posted August 25, 1997

Students Should Seek Truth

As Hope College marked the formal beginning of its 136th academic year, speaker Marc Baer asked the members of the incoming freshman class to consider their time at Hope a search for truth.

"We have high hopes for you, which are not about
the data and techniques you will learn in the next four
years on the road to veritas [truth]," said Baer, a
professor of history at Hope. "We do not want you to become
specialists without spirit. We do not want you to get all
As and flunk life."

"And please never think that a degree from Hope is
merely a passport to privilege," he said. "Rather, the
heart and soul of every generation at this college is you,
the student, asking, 'What's the nature of the world and
truth, and where do I fit? How might I do well, but also
how might I do good?'"

Baer delivered his talk, "Our Search for Veritas,"
during the college's Opening Convocation, held on Sunday,
Aug. 24, at 2 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.
Approximately 1,000 people, primarily new students and their
families, attended the event.

Fall semester classes at Hope will begin on
Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 8 a.m.

Baer offered three suggestions for the freshmen as
they conduct their search, lessons he said were learned from
his experiences with students who had come before.

"First, during the next four years, weigh
carefully what is true," he said. "Keep asking yourselves,
'Is anything true and right? Is there a truth that has the
possibility of providing coherence for the whole of life, to
help me figure out what it means to be just, to be fair? On
what basis might I decide which so-called truth is true?'"

"Second, during the next four years, observe
carefully those teachers who connect intellect with
conscience, conviction with action," Baer said.

"So learn from your professors the values required
for good scholarship: patience, tolerance, rigor, fairness,
precision. In the classroom, the lab, the library, let's do
that together, so that the sooner the better, you become
responsible for your own learning."

"And third, during the next four years, form
friendships carefully," Baer said. "For individuals to
flourish they need to be a part of a community of
character."

"Michelle Clark, an artist, puts it like this:
'the people I surround myself with on a regular basis--even
on an irregular basis--are people who in many ways are more
than I am. That is absolutely essential, because they
always cause me to go back and wonder what else I need to
do.'"

Baer noted that the students aren't alone in their
search. He explained that the "Our" in the title of his
address was significant, since the college's professors are
also engaged in the search for truth. He stressed that the
professors learn from their students, just as the students
learn from the professors.

"One of the things that has kept me and I suspect
many of my colleagues at Hope is the cooperative
relationship here between students and professors," he said.
"While it's true that professors have professional, peer-
based relationships both off and on campus...I for one have
grown intellectually and spiritually from students--during
and outside classes, on committees, through collaborative
research and through advising."

"And so to students: don't underestimate the
impact you might have on professors as we travel together
this road to veritas," Baer said.

"You students need to be teachable, but your
professors urgently need what you have to offer us," he
said. "We value discourse, you value action. We talk too
much; you act too fast. You need to think harder; we need
to listen more. You need to take yourselves seriously as
independent thinkers; we need to laugh at ourselves."