Monday, September 25, 2006

kristen nielsen anderson's windmill (slightly updated)

this morning, a letter to the editor in uvsc's college times by kristen neilson anderson was printed. it was - let's just say - really really really not good (i'm trying to be cordial).

the letter can be read here.

this is my reply:

In the September 25th edition of the College Times, Kristen Nielsen Anderson continues her father’s crusade to defend the impressionable and naïve students of this school from what she calls “a recent liberal assault on balanced academic freedom at UVSC.” While I am sure Anderson is well-meaning, her argument is grounded on a gross (and seemingly intentional) misunderstanding of the issue.

Throughout Anderson’s letter, she repeatedly refers to a “diversity course” that some are hoping to establish at UVSC. She claims that this is some new class that ‘liberals’ at UVSC are trying to force on students, going as far as making the stupefying claim that the term ‘diversity course’ “is widely perceived as a code term for liberal agenda.” Anderson’s confusion continues in her claim that Bill Evenson and others are “asking UVSC's board to force students who want to graduate to take the course before the content of the course is revealed!”

So what is this “diversity course” that Ms. Anderson is repeatedly fighting against? Are school administrators covertly trying to push their so-called liberal agenda through a new class? If Anderson would have taken a few minutes to actually look into this issue, she would have quickly discovered that this “diversity course” is nothing but a bogeyman of her own imagination. Like Don Quixote’s attack on fierce giants, Anderson’s “diversity course” is simply a windmill of rumor and her own delusion.

Anderson repeatedly cites an August 13th Deseret News article in her letter, but one wonders how much of this article she has actually read. There is no discussion of her personal chimera, the dreaded ‘diversity course.’ Rather, there is repeated mention of a “global/intercultural understanding requirement” composed of already existing courses. In fact, the article says that students “could choose among a list of about 25 courses to fulfill the requirement.” That’s right, one of 25 already existing courses. The article further explains that these classes range from “an introduction anthropology course to world dance to an upper division English course called Literature of the Sacred, about world religions.” Unlike the mythical “diversity course” that Anderson seems to fight, the diversity requirement is nothing but a tightened-down version of our humanities requirement that focuses on courses that help students enhance their cultural awareness.

Unfortunately, Anderson’s confusion does not end there. In her letter, Ms. Anderson misleadingly quotes Bill Evenson, replacing his plural “courses” with her mythic singular “course.” She then falsely accuses Evenson of “asking UVSC's board to force students who want to graduate to take the course before the content of the course is revealed!” This is a dishonest misrepresentation of what was said in the article. The article actually reads: “The requirement needs to be approved before courses can be developed.” Anderson turns the simple fact that a list of courses cannot be made until a guideline is established, into a blatantly libelous and false accusation against Evenson.

Finally, Ms. Anderson uses her misconceptions as a platform to attack the Philosophy Department and the Center for the Study of Ethics at UVSC, neither of which is behind the proposed intercultural requirement. Though these accusations are also unfounded, they reveal a deeper problem that underlies not only Anderson’s confusions, but much of the persistent conservative/liberal debates here on campus. If Anderson had attempted some research into the intercultural requirement or had even bothered to ask those involved, much of her ill-conceived frustrations could have been avoided. Too much fighting and arguing occurs because people are first to accuse and last to ask questions. This is true for both sides of the debate (and probably true for my letter as well). Too often we want to hold up certain stereotypes of the other and assume the worst before considering the better. As an LDS student at UVSC, I see this on a nearly daily basis. I see some holding and criticizing a naïve view of those of my faith. At the same time, I witness those in my religious community showing disregard for and having suspicion of those outside the community.

Furthermore, as a Latter-day Saint, I believe that understanding and inclusiveness are foundational aspects of Christ’s message and key to a lasting and peaceful society. The greatest part of being a missionary for my faith was the opportunity to spend two years immersed in a culture far different from the one I experienced in Utah. It helped me appreciate lifestyles and perspectives different from my own. That is the very thing that the intercultural requirement seeks to achieve. Some may call inclusiveness and cultural understanding a “liberal agenda.” I choose to call it loving my neighbor.

it still needs some work and revision, but i hope to have in printed in monday's issue.


  1. I think it's funny how she feels that the conduct of the Philosophy Department must be reviewed and "given a clean bill of health" before the class should be implemented, all because a professor criticized the Proclamation on the Family. She seems to be forgetting that she attends a public school that has no obligations to the LDS Church. Criticizing an istitution, no matter how close its ties are to the community, is not a breach of academic integrity, nor is it grounds for any such investigation (unless you are at BYU, of course). No matter how much she wills it, UVSC is not BYU, nor should it be.

    I think the real hang-up that conservatives have with the proposed course is a fear that acceptance of homosexuals will be promoted by left-leaning professors.

  2. I think she's off her rocker! Just as Steve said, it's a pubilc school. So what if you have to take a class you think is a load of crap (which I don't think that it would be given the class examples you gave in your reply)? Just because a professor says something you don't like doesn't change what you think, or make that professor wrong. Maybe she should go to another school, outside of Utah and look at what the requirements are there and realize this isn't any different.

    On a side note, your reply is way too long. It'd never get printed that long, they'd cut and edit and change things and you'd be pissed. You're better off doing that yourself.

  3. Loyd--although I didn't read the letter or been involved with the issue (other than discussing some kind of diversity class issue with you this summer) I think you response is well-written has a valid point about being able to accept others that are not part of the prevailing paradigm. Not that we have to agree with them or accept their culture, but we should at least give to others the right to be different than we are. It seems to me that that is why there is a state of Utah in the first place-- the lack of acceptance and fear of other ideas that drove us from Illinois and Missouri.

  4. Good letter. She's insane. Also, any idea what we can do for the club night tomorrow?

  5. Was that a letter or were your writing an epic?

  6. Great letter, Loyd. At first I thought she was Kay Anderson's daughter---maybe she married into the family. ;)


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