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Differing viewpoints strengthen academe,
speaker tells scholars
(April 26, 1999)
One of this country's leading sociologists and political scientists Alan Wolfe urged the University's top students and faculty and their families to "welcome all points of view with a plurality of methods and approaches.
"Living up to the ideals of academic pluralism is what makes the university great," said Wolfe, keynote speaker at the sixth annual Scholars' Day ceremony held at Jorgensen Auditorium last Tuesday.
Wolfe, a professor at Boston University, told the audience he was impressed with the concept of Scholars Day at UConn and wished there was something like that at his own university.
It was a compliment welcomed by President Philip E. Austin. "There is no other event on our University calendar that better represents what we are," said Austin.
Wolfe said he sees threats on the horizon that could damage higher education.
One is a political threat from those who would support and hire only those people who share the same opinions. Yet, said Wolfe, "an intelligent and richer environment is created with varying points of view."
Another threat comes from the loss of public and private universities geared toward particular groups. Referring to women-only and faith-based colleges, Wolfe suggested that society should "celebrate their different ways of thinking."
"Respect many things," Wolfe told the audience. "To reduce anything to one thing eventually becomes totalitarian."
During the ceremony, four faculty members and nearly 1,000 students received recognition for their outstanding work.
The highest honor, the designation of University Scholar, went to 33 students for their talent and imagination in following non-traditional programs of study.
The Babbidge Scholar awards were presented to 47 students who earned a 4.0 grade point average during the spring and fall of 1998.
Another 900 students were recognized as New England Scholars for maintaining a grade point average of least 3.5 during the 1998 semesters.
Also honored were the 1998-99 Teaching Fellows selected by the Institute for Teaching and Learning on the basis of their excellence and dedication to the profession. The fellows include: Regina Barreca, professor of English; John Enderle, professor of electrical and systems engineering; Robert Gallo, professor of physiology and neurobiology; and Sally Reis, professor of educational psychology.
Wolfe is author and editor of more than 10 books and periodicals. His most recent book, One Nation After All, resulted from spending two years in suburban America talking at length with average citizens about their beliefs, fears and dreams.