Abilene Christian University does not endorse political candidates or parties, so some people reacted with surprise when our student newspaper, the Optimist, recently endorsed a presidential candidate. That provides a great opportunity for me to explain what ACU does endorse: an education preparing students to make real choices and engage in independent thought about important issues.
I’m a proud supporter of the Optimist, which for many years has been ranked among the top university newspapers in the nation. More importantly, it serves as a living laboratory for students who are preparing to become professional journalists. Newspapers from all sizes of communities customarily endorse political candidates during election seasons, and our ACU student journalists did the same. The Optimist’s seven-person student editorial board, as they have in other elections, studied issues and positions, engaged in discussions and then began the process of communicating the editorial board’s opinion. In today’s world, I consider those experiences to be crucial if we are to develop journalists who can research, synthesize and effectively communicate with various audiences on a professional level.
I also welcome the discussion produced by this endorsement, both among our students and the broader community. When done in a spirit of humility and respect, it exemplifies the best of a university education, where ideas can be tested, thoughts can be expressed and the process is often as important as the result.
I’m reminded of what our eighth president, Dr. John C. Stevens, said in his 1970 inaugural address, “There are no subjects on this earth, or in outer space, or in the metaphysical realm, which we cannot study on the campus of a Christian institution of higher learning.” He went on to say, “One of the objectives of a Christian education ought to be to develop people who are efficient, capable and ambitious while at the same time being tolerant, courteous and respectful of others.”
It would be easy to shy away from diverse opinions about difficult subjects, but in so doing, we would remove from our students the opportunity to practice – in a safe environment – the challenges and experiences that will shape them into these kinds of people.
At ACU, we honor the right to an individual opinion; such is foundational to American society. We commit to respect all individuals as created in God’s image, even if their views differ from our own. ACU is a great place, full of honorable, Christ-centered people who truly desire to make a difference. This political endorsement by the student editorial board of the Optimist, along with other academic discussions on campus, are part of our commitment to educating students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.
Dr. Phil Schubert