Bluffton's community of respect
BLUFFTON, Ohio – During Bluffton University’s annual President’s Forum, President James Harder explored the topic of respect. Respect is one of Bluffton’s four enduring values along with discovery, community and service.
Over the years, Bluffton has also developed an intentional and carefully-considered set of relational values that has come to be called Bluffton’s “Community of Respect” statement. The statement guides the ways members of the campus community relate to each other.
“It stands in meaningful contrast to the rising tones of disrespect and incivility that are too often characterized in our wider society today,” said Harder. “It is my belief and my observation that Bluffton is indeed different in this regard. We do strive to live and learn in a community of respect, and it makes a real, positive difference for all who are part of it.”
Bluffton’s “Community of Respect” statement appears on the back cover of each year’s Fall Welcome guide for new students. It reads:
Bluffton strives to be a community of respect where everyone is held in mutual high regard. Our believe that every human being is created in the image of God demands that we recognize in each human being that divine spark, and that all of us welcome and celebrate the diversity in which we have been created as children of God. As members of the Bluffton University community, we strike to treat with respect each member of the community. Our standards of campus conduct are based on the mutual respect we believe we are committed to extend to each other.
Bluffton’s ethos of respect for diversity can be seen all the way back to its founding documents from 1899. However, the statement took its current form 21 years ago. Dr. Eric Fulcomer, former vice president of enrollment management and student life, developed the statement as part of his master’s-degree coursework during an internship on campus. To this day, the statement is a prominent part of Bluffton’s new-student orientation process.
“I sense that we tend to minimize the thickness of the printed rulebook at Bluffton and rely on the core values of our Community of Respect to guide us,” said Harder. “Bluffton’s long-standing Honor Code, under which Bluffton professors leave the classroom during examinations, is one such example. Our use of restorative justice processes by student life staff in student discipline cases—designed to mend and restore relationships damaged by a behavioral offense—is another example.”
The value of respect can also be found in Bluffton’s academic curriculum including courses such as Becoming a Scholar, Issues in Modern America and Christian Values in a Global Community.
“So much of laying the foundation for an ethic of respect, and for bridging diversity, is helping each other learn to see the world through another person’s point of view,” said Harder. That is why Bluffton places such a high premium on our cross-cultural education program.”
Through cross-cultural experiences, students go to places such as China, Botswana, Bolivia, Israel/Palestine, Iceland, Chicago, Appalachian Kentucky and the U.S. borderlands region with Mexico. Eleven Bluffton students are currently on a semester-long experience in Guatemala.
Harder also reflected on the turmoil and pain that arises when there is a total loss of respect. The president and his wife, Dr. Karen Klassen Harder, professor of business and economics, traveled to Southeast Asia this summer and visited Cambodia’s memorials to the genocide under the leadership Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Harder explained to the students that “this was not directly a war over land or scarce resources. This was one group of human beings killing another group of human beings—all citizens of the same country—over a difference in ideas.”
Events such as those in Cambodia are the most tragic manifestations of the collapse of respect. Yet, Harder said it is also clear that respect can break down in other, less physically threatening, yet still harmful ways.
“In our own country, many observers are concerned about what they see as the basic loss of respect for others in the form of rising incivility across our society.”
Harder ended on a thought about respect using a phrase common around the university, “The Power of Purple.” Purple is the university’s primary athletic color, however, he said it is also an example of diversity and difference coming together since it is produced by the combination of red and blue.
“Bluffton is all about bringing people and ideas together for a greater purpose. We are about a long-standing commitment to living, learning and working together as a community of respect. This is clearly a big need in our broader society and one that we can help address.”