Administrators encourage students to challenge convictions at convocation speech


(Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs)

Provost Jonathan Holloway speaks at Faculty Senate. Holloway encouraged students to embrace different perspectives in his convocation speech on Monday.

Erica Snow, Campus Editor

Provost Jonathan Holloway and vice president for student affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin encouraged new students to listen to their peers and challenge personal worldviews during convocation Monday.

Holloway, who assumed the position of provost this summer, said education will give students the “gift of perception and analysis.” He added that in college, students’ core beliefs will be challenged, but that moment should not be terrifying.

“Let me suggest that you look at that moment as a gift,” Holloway said. “It should serve as a reminder of the privilege that you have.”

Holloway acknowledged that socioeconomic standing, race, gender and other qualifiers can change a person.

“All of these things are real aspects of who you are and of what has made you,” he said. “But by being here, you also have to accept that despite your many differences, you share the fact of being deeply privileged. You have the privilege of the opportunity to explore, to analyze, to read, to write.”

Telles-Irvin also offered advice to the new students, encouraging them to ask for help and be open to those different from themselves.

She said a Northwestern experience is one of “excellence, not perfection.”

“Just remember, number one, that you have been successful, and there is no reason why you cannot succeed here,” Telles-Irvin said. “You belong at Northwestern.”

Telles-Irvin said asking for help was one of the most difficult things she had to do herself as an undergraduate.

She said new students will begin to contribute to the community and choose how they impact the campus and the Chicago area. Students will have to commit to opening themselves to differences, Telles-Irvin said.

“You’re going to meet people with very different opinions,” she said. “They’re going to challenge how you think, and I want to make sure that it doesn’t mean that what you think is invalidated. It just means that it might open you up to a different thought.”

History Prof. Geraldo Cadava, faculty chair of One Book One Northwestern, also addressed new students.

Cadava called on new students to think about how their individual successes will help the NU community. He said new students all contribute to the University community and will have to come together to ask and answer important questions about equality.

The book “Our Declaration” by Danielle Allen, which was assigned to new students, raises important questions about equality, Cadava said. The book examines the Declaration of Independence.

“As students and alumni, you’ll play a role in determining what kind of community Northwestern becomes,” Cadava said.

Holloway told students it is important to help each other while also finding and articulating personal values.

He said students should also think “ethically” about their educational privilege.

“When you think about the privilege of unfettered speech, recognize that this freedom is only worth having if you are also committed to taking the time to listen,” Holloway said. “It is the foundation upon which the rest of your education will be built.”

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