A Chat Where the World Connects?

Luke Johnson | SIPA Class of 2018

We are looking to pick up the abandoned Morningside Post newspaper. In doing so, we looked at the last published newspaper, from December 2015. Among the typical articles, there was an open letter to SIPA by David Joseph Deutch criticizing SIPA in many different ways. The story was written bluntly enough that I do not have to summarize, just pull a few quotes to give you a sense of his main points:

  • “Classes are curved for satisfaction, not personal growth; skills are provided to beef up resumes, not produce critical policy specialists; and a student can go through their whole two years without having their beliefs challenged.”
  • “International affairs is no longer about normative questions. We no longer want to challenge principles, or rock the boat.”
  • “SIPA teaches the tools associated with markets, finance, trade, development, and energy without seeks to understand the principles or ideas that underpin these concepts. If we did, we would have courses in ethics, political philosophy, science of energy, and critical analysis of empire and colonization. I am considered on the fringes for even using some of these words.”

(Feel free to come see us if you want the whole article because there are still some undistributed newspapers.)

Some of these points resonated with me. I think academia should be a safe place where eager, open-minded students can come in and have discussions that challenge their own views.

“What can your experiences bring to the table?” “How can your voice add to the discussion?” are questions that universities want answered when students apply. One of the driving forces — and rightfully so — for such diversity is so the university can bring varied voices and perspectives for all to consider. Is David right? Are we wasting the potential for student growth by not promoting discussion enough?

I lived in Russia and China before coming to SIPA. From my time in these countries, I have learned first hand about having my views challenged, and learned that “The sting of a reproach is the truth of it” (attributable to Ben Franklin). There are viewpoints which you will not have access to unless you venture outside that place where you feel secure surrounded by people that think the same way you do. So, presumably, after people gather ‘where the world connects’, maybe they should chat a bit also?

I hope to take up the spirit of this student and host some informal discussion sessions. Pulling a bit from the Conceptual Foundation curriculum, we could continue the conversation on humanitarian intervention. The panel at the time was almost totally against it (except for some very, very specific cases), and I feel like there were some points left unsaid and some desire to continue the discussion.(MPA students welcome too, of course!)

Would people be willing and interested? The personality “prerequisite” would be respectful and open-minded.

If so, send me a quick email (laj2144), or if you have other ideas for topics, let us know. If there is enough of an interest, we can organize something. This may take place over several discussions, so people can reference facts or sources between talks. In the end, I hope we will all learn and grow.




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