Wabash President Andrew T. Ford


Winter 1999

Notes From Center Hall
by Andrew T. Ford

As I pen these comments for Wabash Magazine, I wonder and worry about the context within which they will be received. We chose the theme of law and order months and months ago, long before anyone could have predicted that David Kendall would be at the center of an historic trial and long before the tragic death of Wabash junior Blair Collings in Paris. Although these developments had nothing to do with our selection of a theme, we did pause for a moment and consider going with another theme. But we know that we cannot control external events, so we pressed forward, sure that our readers would understand.

Our pause did remind us, however, of how far we are from the rest of the world, a world we typically hope is governed by laws and where order is maintained. Our students study laws and government, and see the rule of law as a sign of progress, of civilization. Their analyses occasionally reveal how order benefits some people and not others, or some at the expense of others, calling all of that into question. Yet, intellectually the belief persists that law and order are goods in and of themselves.

It persists even as our students live in an ideal system of self-regulated behavior: a campus governed by adherence to the Gentleman's Rule: "The student is expected to conduct himself, at all times, both on and off the campus, as a gentleman and a responsible citizen." This statement puts enormous responsibility on their shoulders while giving them great freedom. We believe that it is exactly what is needed to get them ready to lead responsible and productive lives. Yet it can breed a certain naivete when it is applied unthinkingly to the world beyond the campus.

The Bachelor editors made essentially the same point, but in a very different context, in the January 28, 1999, issue.

"Sometimes the Gentleman's Rule blinds our community. We take it for granted, thinking that everyone lives striving to enjoy their freedom responsibly--trying to do the right thing. The unfortunate reality, though, is that the Wabash community is surrounded by an unfair world. Our single rule of conduct does not easily fit into the shifty legalistic society that surrounds us."

Despite that injunction, the editors concluded exactly where we would hope:

"There may be those that say Wabash should wake up to the realities of the unfairness and practice a little rule-bending for its own benefit. That is not the answer. . . We should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We should continue to be Gentlemen. We should continue to lead by example, hoping others will choose to follow."

What better introduction to an issue devoted to the theme of law and order? What better reason to hope that Wabash men will continue to enter the criminal justice professions in great numbers? That is a wonderful part of Wabash's tradition, a tradition that serves this society extraordinarily well.

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