Power Dynamics, Equal Agency and Intellectual Freedom: Developing Ethical Conversations in Institutions?

  • The Well/Queen Anne United Methodist Church 1606 5th Avenue West Seattle, WA, 98119 United States

Join Zac Calvo, our co-sponsors from Coastland Commons, and The Well as we discuss the intrinsic difficulty in creating a "safe enough" space for vigorous and sometime conflictual dialogue and the free exchange of ideas, even when ideas can be repugnant. What is the institutional responsibility to name its own power in framing the dialogue, in inviting the participants, and in shaping the gathering and space? What ideas are out of bounds? When does difference of opinion become harm and what is the ethical demand placed upon a sponsor to attend to potential harm?

This past year, Princeton Theological Seminary invited the Rev. Dr. Tim Keller to speak at an annual conference and to receive an award from the Kuyper Center. Dr. Keller is a noted leader in the Presbyterian Church of America, a denomination which prevents women and LGBTQIA people from full participation in ordained ministry. Moreover, Dr. Keller shares the views of his denomination and has been outspoken in his stances

An outcry erupted. Should Dr. Keller be allowed to speak? Should he be given an award by the school - even by a center within the school? What is the responsibility of students to make space for vigorous debate? What is the role of the institution to uphold its stated values?

Zac Calvo was a leader in the Princeton movement of students, faculty, and others to rescind the award but allow the talk. He will facilitate our dialogue first by outlining the events at Princeton, naming the various places that power imbalances entered and affected the process and then leading us into a broader conversation about power in public spaces. That is, Power Dynamics, Equal Agency and Intellectual Freedom: Developing Ethical Conversation in Institution require thoughtful and mindful attention as well as truth-telling about the institution's role as well as the agency of the individuals involved.

We at The Well are committed to creating a safe and generous place to dialogue about issues that affect mind, body, spirit, community, and world. This question is one we ask ourselves often. Who do we invite? What voices should be heard? What ideas need amplification? Into what communities do we reach for dialogue partners? What issues are pressing? What is the most healthy way to structure a forum? We invite you to join us in struggling together with these and other questions. A common good demands of us mindful engagement. 

This event is free and open to the public.