Civility, respect and exclusion: an interview with Matt Holland

On June 20, President Matthew Holland was gracious enough to sit down for an interview with the UVU Review.

The President, when asked about his plans for engaged learning, said he was “absolutely committed” and to be on the lookout in the next couple weeks for “an announcement.which will underscore that I’m putting my money where my mouth is in terms of the profile and attention I want to give to engaged learning.”

I asked President Holland about his membership in the National Organization for Marriage (an issue, that I brought up in a June 22 article “Not everyone is cheering”) and how he thought it would affect his ability to deal with the gay community here. He responded with a concept called “civic charity,” which he delineates in his book “Bonds of Affection.”

“We need to conduct ourselves with a high degree of civility and respect, and ultimately with care.I come into this absolutely committed to being a fair and honest broker.” When people see how he intends to lead, “they’ll be reassured about my commitments to that.”

He also emphasized that the V has to be a place which welcomes people with all views, including his own. No matter who the president is, there will always be an “overwhelming number of LDS kids here or conservative kids here” and we should try not to be “exclusionary.”

Aren’t some views by their nature exclusionary, however? It’s hard to see how membership in NOM implies inclusion, since the point is to exclude a whole class of people from a common institution like marriage. But of course, people with views advocated by NOM are and will be for the foreseeable future the ones in the driver’s seat in this state concerning LGBT rights issues. In addition, things like benefits for partners of gay faculty, not to mention those partner’s children, seem to fit squarely within the realm of “care,” though I don’t think anyone suspects that we’ll soon see that happen at UVU.

Regarding concerns about how he came to be in office, whether it was because of his name, Pres. Holland said that he didn’t get the job because of his last name – but he acknowledges that certainly it provided him an “entry ticket.” Pres. Holland was also quick to point out, and rightfully so, that he has had “just as many object to me because of my last name” as those who accepted him because of it.

I asked the president precisely why then he was chosen. He responded that the Board of Regents as an official body never expressed to him exactly why they decided to go with him (and neither are they required to explain that to anyone; meetings which discuss the personal character and competence of appointed individuals are not public record according to Utah law).

“The interviews happened here.on that March sixth. There were a set of student interviews; there was a faculty group I met with. I met with the cabinet, and then the last meeting was with the Regents.and then I was invited back an hour later and they said ‘We’d like to appoint you to be President of Utah Valley University’.There wasn’t a lot of ‘let us tell you what we liked or didn’t like’, it was, you know, ‘Here’s the camera. Get started.'”
Asked about what was said in more informal settings, Pres Holland said, “.I seemed to understand the institution and what it was and where it needed to go.That I seemed to have a real passion for it. It seemed to be something I would throw my whole heart and soul into.They liked that I had a good and solid academic background, and that I seemed to understand research and scholarship.”

The President admitted his youth as compared to the norm for university presidents, but emphasized his academic qualifications, which are nothing to be scoffed at, and achievements at places like “Princeton and Duke and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, places that have never heard or cared about who Jeff Holland is.” Indeed, his academic achievements are stellar, and all his own. But of course, the Presidency of this University is not an academic post, but a political one, and his scholarship need not convince us of his abilities, and neither was that scholarship the reason for his appointment.

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