People should be allowed to voice concerns freely
Last week, the Dean of the School of Computer Science, Randy Bryant, sent out an e-mail to the School of Computer Science to “give us a review of some basic etiquette” in regards to the newly constructed Gates Center.
Bryant writes, “I am getting a lot of reports from people who are dismayed when they hear a litany of complaints or a lack of enthusiasm” when asked about their thoughts on the new building. His response, in short, is not to deal with these two problems by trying to solve them, but rather suggesting the community walk around parroting phrases to mask the problems’ existence.
Why not instead address that many of the complaints stem from a move into the building before it was finished, and explain the reasons behind that move? Rather than expecting enthusiasm from the community, the e-mail should have looked for reasons for the lack of excitement.
You might ask, But what if I am truly not enthusiastic about the new complex? The e-mail makes it seem like that doesn’t matter; that as a Carnegie Mellon University community member, you are not currently in a place to voice your own thoughts. The message even went so far as to give suggested quotes that would be suitable for upper administration and visiting guests, such as, “Just try saying ,‘Thanks for all your hard work.’”
This is the heart of this message — “his tips,” which recommend: If you are asked about the new Gates Hillman Complex, don’t explain what is wrong with it, don’t be silent, speak only with complete gratitude, thanks, and praise.
We believe the Carnegie Mellon student, faculty member, or staff member who wants to be told how to say, think, and act is rare.
This e-mail was an assault on our intelligence; it was condescending, and it advocated limiting speech and lying to President Cohon.
While we are sure that many people around this campus could say thank you more, and could be more polite and more grateful for the hard work that obviously went into the construction of the Gates Hillman Complex, this message was not written with a balanced suggestion of tempering our complaints with thanks.
It was not written to moderate Carnegie Mellon’s critical thinking and cynicism with gratitude. It was created to silence all concerns with the new Gates Hillman Complex, and instead, it makes them seem even more severe and additionally creates new concerns with regard to the message coming from the school’s leadership.