Signs, Hopeful and Not, at the Dawn of Fall Semester

Headline of the day--100 years ago. WWI poster in MMU library.

Headline of the day–100 years ago. WWI poster in MMU library.

Well, that was an interesting day.

Thursday began with a presentation by Mount Mercy’s President, Laurie Hamen, to faculty and staff, followed by a faculty retreat.

Now, I am not really a meeting fan. But as meetings go, this was surprisingly good. There were two smaller sessions that took up the bulk of the faculty retreat, and I felt I got a lot out of both. For one thing, both involved important staff communicating directly with faculty—and we’ve all long complained that communication is an issue at Mount Mercy. This, I think, was very valuable in bringing us together in a meaningful way.

Not all of the news the president had to deliver was good—still, I think she did very well at delivering it. And the idea of starting the year off with a joint session with all staff and faculty before faculty break off for our retreat—in my opinion, it worked well and is a good tradition to keep going.

Then, I noticed in the library Thursday some really positive signs about death and destruction and a cataclysmic historic mistake. It made me smile.

Not that death and destruction are things that I prefer—but I’ve helped organize a fall series at MMU that reflects on the legacy of World War I at its 100th anniversary, and the library is putting up a poster display on the war.

It creates, partly, a walk-through timeline, with quotes from the era. Nearby is a set of propaganda posters used during the war.

Well, cool.

Books are also part of library display. How quaint. How old school. How appropriate.

Books are also part of library display. How quaint. How old school. How appropriate.

Then the day ended on its most discordant note. A key staff member of the student newspaper quit her post to pursue another opportunity.

Since I don’t have many experienced students on the staff, this puts the paper in a precarious position. The irony is that it has just published what I think is a great Orientation Issue—so right after the good first note, it feels like the band has gone off the cliff.

Well, in any act of destruction there may be opportunity. World War I was indeed a great tragedy—it led to World War II, but it also led to advances in medicine, the arts, entertainment, music, etc.

I don’t think Great Wars are worth it in order to spur human advances, which can take place without war. Even though a Cold War was raging and partly provided the motivation, it’s nonetheless true that getting to the moon in the 1960s didn’t require World War III. As humans, we have to work out ways to motivate ourselves that don’t involve violence against each other.

As ISIS so vividly demonstrated this week, the road of violence is a dark dead end, and we don’t want to go there.

On a much less serious scale, I am desperately seeking ways to cajole MMU students into recognizing the value of their own student news media. I know that too many students these days come from homes that don’t even receive newspapers anymore, so the idea of a campus newspaper may seem quaint.

But it’s the only important student media that there is at MMU. Without it, a key part of campus life, that the university is desperately trying to keep more vibrant, is sorely missed.

MMU students, regardless of your major, I have an important, urgent question for you. And I have to have some hope that you’re mature enough and can be countercultural enough to understand that something vital is happening.

Do you want a student newspaper? Raise your hand now, please.


Lots of events this fall at MMU. Series starts Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. Hope to see you there.


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