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The Vital Work of The College Family

With the urgent realities that COVID has brought to campus safety, enrollment gaps, and budget shortcomings, it can be all-too-easy to get caught up in the tyranny of the next crisis. While those situations must be tended to, Dr. Jonathan Peri, President of Manor College, has a reflection on the crucial work that higher education does in shaping hearts and minds for the future. We invite you to read his reflections below and recenter yourself in this challenging season. 

The College Family

By Jonathan Peri, Ph.D., J.D.

When you settle down and really steep yourself into thinking about the state of our world, its weight upon our shoulders can be felt fully.  As is common with our society, we all get to talking with each other in our homes, on our campuses, in Zooms and at the Thanksgiving table (to the extent we can do that, if at all this year), and we talk about the harrowing news of the day, saying we “can’t believe” and “can you believe?”  Doing so gives us some alleviation that while the ashes of the eruption may be tinkling down from the sky and singeing our arms, at least we are in it together.  There is therapy to be found in these conversations.

For those who lead, we watch and participate in these conversations, and we also ask what we can do about it.  There are many ways in which we can’t do much.  The hearts and minds of others who are radically hardened may never be convinced that there’s a center.  They may never be persuaded that negotiations that leave both sides unhappy, but that endeavor to reconcile and improve both positions somewhat, have a good chance of maintaining civility and peace.  The building of adversarial relationships into just “relationships” then lends itself to continuing conversations that, in turn, allow for opportunities to make further progress.

No, the politicians will not change for us so much as they will change for the polls.  The ruthless among leaders will not cede power because it is morally right to share it.  Countries in competition with us will not lay aside global ambitions.  Whether through flashpoint or incrementalism, they all move their game-board pieces.

The College Family, i.e., the family of all peoples who work for mission-based institutions of higher education, however, has a mission...  

Our times have resemblance to the 1960’s in America.  When you think of the 1960’s and the civil rights movement, chances are, you think of Dr. King.  Yes, others were strong in their views and made a difference.  Dr. King was different.  We remember him primarily because of his approach.   He consistently called upon us to hold ourselves to the high standard of doing what is right, not because we are told to, but because we must carry what is right in our hearts, and allow that to manifest.  Picture Dr. King saying:

Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick has made an impressive distinction between enforceable and unenforceable obligations.  The former are regulated by the codes of society and the vigorous implementation of law-enforcement agencies.  Breaking these obligations, spelled out in thousands of pages in law books, has filled numerous prisons.  But unenforceable obligations are beyond the reach of the laws of society.  They concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion that law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify.  Such obligations are met by one’s commitment to an inner law, written on the heart.  Man-made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love.  No code of conduct ever persuaded a father to love his children or a husband to show affection to his wife.  The law court may force him to provide bread for the family, but it cannot make him provide the bread of love.  A good father is obedient to the unenforceable.  (King, 1963, p.28).

The Family of Colleges live the unenforceable.  Surely, there are examples of when we do not, but by-and-large, the bread of love for the wellbeing of the next generation of learners has risen in our hearts.   It is why we have chosen careers in education.  Those of us who work together in higher education and who make up this family know that our chess-move is the cumulative effect of assuring the awakening of knowledge and compassion in others.  Governments in some nations work night-and-day to prevent knowledge and compassion for students with disabilities, waysiding them as incapable.  They mute faiths that teach compassion in favor of exclusive loyalty to the state.  They thwart knowledge to gain power, because knowledge is power.  

Moving the world to become more collaborative and willing to share with one another is indeed a competition.  There is an end to it.  Society predictably will not go on indefinitely lurched, swinging on the pendulum between manifested love and unbridled power.  At some point a few with power will win, or many will join together to compel consistent reason and fairness.  The College Family is the structure in place already doing this work.  The way to proliferate love, is not to get lost in day-to-day drudgery looking for the end of a work-shift, so much as to embrace with both hands the passion of caring about others, and allowing earnest endearment to well up within us so that we become a dynamism that bounds to others.  Teaching is not merely the dissemination of knowledge.  It is the struggle for what kind of power will prevail over all people.  It is up to us as a College Family.

About Dr. Jonathan Peri: Serving as President of Manor College in Jenkintown, PA, Peri graduated from Villanova University and Widener University – Delaware Law School.  He later completed the Organizational Leadership doctoral program at Eastern University.  This makes him one of approximately .00054% of people globally admitted to practice law and having earned both the J.D. and the Ph.D.  Peri is also the only person in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who through gubernatorial and senatorial appointments, concurrently serves on six state boards (and two private boards) related to education, without compensation.  He is Chairman of Pennsylvania’s State Board of Education’s Council of Higher Education.

About Manor College: Located in suburban Philadelphia, Manor College is a small college that offers big opportunities and a stellar education–one with small classes full of big thinkers, and a big-hearted community ready to challenge all of our students to reach and grow.  Manor offers more than 50 Associates, Bachelor’s and Certificate programs in Allied Health, Science and Math; Business Technology and Legal Studies; and the Liberal Arts to traditional age and adult students.  Manor is America’s only accredited institution of higher education founded by Ukrainian Sisters, the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great.  Learn more at www.manor.edu