The Power of Words vs. Indifference

Thursday morning the weekly meeting of the Deans of UConn’s Schools and Colleges was narrowly focused on the previous day’s events in Washington, DC, when thugs invaded and desecrated the United States Capitol. From our own academic perspectives, we reflected upon our shared responsibilities to nourish critical thinking among our colleagues and students; to defend the rule of law in civil society; and to continue to make UConn a welcoming home to the exchange of ideas. I reaffirm those principles on behalf of the School of Business.

Yesterday I was taken by messages from Eboni Nelson, the new dean of the School of Law and from Gladis Kersaint, the dean of the NEAG School of Education to their respective communities. Eboni spent Wednesday, while Washington was under assault, in an annual meeting of Law Schools with the theme: “The Power of Words.” She reminded us that words have the power to inspire us, to unite us and simultaneously can be used as weapons to hurt, misdirect and mislead us. One of the key goals of education is to create critical thinkers who can engage with words actively and extract their true meaning.

When I use the word “thugs” to describe those who invaded the Capitol on Wednesday I am consciously not using the words “peaceful demonstrators.” Similarly, when I use the words “invaded” and “desecrated” they have meaning. In her comments, Gladis wrote movingly about the “power of indifference” which allows people by their silence to normalize aberrant behavior and permits persistent abnormal behavior to create dangerous precedents. As Gladis said, we must speak to keep indifference from enabling the unthinkable.



John A. Elliott
Dean and Auran J. Fox Chair in Business