1) serve the poor, suffering, oppressed and otherwise marginal and powerless, following Christ’s example of self-emptying suffering/sacrificial servanthood; (2) speak truth to power, as Christ did to Pilate, reminding the powerful that all power belongs ultimately to Christ and that they will have to answer to Christ for how they use power; (3) exercise whatever power one’s situation happens to bestow-whether political, social, economic, intellectual, etc.-for the sake of Christ and the appearing of his kingdom. Wherever such responsible discipleship leads me outside my comfort zone to see justice for others at the risk of self-interest, there I guess is ‘social activism.'”
Return to Text
. From Beechy, Seeking Peace, 38-39. I dedicate this article to the memory of Beechy, who inspired several generations of students to social activism and engaged discipleship.
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
From Engaged Social Activists to Disengaged Academicians?