A Message from Dean Kiss

A Message from Dean Kiss

Posted on January 21, 2021
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John Kiss smiles at camera

Dr. John Z. Kiss, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

Reflections on Democracy and the Events of January 6

As I was watching the morning news on January 7, I saw a beautiful image of the sunrise against the U.S. Capitol dome. I felt emotional, and a tear came to my eye. The riot and insurrection of the day before had passed. Our democratic process had worked.

Now that the Inauguration has safely occurred, I want to share my reflections on the terrible events of January 6 as an immigrant to this country. During this transition period in our nation, I also wish to share my sincere hope for our future together, a future that institutions of learning like UNC Greensboro can tremendously impact.

I came to the United States at the age of four as my family was fleeing authoritarian communism in Hungary. As a naturalized citizen watching the  storming of the U.S. Capitol, I had to ask myself: How could we have an attempt at a violent election overthrow in the U.S. when it is viewed as a bastion of democracy in the world?

Is our country developing a tolerance for authoritarianism? Why are some people throwing out deep-rooted norms that have kept our political competition in balance? Our institutions, Congress and the courts, held that day – but with some strain showing.

I also asked myself the important question Chancellor Gilliam raised in his recent statement: How committed are we to equal justice for all? To many observers, the rioters in the Capitol were treated very differently compared to protesters we witnessed earlier in the year. We all must work toward the American ideal of equal treatment and justice for all citizens.

As Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, I see that a liberal arts education (that’s “liberal” with a lowercase “l”) is more important now than ever.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Part of the recent discord is that people cannot agree on facts. How do we evaluate sources of information? Can we apply critical thinking to separate facts from opinion? If something is an opinion, is it backed up with evidence?

Perhaps this is where a liberal arts education, which is at the heart of the College of Arts & Sciences, comes in. Our approach prepares students for lifelong learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving – skills vital in a democracy – skills we desperately need today.

U.S. Capitol Building

The U.S. Captiol Building. Photo by John Kiss.