Opinion: An Open Letter to the Gettysburg College Community
An Open Letter to the Gettysburg College Community:
I write this having had some time to think about the events currently unfolding regarding my brother, Joshua Wagner ’19 and his selection to be commencement speaker. Some might say I am too close to the subject of the fury to write a sensible piece. However, I am reminded of something our beloved great-grandmother, who will be eulogized by our loving family this Saturday at a memorial service, repeated often: “Family is the most important thing.” There are few things in this world more important to me than my brother and the Gettysburg College community we have shared.
I do not write this in his defense, for he need not be defended. He has done nothing wrong. In fact, those circulating petitions and posting posters will find upon further examination that they and Josh share similar commitments and principles regarding the issues of our time than they currently understand.
Josh and I are first-generation college students from the foothills of Western Pennsylvania, a bastion of radical sociopolitical culture the likes of which many of you likely have never experienced. When we were growing up, it wasn’t a given that we would be allies of people in fights for rights and to be heard. But our parents raised us differently. They instilled in us ideals that have led us to actively pursue lives intently focused on doing our level best to make our communities safer, more just, and more empathetic for and to all. Those ideals and principles were reinforced at Gettysburg College, through participation with the Center for Public Service, studying abroad, administrative work in College Life on the Green Dot and Sexual Assault Awareness advocacy programs, as members of student government, etc. Our paths from the farm have winded from here to there, but they have never wandered far from that true north our parents gave us.
This public damning of Josh stings and strikes at the heart of what Josh and I have always believed and fought for. Josh is more than a good person. He is thoughtful and just. He does not make conclusions about the character, worth, and dignity of others before actually knowing them. I implore those so quick to judge in our community to do the same.
As to the issue at hand, I, too, am disgusted by Gettysburg College’s culture of rape, sexual assault, and toxic masculinity with all of my being. These are, have been, and will continue to persist as serious problems until the same fervent resolve to remove Josh as commencement speaker is displayed by a wider coalition of Gettysburgians to fight against something which needs to be stopped – from the basements of fraternities to classroom lecterns. That goes for the professors posting posters, the students passing petitions, and many, many others. Aim your energy at the problem Josh and his co-writers were raising awareness of in their piece, and not at an outstanding ally of our community.
Anthony L. Wagner V
Gettysburg College Class of 2017
Anthropology and Political Science Major