CEHV Statement on Recent Remarks by One of Our Funders
The Ohio State University Center for Ethics and Human Values (CEHV) aims to promote informed, reasoned, and civil discussion about difficult ethical questions that underlie contentious social and political issues. This aim is exemplified by our year-long “Conversations on Morality, Politics, and Society” (COMPAS) program, which brings together experts from a range of ideological and disciplinary perspectives to address value trade-offs in debates about important matters of public concern. We believe that universities are uniquely positioned to model the free debate, respect for evidence, and constructive engagement that any pluralistic community needs in order to engage in the difficult work of finding solutions to its shared problems.
Beginning this academic year, CEHV has taken steps to enhance this aspect of our programming by developing a model of core principles governing civil discourse, and by offering students opportunities to apply that model in special “civil discourse forums.” To help us pursue this effort, we gratefully received a contribution from the Derrow Family Foundation which provided support for the development of the civil discourse model, for student fellowships, and for the civil discourse forums themselves.
Recently, however, CEHV became aware through local news outlets that the New Albany-Plain Local Schools Board of Education has censured Philip Derrow of the Derrow Family Foundation for posting “several inflammatory and insulting comments on social media that caused disruption to the school environment” and “disrespected and eroded community trust.” In one tweet, Mr. Derrow invoked the Holocaust while characterizing his belief that our government had overreached its authority during the COVID pandemic.
Mr. Derrow’s comments on social media directly contradict the aims of our civil discourse initiative, as he himself has recognized. Failures of respect and proportionality represent a significant threat to constructive and civil discussion, which depends on the conscientious engagement of all parties. We therefore support the decision of the Board of Education, on which Mr. Derrow serves, to censure him for his comments.
CEHV also welcomes Mr. Derrow’s public apologies for his remarks, which explicitly acknowledge their incompatibility with civil discourse. We take these apologies, and the responsibilities that they entail, seriously. CEHV will continue to champion informed, reasoned, and civil discussion about the challenges that face us. We wish to reassure our affiliates, partners, and supporters that our commitment to this aim is unwavering.