Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Open Letter to Phi Beta Kappa

Dear Phi Beta Kappa,

I am writing this email as a request that you open a chapter at George Mason University.  I write of my own volition, free of coercion by academic administrators.

I believe that George Mason University (GMU) is of Phi Beta Kappa caliber, and we would fit in well within your organization.  As an economics student in my junior year at the University, I can speak with experience that GMU teaches to the highest standards of academics and honor.  We are a University that teaches in the shadow of our namesake.  George Mason believed in the philosophy of the enlightenment, and we strive to teach personal choice and personal responsibility.

We have a well-respected economics department that has a great atmosphere of collegial interaction.  Students often follow professors from the class to their offices, with education practically uninterrupted.  We have a library that is brim full with over a million volumes.  If you would like a tour of the economics section of our library, I can give you a crash course in the history of economic thought.

I understand that there was some controversy in 2004, when the university did not allow documentary film director Michael Moore to speak as scheduled at a GMU function.  Based on this information, you denied GMU a chapter in your esteemed organization, citing issues with academic freedom.  While it is regrettable that the University did not fulfill its arrangement with Mr. Moore, surely this one episode cannot tarnish an institution forever.

George Mason University is an institution that prides itself on freedom.  George Mason authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776 and in article twelve he wrote, "That the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments."  This is one of the precursors of the freedom of speech that all American citizens enjoy now.  We endeavor to be true to that form.

I urge you to reconsider our application.  We are a University that is growing every day and has already found an esteemed position among American institutions of higher learning.  The students who work and learn everyday should not be denied the honor of joining your institution because of mistakes in the past.


Joseph Ward

1 comment:

  1. Hello Joseph,

    Thank you very much for your letter to PBK. As it turns out, we are still in the running for consideration for a chapter. The PBK senate meets in December and the full body of members next August. Our preliminary and general reports were accepted as well as successfully going through a campus visit in February. If we go through the last two hurdles, we will be able to establish a GMU chapter, a desire I and other faculty have had for the better part of a decade. We have terrific students and they deserve membership in the prestigious honor society.

    Keep your fingers and toes crossed!


    Marion Deshmukh
    Robert T. Hawkes Professor of History