Instilled during the first days of welcome week, newly admitted students sign Christopher Newport University’s Honor Code:
“On my honor, I will maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and personal responsibility. This means I will not lie, cheat, or steal and as a member of this academic community, I am committed to creating an environment of respect and mutual trust.”
It is of the utmost importance to Christopher Newport that an environment of integrity and respect be mutually carried out by students, faculty and staff. It is not only suggested but exemplified in our ability to continually communicate transparently to all.
Recently we have had an open air/street evangelist come to speak in highly trafficked areas on campus (The Plaza and the lane dividing York East & West and the David Student Union-intended to avoid academic disruption). Note: there are specific regulations and procedures that all organizations/individuals must go through to be permitted onto Christopher Newport campus in designated areas that will not disturb the academic environment.
I did not initially know about this evangelist because I had walked by or heard from others, however, I heard directly from the Dean of Students, Kevin Hughes (in fact, every student did). His email alerted students of an event on campus that would be happening the following day. Not only was this email intended to keep students up to date, but it was meant to encourage and remind us why the street evangelist was able to come on campus.
“[He] was not invited by the University. Rather, he has exercised his free speech rights. These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and have been affirmed numerous times through the federal court system. He followed the required procedures to request a space in which he could engage in free speech”
I recently sat down with Dr. Kevin Hughes to discuss the measures in which Christopher Newport takes to ensure students, faculty and staff are well-informed. I learned that with events like these he feels it is important for students to be aware of the situation, “we recognize part of being at Christopher Newport means different perspectives and we try to make students aware so that they can either avoid or engage [it].” The university itself promotes a neutral viewpoint on these types of events but encourages students to be respectful and tolerant.
As he continued in his email, Dr. Hughes reminded students of the rights of the guest.
“[His] strongly held beliefs may conflict with many of your own values. However, he is entitled to them and the Constitution protects his right to share them on our campus. I encourage all of you to keep this in mind should you encounter the event. If you need to discuss the event afterwards, please know the counseling center is available to you.”
Not only were students informed just to be informed but were reminded of the many resources that Christopher Newport offers for students. Christopher Newport recognizes that students can struggle and are open about ways in which they can and want to assist students.
As Captains, we are asked and inspired to apply the Honor Code not only to our academics but to our every day life. This event reminded me how the university not only asks of its students to uphold the Honor Code, but that its students would respond to the environment of respect and mutual trust, for our fellow peer and fellow American. I am proud of the way our university was and is transparent.
As a student and first amendment aficionado, I want to thank Christopher Newport for not only protecting my rights but the rights of my peers, the faculty and staff, as well as community guests who get to experience what it means to be a Captain.