Beyond Conformism

By Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78 / November/December 2013
October 30th, 2013


Frank Mullin
Welcoming the class of 2017 on September 3, President Christina Paxson praised Roger Williams’s “lively experiment” setting up camp in what is now Rhode Island after Massachusetts banished him for “his heretical opinions: the peculiar view that Indians ought to hold title to their own land, and the audacious belief that religion and government should be separate.”

Beneath rumbling thunder left over from a stormy morning, new undergraduate, medical, and graduate students made their ceremonial passage through the Van Wickle Gates for the 250th Opening Convocation. Professor of History Omer Bartov called into question the Brown student stereotype when he said in his address, “I have taught many bright, optimistic, and ambitious young women and men at Brown since coming here more than a dozen years ago. I have always admired their energy, will to learn, curiosity, and enthusiasm. But I have not encountered much of a rebellious spirit.”

Bartov urged students to challenge their professors and the status quo. “Conformism,” he said, “ultimately kills creativity, deadens sensibility, and undermines democracy. It is a thing to be resisted, even at the price—perhaps especially at the price—of disrupting the very system from which we all benefit.”

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November/December 2013